PC Gamer has an article up about the failure of SteamOS, and it serves as a good anchor to talk about Valve in general.
“The fundamental reasons that Valve cares about SteamOS haven’t gone away, and we continue our work to expand it,” Valve said in a statement to PC Gamer. I had asked if SteamOS was still a priority, how many people were working on it, and if Windows 10 changed Valve’s approach. “The launch of Steam Machines taught us a lot about what Steam customers value in hardware. Right now we’re continuing to work on SteamOS as a product, with over 96 updates and 3,525 games released. We have many incentives for those making SteamOS titles and we see a bright future for SteamOS, especially in VR.”
The comment about VR is interesting, as the new tech is clearly Valve’s present focus. If SteamOS can provide a better VR experience than Windows, and VR technology proves itself more popular in the future, perhaps the OS has a shot of resurging with a new round of ‘SteamVR Machines’. But the success of SteamVR isn’t a sure thing, either.
The problem with Valve is that they are the technology company equivalent of a toddler – kind of cute and adorable (if they’re not yours), but easily distracted, unfocused, and kind of living in their own fantasy world. Valve wanders from left to right, never committing to anything, just doing whatever it fancies. That would be completely fine if it wasn’t for the fact that it strings partners and consumers along for the ride – only to jump off midway, leaving the ride to slowly come to a grinding halt in the middle of nowhere.
While the company devoted time and money to SteamOS and SteamVR, it let its most important piece of software – the Steam client – languish, to the point where it’s now probably the most unusable piece of software on any Windows PC. It’s slow, ugly, bloated, confusing, overly complex verging on the unusable, and in general just frustrating and cumbersome to use. In fact – and some people might balk at this – but EA’s Origin client has improved so much over the years, that it’s much nicer, cleaner, and easier to use now than the Steam client ever was. I will fight you on this.
And, of course, they left us at one of the biggest cliffhangers in gaming, and we have no Half-life 3. No Portal 3. No Left 4 Dead 3. No new IP. Nothing. We cry foul at EA, Ubisoft, and Bethesda for being unoriginal, but meanwhile, continue to treat Valve like the greatest gaming company in history, even though they haven’t released a new game and haven’t introduced a new IP in a long, long time.
It’s high time Valve demonstrates that it actually cares about its customers, by improving Steam or releasing games we actually want – or in general just by showing some damn follow-through for once, or at least being open about plans for the future so we know what we can expect before we plonk down a bunch of cash for the next shiny they’re peddling.
As it stands now, Valve isn’t showing any signs that it cares about the fans of its games, and as the competition catches up to and races past Steam in user experience, the resentment grows ever deeper. Yes, the headline is harsh, but I can’t find any sign that it’s not true.
Sure, Steam is the giant of PC gaming today – but no giant remains standing forever.