There was a time not too long ago when Steam Machines were an exciting component of Valve’s emerging hardware business. Acting as a vehicle for SteamOS, the idea was that Steam Machines would make the process of buying PC hardware a lot more straightforward some folks, while at the same time giving PC gamers more options besides just Windows. While SteamOS has been seeing consistent – if not always visible – improvement over the last few years, the market for Steam Machines seems to have stagnated.
Now, it looks like Valve is ready to throw in the towel. References to Steam Machines have been removed from Steam’s hardware tab on the main store page, though you can still find store listings for a small number of Steam Machines by looking for them directly. Indeed, development of new Steam Machines has stalled out, and now Valve is ready to move on.
With the removal of these machines, Steam’s hardware page is only advertising the Steam Link, Steam Controller, and HTC VIVE. The Steam Link in particular could have something to do with declining interest in Steam Machines, as it’s a fairly affordable device that allows users to stream games from their PC to their TV over their local network. It’s also frequently available for ridiculously low prices (like $5) in nearly every Steam sale, which makes it harder to justify the price of a dedicated Steam Machine.
While it certainly seems safe to assume that the Steam Link played a part in the decline of Steam Machines, it isn’t the only reason we’re seeing Valve move away from them. There was a lot of excitement from the PC gaming crowd in the lead up to their release, but when delays hit, a lot of that excitement died down. The enthusiast market for PC hardware is going strong as well, prompting gamers to build their own rigs rather than buying pre-built machines.
Still, even though interest in Steam Machines fizzled out quickly, it isn’t as if their launch didn’t accomplish anything. As GamingOnLinux (which discovered the missing Steam Machine listings) points out, Steam Machines and SteamOS did a lot to move Linux gaming forward, and there are now more than 4,000 Linux games available on Steam. So, while we probably won’t see any new Steam Machines in the future, their existence certainly made it easier to play game on non-Windows operating systems, and that’s something worth celebrating.