RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.

Posted on Dec 29th 2015 at 08:00:00 AM by (wildbil52)
Posted under Games, PC Gaming, Steam

PC gamers and console gamers have always been at odds, to put it nicely.  Could the Steam Link help with the unification of these two long feuding groups?

What makes PC and console gamers so different? In general, Console Gamers:

-Don't want to fiddle with a DOS prompt or device drivers, they just want to pop in a game and have it work
-Don't want to spend a lot of money upgrading hardware all the time, they would prefer one big upgrade every 5 years or so
-Aren't interested in the benefits of gaming with a mouse/keyboard, just give them a good controller
-Don't want to sit at a desk, would rather lounge in front of a TV
-Might not be a fan of Digital Distribution, especially retro game collectors, they want a physical thing

There are some other differentiators, but these are the big ones.  Another used to be that the style of games on PC vs console were drastically different, but besides a few genres that haven't made the transition to a non-keyboard and mouse control scheme, like Civ, almost all of the major releases on consoles are available on the PC with better looking visuals and free online multiplayer.   

A complaint that many console gamers have made in the past few generations is that digitally distributed games should be less expensive than the physical version.  Digital games on the Nintendo E shop, PSN, and Xbox Live are almost always the same price as the retail version.  The Steam version is also usually at the MSRP at release...but not for much longer.  It would be unfair to do a one to one price comparison right now between games on console marketplaces vs Steam with Steam's current Winter Sale going on, but that brings up another good point.  Affordability.

A rock solid gaming machine for well under 1K

PC Gaming has a reputation for being the most expensive when in reality it has the POTENTIAL to be the most inexpensive.  If you really want to buy 3 Geforce GTX 980s for $1500, go ahead, you will get all of the frames.  But you don't need to go that crazy to get a great gaming PC that will last for several years and possibly just need a video card upgrade to keep going a few years more.  The real affordability comes with the low price of games as a PC gamer.  Steam sales are frequent and sites like Humble Bundle, Bundle Stars, Green Man Gaming, and CDKeys all sell games redeemable on Steam on the cheap.  Let's forget all that.  A Zebra can't always change it's spots, right?  I can't get someone excited about PC Gaming who has no interest in PC Gaming.  Or can I?  What If I could take the amazing power of my gaming PC and send it to play anything in my Steam collection on my awesome TV with theater quality sound?  Could I get someone excited about PC gaming then?  We'll see.

The Steam Link is remarkably simple.  It is a very small box that costs $50 and is currently only available at GameStop (barf), or it can be ordered directly through the Steam software.  This Link connects to your TV/Receiver via HDMI and your home network to stream games from any PC on your network that are running Steam straight to your Home Theater setup.  I still haven't held the optional Steam Controller (sold separately), but the Steam Link is compatible with the Xbox 360 Wired and wireless controllers, as well as the Xbox One controller via USB cable.  I'm hoping they add support for the Xbox One wireless controller adapter soon. 

How does it work?  Quite well, actually.  Your mileage will vary based on the strength of your network.  For example, if your Steam PC is connected to your network via WiFi, your performance may suffer.  The settings on the Steam Link can be adjusted, but by default, it will lower the visual quality to keep a playable frame rate if it encounters network lag.  The Steam Link is a product I've been excited about since it was announced.  I have a very awesome and powerful gaming PC that is nowhere near my Home Theater.  For $50, I can bring the power of my gaming PC into my living room.

The Steam Link is a remarkable little piece of equipment.  I used to think that it might be one of the pieces that brings PC and console gamers together, but now that I've had some time to play with it, I don't think it is that exactly.  It brings the barrier down just a little bit.  Even if you aren't a serious PC gamer, you can install Steam on your most powerful PC, install the Steam Link, and slowly start building a library of Steam games.  If you are on a budget, there are hundreds of classics you can start with that were either never released on console or had sub par ports.  For example, right now, you buy the Star Wars Collection that consists of 14 games for $23.  You get:

Dark Forces - VERY good Doom Style game that had an obscure PSX release
Knights of the Old Republic - Bioware Star Wars RPG, what are you waiting for?
Knights of the Old Republic II
The Force Unleashed
The Force Unleashed II
Battlefront II
Empire at War - PC only RTS, well worth your time
ALL the Jedi Knight games
Republic Commando

I couldn't even fit all the games in one screen cap

Don't want 14 Star Wars games?  No problem, just buy Dark Forces for $1.79 or Knights of the Old Republic for $2.99.  Both of those games will run on pretty much any PC in the last 10 years.  And that is just one example.  What about games that were ONLY on the PC that you have never played any ports of or maybe never even heard of...

