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Microsoft's Phil Harrison's Thoughts on Steam Box and Shield: Hardware is a Hard

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  • Hardware
  • Steam
  • Microsoft
Last response: in News comments
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January 14, 2013 3:04:02 PM

I think a lot of people would buy the Steam Box, there is already a huge following for Valve. A lot of people want console hardware upgrades, but that messes up the consistency of the games, since they are specifically made to run off of a certain type of hardware (thus running better on lower end parts). I guess the Steam Box would just be an affordable mini gaming PC that runs a Steam OS or linux.

A lot of people don't get into PC gaming because of the initial cost of $700-$1000 for a decent machine, but there are a ton of great deals on PC games that are a couple of years old. If you could get a capable PC for $399 from Valve that will play the newest game at a decent resolution, there could be a big boost for the PC industry, but it's going to be a gamble for sure.
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3
January 14, 2013 3:10:24 PM

For a measly $199, I can play the latest games at a decent resolution. It's called the Xbox 360 and PS3. And I get exclusives that are actually high quality AAA titles not on PC. Beat that Valve.
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-10
January 14, 2013 3:18:51 PM

Unless valve can offer something thats significantly better than console gaming with a low end steambox, they won't sell many consoles. Their target audience are people who most likely already own 1 or more consoles and making those people want a steambox is going to be challenging. They are also very unlikely to focus on the PC steam market to push the steambox because steam is free on PC and anyone well versed in PC gaming should be able to build their own steambox with customized parts. There is also the rumor of Valve using linux, which will drastically cut down on the available games on steam. If they don't push linux, then the windows cost will be too much to compete with other consoles.

The Shield will be a niche device probably priced at $400+ for people who already own 6XX cards to do something novel. Nvidia won't sell at a loss and they already made the system's more distinct features very closed off. Nobody wants to play android games on a controller when they already have a phone.

The steambox can succeed in the long run with valve support. The Shield won't likely have any real support from nvidia once they realize it won't sell in large quantities.
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9
January 14, 2013 3:21:43 PM

Despite the ire that is often raised, the reason that there is a big three in the console wars (not counting PCs of course) is precisely because it's difficult to ship new hardware in sufficient quantities to meet demand and sufficient quantities to make a profit. Arguably three consoles is an equilibrium and a powerful new entrant could push out one of the existing three. Nvidia has that potential with their thing. I suppose Valve as a whole does, but the Steam Box just seems too much like a black sheep - I can't understand why one wouldn't just set their computer beside their TV or build a small rig that would accomplish the exact same thing.

The other matter not addressed in the story above is the game development. Every system needs some exclusives and the willingness for third-party developers to make games for the system. That's development cost for a game maker who has already been working with other systems. Arguably neither the Steam Box nor Shield need much if any re-coding for porting and so forth, but it is still a question that must be asked by a developer, and by a consumer who is looking at the future of the gaming arena.

Right now it would seem Sony is in the most fragile position. The PS3 has been more successful than the Xbox 360, but Sony as a company has faced more headwinds, and reports about their plans for the PS4 suggest that it is going to be a very major flop on arrival due to restrictions on used games. So the Steam Box could be successful, and the Shiled could be successful, and if they are I suspect that it will be at the detriment to Sony, less likely MSFT, and highly unlikely to Nintendo.
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5
January 14, 2013 3:23:35 PM

takme12For a measly $199, I can play the latest games at a decent resolution. It's called the Xbox 360 and PS3. And I get exclusives that are actually high quality AAA titles not on PC. Beat that Valve.


You get what you pay for. Walled garden, low res upscaled, low FPS, low textures, low detail, low AA, low AF. Beat that, Valve!
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-4
January 14, 2013 3:29:03 PM

takme12For a measly $199, I can play the latest games at a decent resolution. It's called the Xbox 360 and PS3. And I get exclusives that are actually high quality AAA titles not on PC. Beat that Valve.

What valve is releasing is much more advanced than the current 360/PS3 and is actually capable of playing games at detailed resolutions unlike the 360/PS3 any game you play on it is at low detail the game is produced at usually 480p and is up scaled to 1080 (when its really not that high of detail). The piston and the shield also have the value of steam with it so you can buy games for much cheaper the piston and the shield are also the equivalent to a mid range PC. I think they already beat that.
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1
January 14, 2013 3:29:21 PM

Quote:
Entering the hardware business is a really tough business, and you have to have great fortitude to be in the hardware business, and you have to have deep pockets and a very strong balance sheet.
Avoiding hardware quality problems (like RROD) would help.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xbox_360_technical_problem...
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-2
January 14, 2013 3:33:32 PM

takme12For a measly $199, I can play the latest games at a decent resolution. It's called the Xbox 360 and PS3. And I get exclusives that are actually high quality AAA titles not on PC. Beat that Valve.


