What is Steamboy Project? (And Why it Concerns Me)

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The Steamboy is coming in 2015, or so we’re told.

Not to be confused with the animated film of the same name, Steamboy (or “SteamBoy” – I’ve seen it stylized both ways) is a portable Steam Machine being developed by the aptly named “Steamboy Machine Team.”

Unveiled in the final moments of E3 2014, the Steamboy sounds like a pipe dream. The ability to play all of the games I’ve amassed through Humble Bundle and Steam sales, now on a handheld? Where do I sign up?

Even if we can’t play heavier games or max out the video settings, we’re still talking thousands of titles in the palm of your hand – should the console be powerful enough.

But much of the Steamboy is still shrouded in mystery. According to the Steamboy official website, which is haunted by little more than a teaser trailer and some text, “Steamboy Project is being developed by… a third party, not by Valve Corporation.” It’s almost reminiscent of the “GABBO, GABBO, GABBO” TV ad from The Simpsons.

Not that this is unexpected. Valve is still trying to make a name for itself in our living rooms, and the mobile market is pretty chaotic right now. I’m sure they’ll get there, but a first-party handheld doesn’t seem to be at the top of Valve’s priority list.

Not much more is known about the Steamboy, outside of what was said in a recent press release and a few scattered blog posts. The Escapist, for instance, reports that the Steamboy Machine Team revealed a rough outline of the Steamboy’s hardware specs: A quad-core CPU, 4GB of internal RAM, 32GB of built-in memory, and a 5-inch, 16:9 touchscreen display.

As far as we can tell, Steamboy looks exactly how you’d expect it to look. It’s essentially a Steam Controller wrapped around a small display. With its 5-inch touchscreen, we can probably assume Steamboy will be roughly the size of the PS Vita (maybe larger) – not a bad size, by any means. It’ll also support 3G and Wi-Fi, much like the Vita did at launch.

Steamboy Project | @CripplerJones

I’m especially fond of the buttons. While they appear to be spaced pretty far apart, they actually look more traditional than the buttons on the official Steam Controller – perfect for a handheld, though the directional buttons seem like they might be a bit awkward compared to a standard d-pad.

But in spite of all my guesses, with no absolute specifications or an official parts list, we can’t even begin to fathom how many of our Steam purchases will work on the Steamboy, leaving us with a ton of questions and a lot to wonder:

  • How much will Steamboy weigh?
  • How long will the Steamboy’s battery last?
  • How much heat will it generate?
  • What will the pixel resolution and screen quality be like?
  • Will the memory be expandable?
  • Perhaps most importantly, how much will it cost?

Add to this the overall success rate of new entries to the console market, and there’s plenty of reason to hold your skepticism close to the chest.

Just look at the Ouya’s recent fall from glory, lest we forget the hype and enthusiasm that pumped its ambitious Kickstarter campaign full of millions upon millions of dollars.

Don’t get me wrong. I want this as much as – if not more than – anyone I know. I play handheld consoles above all else, and my PS Vita easily has more mileage than my PS4 and Wii U combined. I want the Steamboy to be a success story.

Then again, I also don’t want the disappointment that was the Ouya – or in my case, the same sigh of relief, as I withdrew my “pre-order” a week or two before its Kickstarter ended. I despise tales of failure almost as much as I hate hearing the wearied throes of gamers scorned. Although the Ouya earned over $8.5-million dollars in contributions from thousands of impassioned gamers, it failed to live up to the hype we built around it.

So in the mean time, I’ll just cross my fingers and wait until 2015, when the Steamboy is suggested to see its release. While Steamboy certainly warrants our interest and curiosity, I think it’d be best to give it a little more time before we adorn it with unbridled praise. For once, let us be cautiously optimistic in lieu of boarding any sort of hype train.

If you haven’t already seen it, the official teaser trailer is below. Likewise, Engadget has a really clear image of the console – likely still a concept – headlining their own coverage of the Steamboy.

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About Author

Perry currently resides in Philadelphia, PA with his wife and cat. His favorite games include Final Fantasy VI, Muramasa, Portal, Pokémon, Bravely Default, and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.