Will the Steam Boy Work?

Will the Steam Boy Work?

The other day, on Tuesday, June 17, I reported on the curious handheld device called the “Steam Boy”, which is touted to be essentially a handheld PC .

The device’s specs include a quad-core processor, 4Gb of RAM and 32Gb of storage. Nothing was mentioned about a GPU, but I speculate that the Steam Boy’s CPU will be Nvidia’s Tegra 4, as that piece of hardware at is touted to be the world’s most advanced mobile processors so far.

Almost like how the Nvidia SHIELD can be used to play PC games via streaming, the Steam Boy–which was announced during this year’s E3 last week–is boasted to capable or running “most” modern PC titles without the need to stream from a powerful gaming rig.

Consindering the handheld is pitched as a device that work without the need for stream, I’m a little skeptical as to how it couldn’t not work without streaming.

Though the device itself is touted to play “most” PC games, the design of the handheld doesn’t seem to suggest any DVD drive or any card slot, leading me to believe that–unless tailored cartridges are manufactured for the thing–the Steam Boy will play digital games.

Despite having no affiliation or connection with Valve, the start-up company behind the Steam Boy hopes to run the developer’s SteamOS as well as a vast number of games catalogued in Steam’s archives.

No doubt there will be DRM involved with the Steam Boy, as it’ll pretty much be Steam: Pocket Edition–you’ll need access to the internet in order to use the Steam client, and to download and install games from your Library to the handheld.

The only way I can imagine this working is through streaming of some description, but not necessarily the same kind of streaming like the way that the Nvidia SHIELD does it.

That is, or course, you aren’t allowed to play the games downloaded to the Steam Boy offline. Even with its limited storage capacity, you can still find a good few games that could fit quite snugly into a 32Gb hard drive, and no doubt there are a few games out there that can run on a Tegra 4.

If the Steam Boy will allow for you to do that, then it would fulfill the concept of it being a handheld PC. If it doesn’t though, then I think the device will struggle.

Even though it has Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity, for it to be a stream-only device means you’ll be quite limited as to where you’ll be able to play it. Of course many places now have Wi-Fi hotspots, and the Cloud is becoming more and more ubiquitous in large city centers, but the quality of those spots can vary–so much so that I doubt that you could reliably play a streamed game in a heavily crowded area (unless the company behind the device has very, very good servers).

This is why I think the Steam Boy may work in a similar fashion to Sony’s PlayStation Now (should you have to stream the games you want to play), as said games will be streamed to the handheld at a fixed location instead of just hotspots. However, if that were to be the case, then it wouldn’t be much of a portable platform–unless you count “portable” as in “anywhere in or slightly near your house and nowhere else”.

I’m interested in hearing how the company behind the Steam Boy will come up with a solution to get around this problem, but how will it fare against other handhelds in the market?

Well, there are currently three notable handheld players (four if you include mobile devices): 3DS, PlayStation Vita and Nvidia SHIELD.

Will the Steam Boy Work?

While each has their own respective catalogue of games, the Nvidia SHIELD is the only other handheld that’s capable of playing PC games on. Having said that, you still have to have a powerful gaming rig in the first place to play high-end games on the little thing–which has to be switched on in order for you to stream the game you want to play, which no doubt will rack up the bills somewhat.

I think the Steam Boy could do quite well as a handheld, to be honest. Sure, I’d say the 3DS is pretty much the most popular one, followed by the Vita and then the SHIELD, but the Steam Boy could strike the demographic who wants to play their PC games on the move and not have a gaming rig in the first place.

This might do well for someone like me, who has a really underpowered laptop and a large archive of PC games on Steam. If I wanted to play my PC games on a SHIELD, I’d first have to buy a competent gaming rig in order to both stream the game I want to play as well as play said game at a decent configuration.

With the Steam Boy I may not have that problem, as all I’d have to do is either have the game I want to play streamed to the handheld or play it while on the move because I have said game digitally installed on the device itself.

Either way, while skeptical, I am hopeful for the little device. I’d certainly like to hear what becomes of it later on down the line.

The Steam Boy’s start-up company is aiming to have the handheld PC in your hands by 2015. You can view the Steam Boy’s teaser trailer via the embedded video below.

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