The PlayStation 4 is just around the corner and the Steam Machines will arrive in early 2014 along with the SteamOS. Valve's announcement almost seemed to come out of nowhere but it certainly took the gaming arena by storm. The price of the Steam Machine will vary between as low as $500 and as high as $1700 based on some custom build manifests and prototype specs.
While Steam Machines will obviously be slightly more expensive than the PS4, the question to many gamers is: is it worth it?
In our article detailing how to build a Steam Machine for only $550, you can get comparable video performance and much higher processing, storage and RAM for just $150 more than the price of a PS4. For many gamers they have to weigh if that's what they want out of a living room solution though. You could still use the Steam Machine for other things like word processing, e-mail, live-streaming, media streaming and emulation.
You still get many of the media options with a PS4 that you would have with a PC, except there's a stark lack of openness for the PS4 that you would otherwise have with a Steam Machine, such as mods, using whatever controller best suits your tastes in gaming including the new Steam Controller, and the ability to upgrade when you feel like it so that your games can look better when you feel they need to look better. However, the PS4's expense comes with all the measured convenience you would find in the home console arena.
Now, one of the big worries from a lot of gamers is how well games will be optimized for the Steam Machine and the SteamOS. Well, the good news is that Steam Machines will be supported by Intel, Nvidia and AMD, as reported by Forbes. So what does this mean? It means that if you replace the Intel/Nvidia parts in our $550 build with AMD parts you have a system built for low-level Mantle support on a Linux platform. You know what this means? It means the SteamOS and Mantle will provide the exact same metal-coding opportunities for developers as found on home consoles. In fact, Mantle is basically a PC rendition of the same API setup that AMD has been using for the APUs in the Xbox One in PS4. In plain 'ole English, Steam Machines running AMD hardware will have the same low-level optimization and scaling opportunities as Sony and Microsoft's home consoles.
A few of you might be questioning why this article is pitting the PS4 versus the Steam Machine... keep in mind that they're a lot more alike than the Steam Machine and Xbox One or Wii U, considering that many of the games on PC will be coming to PS4. For example, games like Warframe, Primal Carnage, Starbound and even Project CARS have been eyed for the PlayStation 4 given its ease of porting and accessible development environment. So technically, you could go with a PC or PS4 and get many of the same games... games you won't find on the Wii U or Xbox One.
Despite having many of the same games, there's also the big deciding factor of exclusives. As we all know, the PS4 has some pretty interesting exclusives inbound and not mention strong support from first and second party studios under SCE's wing. We're bound to get more games like The Last of Us and we already know that Uncharted 4 is in the works for the PS4, as noted by The Examiner. With other titles like Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, The Last Guardian and RIME on the horizon for the PS4, it makes it look like an easy-buy for most gamers.
On the flipside, PC has a strong line-up of RTS titles like Planetary Annihilation and the Total War series for gamers who enjoy exercising their wits over their twitch-skills. There are games like Verge Studio's MAKE, or Cube World that really push the boundaries on exploration and adventure. There are procedural games breaking down genre-barriers like Starforge and Planet Explorers, as well as viral games like Slender and Going Home that challenge the status quo. There are also games like Dead State and the standalone of DayZ that keeps PC gaming feeling fresh. That's not to mention that the biggest AAA blockbuster game ever designed, Star Citizen, is a PC exclusive and there's nothing before it or on any other console that comes close to what this game features.
So what say you? Which one has tickled your fancy for the holiday and early 2014 season? Which platform would you be willing to invest in for your gaming needs (especially if you're gaming on a budget?