Well atleast you don't try to claim they look good. Also i cant stand the terain randomly loading in my face or issues like skyrim has on the ps3 when the console runs out of memory and crashes.

Also the ps3 and xbox debuted for well over 200$ and the generation after it you can be sure will be up there too.
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5
January 14, 2013 3:40:27 PM

I prefer gaming on a PC. So Steam box seem a good idea as long they allow "upgrading" the hardware. Piston doesn't seem to be "upgradable" much. I have hoped a "stackable" version of Piston where the os allow cpu to work in stack but perhaps it's just too much for normal user.

Since the unit it's not for sale right now, I would just removed any videocard from the package (or put a small one) with full support for external thunderbold videocard. The unit will cost $199-$249 and the external videocard $99-$599. So a great gaming unit will cost around $328.

This could really change everything about PC­ if they play it correctly.
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0
January 14, 2013 3:41:59 PM

The-DarkeningYou get what you pay for. Walled garden, low res upscaled, low FPS, low textures, low detail, low AA, low AF. Beat that, Valve!


I have been playing games since Atari 2600/NES, so graphics are not all that too me and PS3/XBOX 360 graphics are amazing and honestly, I don't need to spend a fortune to get a bunch of effects and textures I don't even notice. I've also been a PC gamer for almost 20 years, I just prefer the simplicity and cost of a console, along with the great combination of a controller and sitting your ass on the couch.
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6
January 14, 2013 3:53:46 PM

Steambox will have exclusives... there are games on the PC you can't play on Xbox or PS3. And if Valve makes Half Life 3 a Steambox exclusive, they'll be guaranteed to sell a few million (at the expense of their reputation of course).

As for the Shield, I just don't see a market for it. All the things they've said it could do I've never found myself wanting to do. It's seems to be a solution to a problem that doesn't exist.
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3
January 14, 2013 4:11:13 PM

takme12For a measly $199, I can play the latest games at a decent resolution. It's called the Xbox 360 and PS3. And I get exclusives that are actually high quality AAA titles not on PC. Beat that Valve.


ps3 20gb was launched at 499$ and x360 core was launched at 300$.(Their actual production costs were higher)
For under 500$ u can build a decent gaming pc at that time and still play games till now.
console games more or less have a res of 720p(older games had lesser res) with almost no AA or AF. But u cant see that if u are sitting 10 feet away from ur TV.
Consoles have exclusives for 2 reasons - one to make a selling point for the console and the other is excluding the pc platform because pcs got a big problem with piracy. But Valve has no problem with that.


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-3
January 14, 2013 4:11:28 PM

The hardware market is one marked by dimishing returns for a long time, in addition to pushing developers to desig for your platform...Valve and Nvidia are going to come to tht comclusion VERY quick, especially with everthing slated to launch in 2013 an 2014...
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4
January 14, 2013 4:18:17 PM

kawininjazxI have been playing games since Atari 2600/NES, so graphics are not all that too me and PS3/XBOX 360 graphics are amazing and honestly, I don't need to spend a fortune to get a bunch of effects and textures I don't even notice. I've also been a PC gamer for almost 20 years, I just prefer the simplicity and cost of a console, along with the great combination of a controller and sitting your ass on the couch.


I can respect that you chose consoles over PC since its simpler and the lazier option. After a hard days work who wouldn't to be honest.

I have also played since the Atari 2600/NES, and I miss those days, I truly do, but golden age of consoles is over.

I stopped console gaming with the PS3/Xbox360, it's just a huge walled garden, and PC offers so much more. Graphics on modern consoles actually make me feel physically sick because the textures/graphics are so mushy and gross and mushy on a 1080p display(especially a large TV).

Comparing a good gaming PC to a console, the difference is astronomical if your playing a graphically demanding game. And playing a game at 30fps on a console is terrible. More to it than textures and effects.

