Valve has been unveiling its SteamOS initiative piece by piece, and at a brief event today it announced an important new detail: which companies will actually be selling Steam Machines. Thirteen partners were announced at the event, including Alienware, Falcon Northwest, and iBuyPower, among other custom PC makers. There's no word on precisely when the machines will hit the market, but Valve business manager DJ Powers tells us that its hoping to see some on the shelf in the latter half of 2014.
As for whether we'll see hardware from Valve itself, it isn't something the company is ruling out — though it is staying typically quiet on the subject. But one thing is for sure: the 300 prototypes that Valve sent out in 2013 aren't going to be making a further appearance. "That was an exercise to kind of prove the concept and get them in customers' hands to get real honest feedback," says Powers. "We don't have further plans to manufacture more of those boxes and run a bigger beta or sell them."
There's one other piece of hardware that Valve's partners may end up making too: controllers. Valve announced today that partners will be able to create their own Steam Controllers, helping achieve its goal of creating a diverse Steam OS ecosystem for gamers. While Steam OS won't have quite the game library that Steam on Windows does, Valve says there are about 250 titles supporting it so far. The company has made no secret of its attempt to pull indie and AAA games alike onto Linux, but Powers wouldn't elaborate on future plans, though he said to expect more news relatively soon — likely not, however, at Steam Dev Days later this month.
Prices range from $499 to $6,000
Valve's other Steam Machine partners are Materiel.net, Alternate, Next, CyberPowerPC, Origin, Digital Storm, Scan Computers, Webhallen, Gigabyte, and Zotac. Just like their gaming PCs, their Steam Machines come in a wide range of styles — and with an even wider range of hardware.
The machines' prices range from $499 to $6,000. Manufacturers including iBuyPower and CyberPowerPC are among those making entry-level machines that might appeal to traditional console gamers, while others like Falcon Northwest aren't straying from their normal demographics, offering far more powerful systems at far more daunting prices.
The low-cost machines are trying to stretch your dollar pretty far though: CyberPowerPC's, for instance, includes a Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive, and either an AMD Radeon R9 270 or an Nvidia GTX 760. Gigabyte takes another approach, putting more weight behind faster processors and eschewing discrete graphics for Intel's surprisingly powerful integrated solution, Iris Pro. How they'll actually hold up to games remains to be seen, but we're getting eager to start playing.
Adi Robertson contributed to this report.