Why The Steam Box Will Dominate 2016

For the past few years, Microsoft and Sony have again renewed their perpetual battle over video game console supremacy with the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. While the two powerhouse platforms have been focused on each other, a new contender for the title has slowly been creeping up on them: Valve's Steam Machine. Can a PC-based platform really compete with the big boys of console gaming? Here are a few reasons why we think Steam Machine will dominate the gaming world.

A varied library

Both the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 have worked over the past few years to build respectable libraries of video games. Then there's Steam, which boasts thousands of games from throughout PC gaming history, including classic oldies and modern hits. There's simply no question that Steam has far more variety than the Xbox One or PS4. In today's increasingly fractured gaming market, having more options is always better than having less.

Redefining exclusivity

One of the big selling points of both the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 is exclusivity; purchase one or the other, and you'll have access to games you can't play anywhere else. Valve has announced it won't be making any exclusive games for the Steam Machine. Fortunately, that's actually a positive, rather than a negative, as it invites people to play what they want and how they want. Then again, they don't have to make exclusive games, because the existence of the Steam Machine is going to redefine what exclusive means in the first place. After all, most of the games available on Steam are PC games that have never been available to play on a console before. A system that is both inclusive and exclusive at the same time? Sign me up.

The traditional console market is tapped out

Chances are that most serious gamers have already purchased the Xbox One or PS4, if not both, by now. There's just not that much growth left for either. The Steam Machine, however, offers a different experience thanks to the vast Steam library of games. It's not competing with the established consoles so much as supplementing them. If you have a PS4, you don't really need an Xbox One, and vice versa—but whichever you own, you could still get a lot of use out of a Steam Machine, due to playing the games that neither console had.

A cheaper alternative to a PC

If you're like me, you love PC games, but can't really play many of them because your PC is a big pile of junk. There are options to fix that, but none of them are easy on the wallet. With the Steam Machine, PC gamers can now play their titles on a system that not only runs them, but optimizes them—all without melting down a crappy, old motherboard or breaking bank trying to get a good rig. Owning a crappy PC is the whole reason I got into console gaming in the first place; Steam just vastly expands my gaming options by taking the worry of PC hardware and upgrades out of the equation.

It encourages competition

One of the primary tenets of capitalism is that open markets encourage competition and therefore innovation (seriously, Google it). Valve is embracing this principle with the Steam Machine. Unlike the PS4, which is made exclusively by Sony, or the Xbox One, which is exclusively from Microsoft, Valve is working with numerous hardware developers to create different, unique versions of the Steam Machine to meet the different, unique needs of the diverse gaming community. Whatever your preferences, chances are there will be a Steam Machine tailored to your desires. Now try asking Microsoft for a customizable Xbox One and you'll see just what the power of competition can do for you.

As powerful as you need

One of the big benefits of having multiple developers creating their own variations on the Steam Machine? Customizable power. Xbox One and PS4 tout their cloud-based storage and processing, which is great and everything, for now. But remember how limited last-gen consoles felt in their final days before the current-gen was released? The PS4 and Xbox One are pretty much as good as they're going to get, but the Steam Machine can be upgraded and tweaked to give you as much or as little power as you need for your play style. This might not matter too much out of the gate, but check back in five years and see what kind of a difference it makes.

It isn't all about virtual reality

Look, I'm as stoked as anyone for the Oculus Rift. But right now it seems like every developer is so focused on the potential of virtual reality that those of us still out here in the real world feel a little bit forgotten. VR might be the wave of the future, but Steam Machine offers a platform that caters to both present day players and old school retro gamers. But don't worry, if you're curious about the power virtual reality, you'll be able to try it out thanks to the SteamVR—so you can have your virtual cake and eat it too.

Valve knows what it's doing

Perhaps the most promising thing about the Steam Machine is that this isn't Valve Corporation's first rodeo. 2016 marks the 20th anniversary of the developer that brought the gaming world Half-LifePortal, Counter-Strike, and Dota 2, among many other classic games. They've also had quite a few years to work the kinks of out Steam on the PC. By this point, they have a pretty good idea what works and what doesn't when it comes to Steam. They've had their share of issues and detractors, but unlike most companies that have attempted to compete with Microsoft and Sony in the console market, these cats actually know what they're doing, and they know what their audiences want.. That's enough reason to be excited.