Steam Machines will be available starting in 2014 was Valve's announcement, marking the second of three news releases the videogame giant has planned for this week.
Coming in multiple configurations; varying in performance, cost, specifications, and manufacturer, the Steam Machine's announcement goes hand-in-hand with the the SteamOS, announced yesterday – which the boxes will be running.
The fact that the Steam Machine will be available next year is only half reason for the grandeur. 300 Steam users (who meet specific criteria listed here) will be receiving a prototype Steam Machine for a completely public beta test. Users will be picked in the coming months, and will be getting their Machines before the end of 2013.
Steam has gone on record saying that the gaming-landscape changes in there being a dedicated box running Steam have no implications for those who choose not to adopt or just prefer to stick with their PCs. Check out Valve released FAQ on the announcement for a very thorough explanation of the finer details of the Steam Machine.
As for how I think this changes gaming, I don't think it does. A Steam Machine by any other name is still just a computer.
I say just a computer with one little exception. Dedicated gaming computers, that don't need to worry about resource heavy OS footprints, will be able to squeeze more power out of less expensive components - I don't feel their design will utilize component in the way consoles do just that. There will be also many other areas Valve will be able to save on production by not having to license software essential to traditional computers – but I don't think this will reach any sort of tipping point. Prices, of course, have not been discussed, but I can't help that feel like there may be a premium placed on having that Valve/Steam emblem placed firmly on the top corner of the device. One thing I do like about this is the choice. Giving the public more choices on the matter of how they play their games is always a good thing. And with how open Valve is looking to develop the Steam Machine into 2014 – who knows what they might be able to do.