Written by Jonathan Deesing
Monday night at CES in Las Vegas, Valve unveiled the third-party Steam Machines currently under development. A few names on the list were well-known: Alienware, Origin PC, Digital Storm. But one of the lesser-known developers, Zotac USA, boasts a unique quality among its competition. “We were the first company to start working with Valve [on a Steam Machine],” Zotac's Kevin Wang reveals. “Originally it was not going to be multi-partner, but Valve went that direction.”
“I've been the biggest Valve fan since I was a kid,” he says. When Wang first heard of Valve's plans for SteamOS two years ago, he called Valve designer Greg Coomer, who expressed interest in working with Zotac. After various iterations and prototypes, Valve remained impressed with Zotac, who focused their efforts on an embedded GTX interface.
The exclusive deal with Valve obviously did not last long; however, Wang and the rest of the team at Zotac are confident that they will remain a strong competitor in the Steam Machine arena. “We're not going for the hardcore gamers,” says Wang, “the hardcore gamers are going to go out there and build a system.” He believes that Zotac's machine is uniquely positioned as a cheaper and smaller alternative to other Steam Machines.
Zotac has not released a full list of specifications for its Steam Machine, but its rig will feature the newest generation Nvidia GTX graphics hardware. The GPU will be embedded, but the CPU and RAM will be upgradeable. The machine will include built-in WiFi, along with Thuderbolt, HDMI, USB, and LAN ports. Visually, the machine is no more impressive than a wireless router, but the model I saw is still in development.
While many may have balked at the price and size of many Steam Machines announced last night, Zotac's strategy is headed in a different direction. As Wang puts it, “we're looking for the people like casual gamers, who want to bring PC gaming to the big screen.”