Epic Expects Steam Machines, VR Headsets to Reinforce Importance of PC Platform

Epic Sees Bright Future for PC As a Gaming Platform

by Anton Shilov
01/31/2014 | 11:50 PM

Game consoles, smartphones and media tablets get more powerful and capture their chunks of the video games market. Nonetheless, personal computers remain popular among gamers and will continue to be, according to a high-ranking executive from Epic Games, a leading software developer. In the foreseeable future PC gaming will get reinforcement in the form of Valve’s Steam Machines as well as virtual-reality headsets.

Steam Machines

 

“Valve’s Steam Machines reinforce the importance of PC as a platform. […] You have only got to look at the console business over the last 15 years. […] [The console’s] hardware is locked and at the end of the cycle the delta between PC and console is massive. That is always going to be the case because PC is always going to be an upgradeable piece of kit. That will not change. PC gamers will always be smug because they can upgrade,” said Mike Gamble, EU manager at Epic Games, in an interview with the Edge Magazine.


Steambox from IBuyPower. Image by The Verge web-site.

Valve’s Steam Machines with Steam OS are expected to wed simplicity of game consoles, the speed of Steam video game delivery system and upgradeability of personal computers. Steam Machines are specifically designed for the living rooms, where, over time, they will compete against game consoles like Sony PlayStation 4 or Microsoft Xbox One.

Since Steam machines are supposed to feature no-tolerance for piracy, so from game developers perspective the new platform looks very promising. One thing it has to do is to get popular.

Virtual Reality

There is another thing incoming that may further strengthen the PC as a unique platform: virtual reality helmet developed by Oculus VR company. Epic has worked closely with the latter to ensure that its latest Unreal Engine 4 (and eventually video games based on this engine) support the Oculus Rift headset as well as possible other products of this kind.

The problem with popularization of virtual reality gear is a classic chicken and egg question: what comes first, the VR helmet or games that support it. For consumers, it makes no sense to get the Oculus Rift without support by major video games. For developers, it makes no sense to invest into support of hardware that does not have an installed base.

“There are games in development that are going to rely on [Oculus Rift] [and set to be on] the market this year, so if [Oculus Rift] is not, they will be in trouble. […] [Designing a game for Oculus Rift] is a hard decision to make because you never know what the market is going to be like,” said Mr. Gamble.

Even when the Oculus Rift launches, its price of around $300 will be an obstacle since not a lot of gamers can afford it. In fact, high-end class graphics cards (a must-have hardware for a gamer) sell in a low single-digit number in millions every year, sales of VR headsets are going to be lower than that, at least initially. So, betting on VR helmets is risky. Perhaps, a breakthrough game with VR support could make a revolution?

“Someone is going to come out with that killer app – a Halo, or whatever it is going to be – that is just so good that the extra $300 […] becomes a case of ‘I really need that’. At that point it becomes mainstream,” stressed the executive.