Alienware has released more info on their Steam Machine that will be released in September of this year. It will not be upgradeable or customizeable and a new version will be released every year. If this news caused you to swear off all Steam Machines, I would not be surprised.
Alienware’s decision is seemingly a hybrid of the worst aspects of console and pc gaming. Having a closed system follows what Microsoft and Sony have done with their machines, and in doing so, ensures that all games during the current generation will run well on a single spec. The problem is that a typical console cycle is at least 4-5 years, with the most recent jump a 7-8 year gap. Instead, Alienware wants to sell gamers basically a new console annually and at a “competitive price point” to XBox One and PS4. If that means $400-$500, it is a steep price to expect people to pay at that frequency.
On the other hand, PC gamers are used to regular updates to key components of their machines such as the GPU and CPU. Part of the fun of the platform is the ability to gradually upgrade certain aspects of the machine at your own financial pace. The downside to this is that some high end hardware can be quite expensive, especially video cards. Alienware’s Steam Machine realizes this desire for upgrades but goes about it wrong with forcing you to upgrade the entire system instead of individual aspects. It is hard to imagine anyone buying a complete new box every year just to keep up with the Joneses.
Even with the trepidation this news brings, I think Alienware can still regain the trust of gamers. They need to price the system very competitively initially and allow people to trade in older models for the newest one at a modest upgrade fee. This would make the business model more attractive to the console and PC audience alike, giving the former up-to-the-minute tech every year, and the latter a cheaper and easier option to regular upgrades.