Steam’s pivot from hardware to software

I used to be a huge PC gamer. For a solid portion of my life Steam has been the gaming platform for PC gamers. I personally have a small collection of 701 games on steam. In 2014 Steam released the Steam link a small device running a special flavor of Linux to allow you to stream you PC games on your TV. This device was plagued with having a weak wifi system thus requiring it to be plugged into your ethernet network. Once plugged in the device was awesome it worked really well.

Steam link

It allowed you to use their customized controller or a PS or Xbox controller which worked great for many games. Last year for Christmas they said they were discontinuing the device and started selling them for $2.50 (original price was $39.99). Since them Steam has released the steam link software for Raspberry PI 3, Android, IOS, and Samsung TV’s. This departure from dedicated hardware is perhaps a realignment to the business model that best fits Steam (software) or is it perhaps something else:

  • There are lots of devices fighting for the TV and HDMI slots why add more
  • Hardware support is expensive and painful and replacement of devices in warranty and customer sat issues were a problem
  • Going all software allows them to be a lot more agile with new features not locking them into a specific hardware capability (like the crappy wifi they put into the device)

I don’t have any insight into the real reason they moved from hardware into software but I suspect it’s a realignment to their core business of software combined with a need to move faster. The infrastructure does matter (wifi issue) but it’s also a limiting factor for new features.

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