Current Steam users, not console owners, are Steam Machines' target audience

An Alienware representative says that during their system's development, Steam users come "first and foremost."

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"When you do see this product come to market, it's going to be offered to the Steam user first and foremost," was a quote from an Alienware representative at Valve's CES 2014 press conference. That same line was repeated to me by other console manufacturers and Valve representatives throughout the event, which unveiled the line-up of upcoming Steam Machines. All of the developers wanted to make one point clear: making a product that caters to the current PC Steam user base is their first priority.

But what's the appeal in selling a specialized PC to a current PC gamer? If you already have a PC hooked up in your living room for media and gaming, trying to sell you another system might seem like a lost cause. But the Alienware representative offered this explanation, "You'd want to get something like this because you're looking for a turnkey solution that's both native capable, meaning it can run gaming natively without any streaming, but you can also use it to stream from your Windows-based tower. It's a turnkey, affordable solution. And the machine that you have set up now might not be as conducive to a media center environment. Plus, it's going to have Steam OS already set up."

Alienware has not released the price of their Steam machine yet, but currently revealed models run between $499 and $6,000 with equally variable hardware specifications.

At the same event, Valve general manager Gabe Newell said, "Each one of these represents a different take on the right solution for their customers in the living room... There's a lot of variation both in the devices that you see here and in the product lines that people are going to have. That's one of the strengths that the PC has: customers can get the experience that they want while software developers can be guaranteed a stable platform for delivering their game."

But this focus on current Steam users doesn't exclude eventually converting console gamers. Alienware said, "I think there're going to be users who are disappointed with the experience that they're getting on a next-gen console, and they're going to seek out Steam Machines. It's not that we're not targeting them, we just want to make sure that we get it right for the Steam user right away."

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When asked about the Steam Machine's chances versus the success of the Xbox One and PS4 (Microsoft recently announced that they sold over 3 million Xbox Ones in 2013), Newell jokingly replied, "Well, it'll take a while for them to catch up. We're at 65 million."

He then continued, "Part of why we think this is the right direction to go is that we can benefit from everything that people have already done. If I buy a game on Steam and I'm running it on windows, I can go to one of the Steam Machines and already have the game. So you benefit as a developer. You benefit as a consumer in having that PC experience extend into the living room."

But Valve doesn't see their role now, or in the future as changing to hardware manufacturers. Newell said, "We really see our role in this as being enabling. Whatever we can do that's going to be helpful to other hardware manufacturers, whether it's with the controller design or building specific kinds of boxes, that's what we're going to do. It's very much: 'How can we collaborate with the chip makers and the system integrators? What's the most useful thing for us to do?'"

Even Steam controllers will be something that Valve controls less directly in the future. Newelll said, "We'll be selling Steam controllers separately, and then other people will be selling their versions of Steam controllers as well."

What do you think about the updated details regarding the Steam Machines? Should these manufacturers be targeting the Xbox One and PS4 more directly, or is Valve's laid back approach and focus on current Steam users the way to go? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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