PC allows you to play games with controllers on a couch still too. No need to play on a console with all the kids cursing either.
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1
January 14, 2013 4:22:42 PM

If I was influencial, and I heard ANYONE say "Hardware is a hard business, blah blah", I would have them fired on the spot, and never to be rehired in same industry.
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-5
January 14, 2013 4:31:17 PM

chimera201 said:
ps3 20gb was launched at 499$ and x360 core was launched at 300$.(Their actual production costs were higher)
For under 500$ u can build a decent gaming pc at that time and still play games till now.
console games more or less have a res of 720p(older games had lesser res) with almost no AA or AF. But u cant see that if u are sitting 10 feet away from ur TV.
Consoles have exclusives for 2 reasons - one to make a selling point for the console and the other is excluding the pc platform because pcs got a big problem with piracy. But Valve has no problem with that.


Just helped my friend build a PC for about 600 roughly, he was amazed how great it looked in TF2 alone. It was his first gaming PC after quitting consoles.

Consoles will definitely have trouble competing against PCs in the coming years, we have good exclusives, MUCH better prices and sales, and so much more.

Have you seen borderlands 2 on the PS3? Man that game really shows the consoles age, even at 10 feet on a large TV.
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3
January 14, 2013 4:41:26 PM

The Piston is simply not going to do well at the price that's been hinted at. $1000 for a box with such low specs, and that can only take jacked up price mini graphics cards, is simply ridiculous. Not when you can build a PC that can play games on high settings at 1080 for $600. Next-gen consoles are rumored to be in the $300-400 price range at launch this time around. Unless they can get the price of the Piston with $100 of that, I see it being a fail amongst both console and PC gamers.

Now supposedly it's not the only Steambox, other companies as well as Valve themselves will be making others. Hopefully one of them will make a competitve Steambox with both good specs and a reasonable price tag.
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1
January 14, 2013 5:06:57 PM

I think Valve has got quite an opportunity on their hands if they do things right. Steam has a huge user base already and is a piece of cake to use. It doesn't suffer from all the account problems and hacking issues a service like Origin has been failing to battle. Having a Steam console looks like a good idea to me that could seriously help PC gaming. I'm not really sure what Nvidia is doing though. Handheld systems have been getting hammered against tablets and phones. The only reason the 3DS does ok is because of Nintento's IP. I think Nvidia should stick to their current business model of licensing out their technology to OEMs. I think going it alone on their own product is a waste of money given how badly phones and tablets have cannibalized the handheld market.

takme12For a measly $199, I can play the latest games at a decent resolution. It's called the Xbox 360 and PS3. And I get exclusives that are actually high quality AAA titles not on PC. Beat that Valve.

Ever heard of Steam Workshop? Valve already has this beat. The PC is the home of custom content and mods. It's way past time for gaming to come home to the PC where we have map editors, modded content, and a wide variety of genres including many, like strategy games, that don't work well on consoles.
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-2
January 14, 2013 5:23:16 PM

kodster8912What valve is releasing is much more advanced than the current 360/PS3 and is actually capable of playing games at detailed resolutions unlike the 360/PS3 any game you play on it is at low detail the game is produced at usually 480p and is up scaled to 1080 (when its really not that high of detail). The piston and the shield also have the value of steam with it so you can buy games for much cheaper the piston and the shield are also the equivalent to a mid range PC. I think they already beat that.

The Piston is priced at $999. With a $999 budget you might as well build a system that outperforms the Piston. Even a smaller budget will outperform the Piston Then if you want it hooked up to your TV just buy an HDMI cable. This PC can of course be used for a multitude of other tasks as well (after it all, it is a PC).
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4
January 14, 2013 5:29:32 PM

Consoles are perfect for local multiplayer. I'm a PC gamer at heart but I own consoles for local gaming on the couch, and they get more use for that reason.
I'd LOVE to see core PC games support local multiplayer (a few do), it's so frustrating to see AAA mult-platform games have numerous local multiplayer options on console and none on the PC version.

I see so many PC gamer snobs bash consoles, and I wonder how do they play local multiplayer? Do they have friends?
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4
January 14, 2013 5:33:09 PM

kodster8912What valve is releasing is much more advanced than the current 360/PS3 and is actually capable of playing games at detailed resolutions unlike the 360/PS3 any game you play on it is at low detail the game is produced at usually 480p and is up scaled to 1080 (when its really not that high of detail). The piston and the shield also have the value of steam with it so you can buy games for much cheaper the piston and the shield are also the equivalent to a mid range PC. I think they already beat that.

