The PC - 1975ish
PCs have for many been considered something outside of the gaming and console space mainly because most people don’t want them in the living room, but times and technology have changed, and we are now able to put a device in the living room that’s not only aesthetically pleasing but powerful and convenient.
There is the argument that the hardware is too expensive, I will admit, my computer is not an inexpensive rig. I have 18GB of RAM, an i7 processor and a R9 290 video card (the video card cost more than any of the current generation of consoles). That being said Alienware are releasing a 500 dollar living room console tweaked to work with Steam’s “Big Picture” interface (a version of steam designed specifically for couch play). Further, Steam themselves have an on again/off again relationship with OEMs to bring a Steam Linux powered system to market with inexpensive hardware. The Alienware computer was originally to be a Steambox machine the brand name Steam marketing created but delays forced Alienware to put out their own Windows version.
One problem people have though is getting games, EB and Gamestop carry very few titles for PC so this has led people to rely to services like Steam with their built in DRM which is a mixed blessing, yes having to be connected to authenticate games and limited “offline” modes is a pain BUT the cost differential (10 to 20 dollars per title for most PC games compared to their PC siblings) and the fact that Steam allows for services like “Family” plans where you can log in to a family member’s account, download and install games, and play them under your own account meant to share games across families of users, this creates a very inexpensive and accessible ecosystem and one that, truly, for the first time in generations should be considered as a viable option for a living room gaming enthusiast when held up to the consoles. Add to this the fact that all of the "specialized" services like Xbox Music, Xbox Video, Sony Music Unlimited and Sony Video Unlimited are available on the PC for the same prices as on the consoles and there are options like MMOs and video streaming applications that the consoles can't touch it makes a compelling case for the platform (and in many ways feels like what Microsoft are looking to backdoor in to the living room with the Xbox One).
Curse you Valve... you know my weaknesses so well... pretend trading cards for pretend badges on an imaginary trip... BASTARDS! Take my money NOW!
If the tower in the living room is not an option though there’s also streaming. This is where Valve come in to play and also become their own worst enemy. They have been positioning their own OS as the “future of gaming” the problem is no one wants to program games for Linux. There are very few native titles and fewer and fewer people are talking about it given the stumbles that Valve has continually made bringing the OS to market. One aspect they did implement throughout their client is streaming games over your LAN. What this means if you have a beast computer downstairs and a rinky dink laptop upstairs and want some “social time” all you have to do is log in to Steam using your normal Steam account, you launch a title installed on your gaming PC and it will launch on your main gaming rig and stream over your LAN to your PC. It doesn’t even need to be a title bought on Steam, you can stream games added manually using Steam’s “Add a game” function. Essentially, they've eliminated the big need for their own OS.
What does this mean to the average user? Well with the tiny micro and mini pc formats you can get a basic device loaded with either the Steam OS, most branches of Linux or Windows and a steam client and stream across your LAN triple A titles with little to no discernable difference in quality. I have done this with my laptop that can barely run 5 year old games installed on it running Thief and Tomb Raider as if I’m sitting at my tweaked out gaming rig. For a very small cost, far smaller than the cost of a console you can play games on any computer or any TV in your house as well as stream media and browse the web.
Good luck and happy gaming!