You can buy the Commander Keen Complete Pack for $1.25 right now.  This will work on any PC that is a computer and it is awesome!   You can also use one of the 12 Xbox 360 controllers you have laying around.  Commander Keen not your thing?  OK, how about Faster Than Light?  This Indie gem is only $4, has overwhelmingly positive reviews, was never released on console, will play on your PC, I promise, and is awesome, I also promise.  I could go on.  And I will go on if Duke and Crabby ever let me do a Steam episode.  It could happen..

Maybe this is the key. Maybe inexpensive games that will run on any old PC is the gateway to get console gamers interested in PC gaming. Maybe the reckoning is coming!  Maybe I will finally have someone to play a 7 month asynchronous game of Civilization V with!  Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself.  Maybe it's just a cool little box that will connect my PC to my TV and let me play all my Steam games with awesome controllers.  If that's all it is, this little box is a win.  It it ends up being more, all the better.

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I've heard varying reports of the Steam Link's quality over wireless. It seems to really shine when used on a wired network.... which is no surprise. How has your experience been?
I'ts been great so far.  I tried testing a variety of games.  Civ V, Borderlands 2, Rogue Legacy, Arkham City, Far Cry 4.  All were totally playable on my wired network WITH NOTHING ELSE GOING ON.  If there were other things taking up network bandwidth, the performance may drop.  I have 2 ideas on how to fight this:
Add a NIC to my PC with a Static IP on a different subnet than my main network and run a second network cable from my machine either to:

1-A switch with VLAN support so I can create a separate network within the same hardware or
2-A small seprate switch.  This would be less expensive than upgrading my current switch but would have the minor inconvenience of a second power plug

I haven't tested it on a wireless network and I probably won't  The results from one wireless network to another will vary so greatly that I don't think it would be helpful to others to tell them it worked great or didn't work great on my wireless network.
@wildbil52: Wouldn't it be easier to just run an HDMI cable to the second screen instead of the Steam Link, network setup, etc.? I suppose it would only work if your run was less than 45' or so, but that's pretty long.
Lol.  For $1500 I can get ALL THE FRAMES!  Or, I could get one of those 980's, then buy that 1985 Grand Prix down the road and call it a day.  An awesome day.

Personally I think the best part about the Steam Link is the Xbox 360 wireless support.  I don't really mind running third party software to get the most out of my crappy Logitech gamepad, but I would love so play some of these games on a good pad, like the 360.  Like you said, gotta do something with one of these up-teen million wireless controllers sitting around here.
@Duke.Togo:Yes, if your gaming PC is close enough to your home theater then absolutely run an HDMI cable to it.  Mine is very far away so the Steam Link is the easiest way to bring all of my PC games to my TV. Computers on the same network can also stream games like the Steam link so you could also just connect a laptop to the network, install Steam, HDMI that to the TV and stream the games to your TV through your laptop.  The Steam Link is a bit more elegant and subtle, though.

@bombatomba:Rich was teasing me about touting the benefits of keyboard and mouse and then just playing with the 360 controller.  I should have pointed out that the Steam Link also supports mouse and keyboard with are totally my proffered method of playing games like Civ, Broken Age, and Homeworld.
Oh, great... first Mario went missing, and now Link. Let's just hope they don't make a game out of this...
@Zag: If they did it would have Amiibo support....

Speaking of Amiibos have you seen the individual packs?

@Addicted: But... but if you give the game amiibo support, and you put the Link amiibo on the thingy, then he's not missing any more, and you instantly win the game. That doesn't sound very fun.

As for the indiv packs: Until now, I was unaware of their existence. I might grab the DK pack, seeing as how I already have Bowser.
Thank you for this article, Bil, this is of great interest to me!  I have a small, but growing Steam library, and a handful of those games would look FANTASTIC on my 55" 720p TV in the room next to where my PC is located.  Oh, and I just happen to have an ethernet connection between the 2 rooms for my PS3, Xbox, and my Android set-top box, so I could easily take advantage of this for some of my gaming.  I smell a purchase coming...

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