The real problem with this is the next gen will be what competes with the steambox and performance difference between a low end PC and the next gen console wouldn't be nearly as much as today. You'd very much be unlikely to get noticeably better performance on the steambox if it is priced at
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2
January 14, 2013 5:45:20 PM

DRosencraft The PS3 has been more successful than the Xbox 360


you might want to recheck your assertion. # sold isn't what equates to success in the console market, its the game attach rate (how many games per console are sold) and the PS3 is soundly whipped by the 360. A HUGE proportion of PS3s are used as BD players and nothing else. Console makers get royalties on every game sold for their platform and Sony is far far behind the competition.
It DID help them win the HD 'format war' though. But NOT gaming in any way you can measure it.
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4
January 14, 2013 6:21:38 PM

at $999 if rumours are correc ti don't see it being successful at sub $500 as that is about where a decent budget gaming system starts. at $300 or below they would sell liek hot cakes i would pick up 2 myself assumign they are more energy efficient than my ps3 and xbox 360 for streaming and gaming with my steam games
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0
January 14, 2013 6:31:46 PM

well... lets see here.
steam box is a pc label and valve may make their own box too... not a hard sell, and with a label from the biggest name in digital distribution its a decent thing to look for when buying a pre built machine.

the shield is an android device with a controler built in.
i can guarentee if that gets traction for putting real games on it, than i will probably pick one up... note, i do not have a cellphone.

of the two the only one that may fail is the shield, but nvidia should be able to eat a loss if it come to it.
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0
January 14, 2013 6:57:37 PM

Pc is great for playing text games! Amazing fonts!
(no kidding, I still play muds and angband on my 7970 x)

Best games of few last years, to me atleast, are Dark Souls and FTL. Neither has the point of graphics while still looking quite good..
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1
January 14, 2013 7:10:11 PM

chimera201ps3 20gb was launched at 499$ and x360 core was launched at 300$.(Their actual production costs were higher)For under 500$ u can build a decent gaming pc at that time and still play games till now.console games more or less have a res of 720p(older games had lesser res) with almost no AA or AF. But u cant see that if u are sitting 10 feet away from ur TV.Consoles have exclusives for 2 reasons - one to make a selling point for the console and the other is excluding the pc platform because pcs got a big problem with piracy. But Valve has no problem with that.


1) Doesn't matter the launch price. Valve has to compete with the current price. People aren't going to stores and buying the launch console price.

2) If you can't see something sitting 10ft away from your TV, then how is that stuff going to make any difference whether it's implemented or not?

3) Valve may have no problem with piracy, but developers may have problems selling a console game for $5 on Steam sales rather than $60 on other consoles if they consider the Steambox a console. And no, they don't have to support a console even if it is popular. (See Rockstar and Nintendo Wii).
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0
January 14, 2013 7:11:59 PM

bllueThe Piston is priced at $999. With a $999 budget you might as well build a system that outperforms the Piston. Even a smaller budget will outperform the Piston Then if you want it hooked up to your TV just buy an HDMI cable. This PC can of course be used for a multitude of other tasks as well (after it all, it is a PC).


Exactly, but I think this is targeted at the non tech savvy group. Hardly any PC gamer will buy this, I think.

I would rather buy a HAF XB and just build a cheap AMD system for light living room gaming. It's small and would blend it with other entertainment systems.

This isn't targeted for me though, at 1000$ I think it's a stretch even for anyone when a PS4/XBox 720 will be so much more convenient.

Will probably see more in the upcoming months, for now I remain skeptical.

Steam Piston can be upgraded, has really good specs for how small it is, and just convenient. Price this at 600 and it will definitely sell.
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0
Anonymous
January 14, 2013 7:51:57 PM

Steam already has a huge game library with guaranteed future releases of A+ titles, and the steam sales keep the brand well known and respected. With Linux running the thing i think the Steam Box will have much more lasting power than the proprietary mess that is the corporate console market.

M$ is just scarred that console-tards will finally into modding! :D 
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-2
January 14, 2013 8:36:15 PM

Phil is correct. Several companies with more spending money than Valve and NVidia have failed at the console market for various reasons. It takes a lot of spending money to get a foot in the door, especially when the competition is an industry veteran like Nintendo, the (former) electronics titan Sony, and PC software monopolist Microsoft. If Valve fails with this gamble, Steam will be the one to suffer for it. He's not just betting Valve, he's betting the PC gaming sector on this.
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1
January 14, 2013 10:04:49 PM

Even though there's a little bit of the finger, overall this was a respectable response
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1
January 15, 2013 4:07:27 AM

MS knows all about the problems of bringing hardware to market...

