Seemingly out of the blue, Valve apparently has dropped the "Steam Machines" section from its online marketplace, meaning they're now buried off the front page. The drop down menu revealed when hovering over the "Hardware" tab no longer shows the option.
To note, Valve has not wiped off Steam Machines from its service. They can still be accessed via search or by clicking the generic hardware tab. But it seems the company has thrown the towel in trying to promote those products, and such a move seems only rational given that they never really became as popular as Valve had hoped for them to be.
What Are Steam Machines?
Steam Machines, for the uninitiated, were unveiled in 2013 as Valve's way of bridging the gap between PC and console gaming. These machines are designed to look like gaming consoles and they run SteamOS and support the Steam Controller. Unlike home consoles which have fixed hardware, users can pick custom specifications for their own Steam Machine, which resulted in vastly different price points. A standard Steam Machine from Alienware costs $450. Some can go up to $1,000.
Why Steam Machines Don't Make Sense
Digital Trends lays down great points on why these devices never took off. Firstly, the least expensive model costs more than home consoles. Secondly, abandoning a full-fledged PC for a Steam Machine never did make much sense. There's also the fact that users can probably take their money elsewhere and build better PC setups instead of investing on a premium-tier Steam Machine.
Contributing to the lackluster appeal of Steam Machines is Valve's release of the Steam Link, a device that allows gamers to stream Steam games to a TV. This device pretty much renders Steam Machines practically useless for those with excellent PC gaming setups. It also features Stream Controller support, to boot.
So, is Valve's hardware business in trouble? It's hard to say. But it's probably a combination of yes and no — yes, because it's extremely difficult to break into the gaming hardware market; and no, because Valve hasn't exactly built up a hardware empire for a setback to seem like a really big deal.
Mad Men's Don Draper once said if you don't like what's being said, then change the conversation. The current conversation is this — gaming consoles against PCs. Valve failed to figure out how to insert Steam Machines into that conversation, and the fact that the section disappeared from its marketplace says it won't try doing that again.