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Let’s Play: “Guess What Lord GabeN is Rambling About!”

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By Nelson Schneider - 05/16/21 at 01:07 AM CT

New Zealand is home to a number of elusive, quirky, rotund forms of life: The Kiwi Bird, the Kakapo, Gabe Newell

Yes, our favorite expatriate to the land down-under Down-Under, has opened his beard-bedecked mouth again, and, as usual, cryptic, idiosyncratic prophecies about the future of Gaming have flown out. Answering a question from a Kiwi schoolkid about whether Steam would start to do more with consoles, Newell replied that, by the end of the year (2021), we will receive an “unexpected” answer and say, “Aha!” to ourselves.

So let’s play a game of “Guess What Lord GabeN is Rambling About!”

Guess 1: Steam Machines are Coming Back

Back in 2013, Lord GabeN promised to take the console world by storm with the release of a line of small-form-factor gaming PCs with a Linux-based custom OS designed for couch gaming. Alongside the Steam Machines initiative, which left the development of the actual console/PC hybrid hardware in the hands of disinterested third-parties, Valve itself manufactured and sold Steam Link in-home streaming microconsoles and Steam Controllers, before discontinuing both of them a scant few years later.

Could Valve make a more focused attempt at pushing Steam Machines? The Proton compatibility layer that allows a huge number of Windows games to work in the Linux-based SteamOS has improved quite a bit since the initial attempt. The Steam client now includes a SteamInput API that allows for a broad swath of controller compatibility and customization, even in unsupported games. Then there’s the fact that we’re due to see a Rev2 Steam Controller based on Valve’s patent activity.

Guess 2: The Steam Store May Appear on One or More Consoles

Europe, where monopolies are still looked at as “bad business,” has been poking all of the big digital distributors lately. Game consoles, are, of course, walled garden monopolies, whose digital stores sell games only for use on said console, and nowhere else. While it is possible to buy third-party game keys for a handful of console titles from places like HumbleBundle (or less savory gray market keytailers), the fact that the hardware is a closed ecosystem is 100% anticompetitive. Of course, if a console allowed a competing store to sell games right there on the main menu, then that would demonstrate that they’re free and clear of violating any anti-trust laws.

It’s possible that a non-traditional console that has more in common with a PC might just take the bold step of allowing Steam into their walled garden, especially if they’re intent on selling a subscription service instead of discrete games...

Oh, come on, you know I’m talking about the Xbox!

Considering how cozy Microsoft is with crossplay between different platforms, allowing gamers to buy digital games once and play them across all supported platforms, and releasing their precious Xbox “exclusives” on Steam, this scenario isn’t entirely unrealistic. And in a world where upgrading a gaming PC is often a non-starter due to parts shortages, wouldn’t Microsoft just love sell a bunch of Xboxen to potential new GamePass subscribers with the simple carrot of allowing them to import their Steam libraries for play on the Xbox SeX?

Guess 3: Steam is NOT, in Fact, Doing Anything with Consoles

I suppose Lord GabeN could have been trolling the kid. Something along the lines of, “If you are expecting Valve and Steam to do something earthshattering regarding consoles, it might surprise you and make you say, ‘aha!’ when we actually do nothing and continue operating as PC gamers’ preferred DRM-lite option.”

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Wrote on05/18/21 at 07:29 PM CT

What about Valve releasing it’s IP on consoles? Half-Life Alyx on PS VR?

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