Zune never took off
xbox never got as big as they expected
x360 was plagued with RROD for years
Surface has had lack luster sales so far
MS Brand WP8 device is likely delayed (according to rumors)
Kinnect for PC seems to be in perpetual development

And that does not even list the scores of products that they never even got to market!

But in spite of all that MS is actually pretty good with hardware. The Zune was great... but poorly marketed. The xBox was not a bad first entry into market, and the x360 is perhaps the real winner in the console wars (wii never sold games, and PS3 has only been a moderate success). Even the Surface is a great product for what it is... but it just is not something that people seem to want...

I am confident that nVidia and Valve can make great hardware... What I am not so sure about is if people want a screen that small, or want to pay for something that seems to be a PC accessory, or that they will be able to break into the retail chains to push their products. But barring those potential pitfalls, it should be pretty good all around.
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2
January 15, 2013 3:54:41 PM

Quote:
"Entering the hardware business is a really tough business, and you have to have great fortitude to be in the hardware business, and you have to have deep pockets and a very strong balance sheet. It's not possible for every new hardware entrant to get to scale.

"They can be successful at small scale. But it's very rare for a new hardware entrant to get to scale, and I mean tens, hundreds of millions of units. There are a very small number of companies that can make that happen.

"And it's not just having a great brand or a great software experience. It's about having a supply chain and a distribution model and a manufacturing capacity and all the things that go with it. It's a non-trivial problem to solve and it takes thousands of people to make reality."

Sounds like what Acer was saying about the Surface... :lol: 
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0
January 15, 2013 5:17:01 PM

I have a lot of my games on my steam account, so I'll probably buy 2 or 3 of these. Look at all the steam gamers, and im pretty sure valve's pockets are deep enough, and i'm pretty sure the millions of steam gamers will be interested to buy one of these so they can play there steam games on there t.v.'s or any where they want.
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-1
March 13, 2013 10:52:17 PM

Shield is aimed at killing consoles/handhelds, and selling video cards. Not sure how that can fail. Anyone with a console or thinking about purchasing one and already has a PC is a potential customer for this. If my PC games can run on a TV I have no need for the next xbox/ps4. You get android games for walking around and pc games when at home (well, both can be output to tv). I don't think you can get the same gaming experience on a phone as you can with a gamepad/lcd. You just can't do the same things you can with a dpad/sticks and lost of buttons. You are and always will be limited by a phone's touch interface.

Even if they sell it at or near break even, it will hurt AMD, consoles and handhelds. Which I believe is the point. They can charge more (for decent profit) for round 2. The first should be to just cement their GPU lead (they own 67%+ of the discrete market vs. AMD ~25%) and cause fewer consoles sales which currently hold back their gpu sales. Games are made for consoles and ported to pc, thus holding back your need for a powerful gpu. If consoles are dead we get games made on PC etc, and needing more power. Hence I can sell you a needed upgrade that will actually show a difference on your pc.

I think a lot of you are missing the point of shield and how NV looks at consoles as basically the enemy of expensive gpu sales :)  Also ~5in screens are sold for profit at ~$150 in car dvd players etc so I'm not sure why someone can't sell a gamepad with less heat/watt restrictions for a profit at even $200 or so. I men Ouya will sell for $99. A screen can't cost more than $100 or those car dvd players wouldn't exist. Ouya comes with the console and the pad for $99 AFAIK. I'd think NV could break even or make a profit at $150 for shield. Priced aggressively this could be a massive success vs. $300-500 next gen consoles. It would inspire some gpu sales also as your pc is upgradable for a long time to come. Your x720/ps4 can't be taken with you for games on the road in say, a doctors office etc. Of course on the other hand it will sell like crap if it's $400. Vita and 3DS sales are already plummeting as phones kill them off. Shield will add to the damage with PC games on TV as another reason to not buy a handheld.

If shield sells well (IE priced right) consoles will have an even tougher time from Nov+. If they were out now they'd be able to defend themselves before shield/ouya and phones get an even bigger beachhead built. But coming at xmas hurts them. Steambox is a wildcard, not sure when it will debut, but having steam as a platform should ensure some form of success. Of course Shield working with steam also helps it, as steam customers are an easy target for these too.
Here's a forbes article laying out basically what I'm saying, she's not alone as others are saying it:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/carolpinchefsky/2013/01/15/...
The writer makes a lot of sense and I think is on the right track for what NV/Valve are doing here.
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