Steam was a gamer’s dream come true when it first came out: an online store where almost anything could be bought, downloaded, and updated without a lot of bother. It proved, like iTunes before it, that even when every game in the world can be pirated for free, people are willing to pay for good service. But that doesn’t justify the SteamOS that was recently released, with machines ranging from $500 to $6000, reports Dave Thier at Forbes.

Valve SteamBox

SteamOS doesn’t fill any existing gap

Valve, the company behind Steam and SteamOS, has apparently saddled manufacturers with most of the risk, so it can hardly be faulted for taking a shot in the dark. Even if the new OS is a complete flop, there aren’t any serious contenders to unseat the Steam Store.

The problem is that SteamOS doesn’t seem to fill any existing needs, and it’s not such a compelling product that it can create its own class of niche. People who want to buy a dedicated machine for gaming have plenty of options (Xbox, PlayStation, Wii). If you’d rather play on the PC, then you can just buy a PC with comparable specs, and probably for less.

Who wants to pay more for less?

The SteamOS machines are for people who want to pay full price for a computer that can’t browse the internet, write a paper, or whip up a spreadsheet. You can drop a bit more to get a SteamOS machine that dual boots Windows, but that just begs the question: why don’t you buy a PC instead? There’s been some hype around the controller (don’t worry, I also had to look up the word haptics), but if it’s really that popular a functionally equivalent version for PC will be out soon enough.

Valve will probably be able to move some amount of its new machines just on the strength of its brand, but as just another operating system (and a somewhat limited one, at that) in a market that’s tough to crack, this seems like an odd direction for the company to take. If you’re still interested in seeing exactly what SteamOS has to offer, Forbes has compiled a complete list of prices and specs for SteamOS machines.