Alienware Steam Machines will not be upgradeable by the user according to reports surfacing today. The Alienware Steam Machine was unveiled at CES 2014 during the Valve press conference. At the press event, Valve unveiled 13 PC's from different companies that would run the custom Linux-based SteamOS. Alienware was among those 13 with details on power and cost unavailable that that time. The confirmation that the Alienware Steam Machine will not be able to be upgraded is not surprising, but it does add confusion as to who the Steam Machine is really for.
Speaking to Trusted Reviews Frank Azor, Alienware's General Manager stated, "There will be no customization options, you can't really update it." Instead, users will be required to purchase a whole new box annually much like the Apple platform strategy. While there will be some choices you can make about the machine at the time of purchase such as a faster CPU or additional RAM, Azor stated that:
"If you actually want to customize your Alienware Steam Machine, maybe change your graphics card out or put in a new CPU, you would be better off with the standard Alienware X51. This particular product is restricted in its upgrade options."The ability to upgrade a gaming PC is one of the reasons PC gamers love the platform. Being able to swap out parts for the latest and greatest video card, SSD hard drive or motherboard is enough to fuel countless "Build your own PC" manuals online as well as heated debates on the enthusiast forums over which configuration is better. In contrast, consoles such as the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are dedicated machines that never change over their 7 - 9 year life span. They will have the same processor and other components through their production. While the PC gaming scene has never gained much traction in the living room, Valve's Steam Machine is the next serious attempt to bring its 65 million users into the living room.
The Steam Machine was originally an idea that gave many PC gamers hope that the PC would finally be at home under the TV and allow you to play the thousands of games on Steam while sitting in comfort on the couch. Much like the PlayStation's or Xbox's standardized platforms, the Steam Machine was reported to be a similar offering. This would ensure that gamers who were more casual in their approach to PC gaming would not feel left out from experiencing the tress effects on Lara Croft's hair.
There are roadblocks to this goal with the largest being the custom SteamOS which will not run any games based on Windows. Windows makes up the great majority of these thousands of games with only a handful of notable titles running on the Linux software. Other Steam Machine manufacturers are building boxes that can run both SteamOS and Windows, however the announced boxes that run both are more than double the price of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
A standardized box like the Alienware's is closer to the vision that most people originally had for the Steam Machines; simple, plug-n-play and easy to figure out and navigate. The fact that there will be a new model each year will be likely be a turn off for some. PC gaming is well known for pushing the limits of hardware making it almost a necessity to follow an annual upgrade path making it a very expensive hobby.
Alienware, a Dell owned company, will be offering their Steam Machine at a price that is competitive to the current Next Generation consoles which retail from $399 for the PS4 to $499 for the Xbox One. More details are available on their site.