Valve is taking on the console establishment with their upcoming Steam Box, but they’re not worried about competition from Microsoft, Sony, or Nintendo; rather, Valve sees Apple as their biggest threat.
During a guest lecture he was giving at the University of Texas, Valve CEO Gabe Newell talked about Apple’s dominance in the mobile market, and about how easy it would be for Apple to extend their reach into the gaming market. “The threat right now is that Apple has gained a huge amount of market share, and has a relatively obvious pathway towards entering the living room with their platform.” Newell went on to state that if Apple were to create some sort of gaming focused machine, “I think Apple rolls the console guys really easily.”
This probably sounds insane to a lot of hardcore gamers out there, since Apple and gaming have never really gone together, but you have to look at it from a casual perspective — there are millions of casual gamers in the world now, and most of them have stopped playing their Wii’s and are now playing their games on iPhones and iPads. Apple could leverage their brand recognition and customer loyalty to create a casual console that could repeat the Wii’s mainstream success.
Of course, that’s all hypothetical at the moment, since Apple hasn’t announced any plans to create dedicated gaming hardware or some sort of living room-based “set top box.” (Yet.)
Newell also discussed his thoughts on why the Steam Box will be a more attractive choice for consumers over a new console, saying, “Well, I could buy a console, which assumes I’ll re-buy all my content, have a completely different video system, and, oh, I have a completely different group of friends, apparently. Or I can just [buy the Steam Box,] extend everything I love about the PC and the internet into the living room.”
Again, I don’t think Newell isn’t necessarily wrong with this point, either: You could buy a Steam Box and have access to Steam’s amazing library of PC games from day one, avoiding the rushed launch titles and post-launch droughts of software that often plague new console launches.
I hate to sound like someone from The Cult of Gaben, but Newell makes a lot of valid points. I’m no PC fanboy, as I was raised on consoles and will always prefer to do my gaming on a big TV in my living room, but I’m really excited for the Steam Box — if nothing else, it seems like it’ll give the console market the big shake-up it needs.
You can read more about Newell’s lecture over at Polygon, including his quotes regarding the danger of Apple’s closed marketplace, and his thoughts on the upcoming flood of new gaming hardware, such as NVidia’s Project Shield, over at Polygon.