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

By - Source: VG24/7 | B 34 comments

Phil Harrison is a little cautionary when speaking of the Steam Box and Nvidia Shield.

When asked about Microsoft's venture into tablets with Windows 8, Valve head Gabe Newell had less then kind words.

The tech giant was a little more positive when speaking about Valve's and Nvidia's venture into gaming hardware with the Piston and Shield, which were both confirmed and unveiled at this year's CES.

"I think that any new entrant, without being specific to any company or brand or product, any new entrant into the games industry is ultimately a good a thing," said Microsoft vice president Phil Harrison.

However, Harrison also provided words of caution for the two companies. "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."

Deep pockets and strong balance sheets? Check for both Valve and Nvidia, who really are both in prime position to have their gaming hardware take off. But will the Steam Box and Shield take off and ship the amount of units desired? That might be a little bit trickier to manage.

 

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  • 3 Hide
    kawininjazx , January 14, 2013 3:04 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.
  • 9 Hide
    esrever , January 14, 2013 3:18 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.
  • 5 Hide
    DRosencraft , January 14, 2013 3:21 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.
  • -4 Hide
    The-Darkening , January 14, 2013 3:23 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!
  • 1 Hide
    kodster8912 , January 14, 2013 3:29 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.
  • -2 Hide
    jhansonxi , January 14, 2013 3:29 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_problems
  • 5 Hide
    Kraszmyl , January 14, 2013 3:33 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.
  • 0 Hide
    Miharu , January 14, 2013 3:40 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.
  • 6 Hide
    kawininjazx , January 14, 2013 3:41 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.
  • 3 Hide
    vertigo_2000 , January 14, 2013 3:53 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.
  • -3 Hide
    chimera201 , January 14, 2013 4:11 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.


  • 4 Hide
    hiruu , January 14, 2013 4:11 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...
  • 1 Hide
    edogawa , January 14, 2013 4:18 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.
  • -5 Hide
    noblerabbit , January 14, 2013 4:22 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.
  • 3 Hide
    edogawa , January 14, 2013 4:31 PM
    Quote:
    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.
  • 1 Hide
    shikamaru31789 , January 14, 2013 4:41 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.
  • -2 Hide
    bigdragon , January 14, 2013 5:06 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.
  • 4 Hide
    bllue , January 14, 2013 5:23 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).
  • 4 Hide
    hixbot , January 14, 2013 5:29 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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