Alienware's Steam Machines won't be upgradeable or customizable, but new models will be released every year to keep up with the demands of new games.
One of the most common questions asked about Steam Machines is, "How are they different from a PC?" Alienware has offered some insight into one big difference in a recent chat with TrustedReviews, revealing that just as with consoles, owners won't be able to upgrade their Steam Machines.
"There will be no customization options, you can't really update it," Alienware General Manager Frank Azor said. He added that the platform will "continue to evolve," however, through annual releases of new models. "Lifecycle-wise, consoles update every fix, six, seven years, we will be updating our Steam Machines every year."
And if you do happen to want to upgrade your hardware at some point, without springing for a whole new rig? Azor has a suggestion: Get a PC. "If you actually want to customize your Alienware Steam Machine, maybe change your graphics card out or put in a new CPU, you would be better off with the standard Alienware X51," he said. "This particular product is restricted in its upgrade options."
Steam Machines appear aimed at non-PC gamers who want to enjoy the bountiful glory of Steam, and so upgrade options likely aren't a big concern for most of the people who are going to buy them. But why eliminate the possibility entirely - and worse, perpetuate the "obsolete by the time you hit the parking lot" myth by promoting platform evolution through annual iterations? We're not talking about a $100 box, after all, and I can't imagine console owners reacting too favorably to the idea of a new and improved Xbox or PlayStation every year. It's a wildly counter-intuitive move.