Valve has just announced an update on new Steam Controller functions, which included the news that the company has sold over 500,000 gamepads since they arrived in November. While that figure sounds pretty good, the number includes controllers that are packaged with every branded Steam Machine, painting a grim picture of how well the gaming console/PC hybrids are selling.
As noted by Ars Technica, it means there have been under 500,000 Steam Machines sold in the last six months. Once you factor in the amount of Windows gamers who decided to buy the controller and any Steam OS users who bought more than one of the devices, that half-a-million figure could be significantly lower.
Things look even worse when comparing Steam Machine sales to its console rivals: both the Xbox One and PS4 sold over 1 million units on their first day of release. Over the next seven months, Microsoft had shipped 5.5 million Xbox Ones, and Sony’s PS4 had reached 10.2 million worldwide sales.
Ever since they were first announced over two years ago, it’s never really been clear who the Steam Machines are aimed at; console fans tend to buy consoles, and PC fans will usually stick with PCs. Valve’s box, with its Linux-powered SteamOS, often feels like a middle ground that nobody wants.
Valve pushed SteamOS as one of the Steam Machine's biggest selling points and an alternative to Windows. Gabe Newell called Windows 8 “a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space,” back in 2012. And while the operating system has helped bring more games to Linux, it’s had limited support from publishers and a no exclusive titles. The platform suffered one of its biggest blows last year, when a report showed most games ran much slower on SteamOS than on Windows 10.
Today, if people want a ‘living room PC,’ they either build their own Mini-ITX rig (or buy one of the hundreds of pre-built models) and can use one the many available controllers or a keyboard/mouse combo like the Razer Turret. Even Valve’s excellent $50 Steam Link box can offer a better way of taking the PC experience into the living room than buying a Steam Machine.
At this point, it seems highly unlikely that the machine will ever become the popular console/Windows alternative the company hoped it would be. It seems Valve’s system is running out of steam.