During a lecture at University of Texas’s LBJ School of Public Affairs, Valve’s head honcho, Gabe Newell, explained that the biggest threat to the Steam Box isn’t from video game consoles—rather, it’s the potential of Apple’s living room invasion.
“The biggest challenge, I don’t think is from the consoles. I think the biggest challenge is that Apple moves on the living room before the PC industry sort of gets its act together. […]
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. I think that there’s a scenario where we see sort of a dumbed down living room platform emerging — I think Apple rolls the console guys really easily. The question is can we make enough progress in the PC space to establish ourselves there, and also figure out better ways of addressing mobile before Apple takes over the living room?”
Newell expanded the real reason why consoles will soon be irrelevant in the face of the ubiquity of the PC:
“…people will have a lot of choices […] They’ll say, ‘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 extend everything I love about the PC and the internet into the living room.’”
These days, the console war is becoming far more about services and game exclusives rather than actual hardware specs. Not only that, but PCs often have the same content as consoles—but for less money. And that’s not even counting games that don’t wind up on consoles or take a long time to get there. Considering how inexpensive PCs have become and the breadth of offerings via Steam and other game-clients, Newell is right: consoles aren’t nearly as relevant as they once were for a populace that has computers in every home.
And while Apple does certainly have the best way into the living room because of how many people own iOS devices, PC still has the clear edge in terms of content and customization. Of course, most people don’t WANT customization—they just want to play Angry Birds and forget about it.
So what do you think? Is Apple the real threat here? Or is the Steam Box’s biggest hurdle simply the fact that it doesn’t exist yet?