SteamOS is basically to PC games what ChromeOS is to web browsing. It is an Operative System (the OS section) that is designed specifically to run steam games.
Steam is a publishing platform for video games and other general software. What made steam successful was the easy to distribute games, however there are other things that favor steam.
The average gamer will buy 1 game a month or so, and usually at its $60 price tag. There are exceptions and variations, but this is what console makers based on. It is because of this that big franchises games, like Halo and Call of Duty sell so well. Halo 4 grossed $220 million on the first day. So it is a big industry. Because of this, most console center around the blockbusters.
However there are a ton of other good games around, and not all gamers are willing to spend $60 for a game. When this happens, Steam shines.
PC games also have a great concept. I can still Play Need for Speed 2, which was released on 1997, or play Silent Hill 2, released on 2001. While a remake was released for Silent Hill 2, I would have to pay $30 to get the remake (with similar graphics as the PC version) and Silent Hill 3. While it is a great price for 2 games with better graphics, and I do recommend it, it is an extra cost while I already own both for PC.
Silent Hill 2 has some compatibilities problems with Vista and up, but runs great on XP, in a virtual machine, or in Linux even using Wine.
Steam has available Final Fantasy VII. So now you can play the game released in 1997 without having to tweak the PC. This is another point where Steam shines. The games usually just run.
Gog.com offers similar experience, but it does not have the all in interface.
There is another big win for Steam that console and other distribution platforms have not mastered. The PROMOTIONS. For example, at the moment of writing Steam has a promotion for Flatout complete Pack, which includes 4 flatout games for $9.99. The promotion says it is $75 off out of $39.99. While Xbox and PSN have similar promotions, the prices are usually not adjusted. So Flatout would cost in comparison $39.99 on these networks. I could not find the game to buy online on the networks but…
Lets take a look at Painkiller Hell and Damnation. $29.99 in Xbox Marketplace, but it is $19.99 in Steam. That is $10 difference. Considering Steam runs promotions it would not be rare to find a Painkiller promotion with all the games for the price of 1. The average 1 year old game is about $30 on Xbox360 and PS3, but for PC that game would cost $15 or less.
Considering most distribution platforms require you to be online to play Steam has a clear advantage here.
The problem they face is to provide a consistent experience for players. Not all computer games are enjoyable with a Joystick. Playstation and Xbox lose money on the console, but regain it in the games. PC games have a higher upfront on the computer, but the games are cheaper (there is no license to pay to the console makers).
However considering a new Xbox One cost $500, which is the cost of a decent PC, and you can get a fairly decent video card for $150, PC is not so expensive compared to consoles.
Lets consider, even if you were to spend $1000 on a PC (or Steam hardware), you could run any of the games you already own on the PC, plus you can run your software (Productivity programs, photo editing, etc), watch online media like Hulu, Netfix, Amazon on demand and with Steam you can ply your games in the TV (you can technically play any game on the TV since it is a big monitor). Depending on how many games you buy, and if you can stay away from brand new games, you could be saving a ton of money and recovering the cost of the PC quick.
12 games at $60 each is $720. I make it a point of not spending more than $10 per game (I buy online, from gog.com, steam, amazon and gamestop). Even at top price of my game, I would buy 72 games. If I buy packs, then I could have over 100 games in a year.
I currently have 170+ games on steam, but I have over 700 games in total, and at least over 400 of those are PC games. I have been playing PC games since 1992, and every once in a while it is nice to play an old game. For example X-Wing, which you can buy now for almost $100 thanks to being a collector’s item. If you wanted to play an old console game, you would have to connect your old console, or buy the game again in the console market (which might not work with the next generation console).
In PC gaming, there is always a way to make the game work.
So, I think the steam hardware is a good idea. Because of the flexibility of PC gaming, it will be though for Steam, but more choices cannot hurt the player, but rather give more power.
BTW, I had a PC connected to the main TV before. It is not connected anymore because Xbox does what we need most of the time (Hulu and Netflix with occasional gaming), but I end up doing most of my gaming downstairs in my main PC. However PCs now can be small and have enough power to run most games, so it is a possibility.
Gaming PC is a viable gaming type, and it has a user base. Steam Hardware will have its place as well so I think that although it might have a rough start, it can be rewarding for people that want to try it. Since I have spare PCs at home, I will try Steam OS.
Let me know your thoughts