Valve has announced its own handheld device, the Steam Deck, which is a very William Gibson thing to call it. Were you tempted to slap a $5 deposit down? What do you think the odds are of it doing well? Maybe there are enough people out there with kids who hog their Switch, or who want to play indie games on the go without paying the Nintendo mark-up, or need more ways to chip through their backlog of PC games. Or maybe this will be another abandoned Valve experiment, like the Steam Machine or Gordon Freeman.
Do you think the Steam Deck will be a success?
Here are our answers, plus some from our forum.
Robin Valentine: Honestly, no matter how strong the pitch, I think you’ve got to be skeptical at this point about Valve hardware releases. We’ve been down this road before, with Steam Boxes, Steam Controllers, Steam Link, etc. The ideas are always interesting and compelling, but their ambition seems to outstrip their capabilities more often than not. I hope it’s great—I love using my Switch handheld, and if I could basically have that but with access to loads of games I already own, that’s appealing. But I think it’d be foolhardy to preorder. Wait and see, is my philosophy.
Sarah James: Yes! But I do think people need to temper their expectations of what the Steam Deck will be able to run and how well it would work (or wouldn’t) for certain types of games—as much as it would be cool to play WoW on a handheld, I could see it being more frustrating than fun. If I don’t get one at launch, I’ll pick one up shortly after. Basically, I’ve been putting off buying a Switch because I really can’t justify forking out the cash for one or two games that I want to play on a handheld but already own on PC. I’ve been flicking through my Steam library and getting more and more excited about the possibilities—Valheim would be great (obviously), and I have pretty much the entire catalogue of Final Fantasy games, so that would be me sorted for a while.
Phil Savage: Success feels particularly hard to define in an era where actually making hardware en masse seems harder than ever. Still, I think Deck has a decent chance. The pitch feels much stronger than previous Valve offerings. The Steam Link was an ephemeral thing that I avoided because, while my internet connection is passable, I’m generally wary of streaming tech. The Steam controller solved a problem I didn’t really have. The Index requires a space that is larger than my flat to properly use, and a significant amount of money to acquire. In comparison, the Deck feels simple—almost elegant. What if a PC, but smol and mobile? It has an obvious purpose, and the price seems pretty reasonable. While it’s absolutely not for me—my Switch is played exclusively in docked mode through my TV—I can see it doing pretty well.
Dave James: That’s going to depend on the parameters for success you lay out for the Steam Deck. If your measure of success is Valve having a massive backlog of pre-orders, then the answer is definitely a yes. The chip shortage is going to inevitably mean the pre-order queue moves slowly and with Valve unlikely to divulge exact numbers of sales you can bet the fact it’s perpetually out of stock will make it look successful.
A more meaningful measure of the Deck’s success will be whether it becomes the jumping off point for the industry in creating more Deck-a-like handheld gaming PCs running Valve’s bespoke version of SteamOS. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and all that. But whether it will be a genuine success on that front, I’m less sure. I can see super-expensive, premium versions coming in 2022 from the likes of Asus, Alienware, and MSI, but I’m not convinced those will be iterated upon any further than version one.
Whether Valve makes a Steam Deck 2.0 will also be some measure of success too. And I’m yet to be convinced of the likelihood of that either.
Andy Chalk: Nope. I mean, the entire pitch is literally, “Everything you can already do on your PC, but shittier!” The screen is small, the storage is minuscule, the controls are barf (although I have to admit that I don’t like controllers, so I’m not entirely without bias on that one), and for a handheld unit, it’s pretty damn big and heavy. Is that really how you want to play your PC games? Or are you just dazzled by that ol’ Valve magic—which, I will gently remind you, has literally never paid off for hardware?
As others have pointed out, “success” can mean a lot of different things, and I’m sure the Steam Deck will be a fine piece of technology. Obviously there’s some demand for it, although we have no idea of numbers at this point. But will it usher in a new era of portable PC gaming? I don’t think so. I expect it’ll be the opposite: An expensive reminder that PC gaming is really best on a PC.
Jody Macgregor: People sure do seem interested in pre-ordering the shit out of the Steam Deck. I haven’t put money down myself, but I see the value in something more convenient than my gaming laptop, which runs too hot to use without a cooling pad beneath it and needs to be plugged in to get a decent framerate.
Alm: I am tempted. I think I’ll put £4 down and keep my eye on how hardware reviews develop. I watched a hands-on with IGN on YouTube and it was pretty positive in the main. I can’t afford an AYA Neo but this is just as good for me at nearly half the price. And having hundreds of my games on Steam makes this potentially trump my Switch.
To answer the original question: I think it will be popular, but might end up being a niche device. I don’t see it competing with Switch/Playstation/Xbox in a meaningful way. I could be wrong though.
Colif: The biggest obstacle for new consoles is normally games. Steam might have that covered so its a possibility its will succeed. I don’t need a hand held PC just for gaming but its another thing people want without ever touching.
Kaamos_Llama: People have been waiting for a more powerful Switch for a while. Its a great little system but its starting to struggle with even some newer indies, I heard Boomerang X isn’t great on Switch and Hyrule Warriors ran badly. Even Zelda BOW was running pretty framey 3/4 years ago.
Personally I need a new tablet, I’ve been using my Switch mostly as a Youtube device recently and its annoying I can’t stream Netflix or Prime to it. If this also allows me to play games when I’m travelling like the Switch, and I don’t have to buy anything specifically for it, then it makes a lot of sense for me.
DXCHASE: Its gonna be successful at selling out and then taking forever to be restocked.
ZedClampet: I think this will be a huge success. Even if you didn’t want to play on the go (or in bed, etc), you could buy it and hook it up to your monitor, keyboard, and other devices, creating a decent desktop PC (based on Steam hardware surveys, many people are gaming on low end PC’s anyway). It’s going to be the cheapest way to get into PC gaming and seems to have the power and price point to be a legitimate option for everyone. This could potentially mean many more PC gamers, which would have an enormous positive impact on PC gaming as a whole.
One other thing: If it ever becomes available in Japan, I think it could be a huge hit there, where PC gaming barely registers now, but handhelds are all the rage. Getting a foothold in Japan would be great, not only for the financial health of the PC gaming ecosystem, but also for the breadth of games available on PC. While PC is already the go-to platform for game variety, encouraging Japanese developers to port more of their games to PC would be great for all of us gamers.
As for whether I’m tempted to put $5 down to reserve one, yes I am, but the hardware shortage and doubts about how many will actually be available in December are kind of working to hold back my enthusiasm. I’d rather wait until I can hop onto Steam and just buy one and have it shipped immediately.
mainer: I think it could be very successful, especially in Japan as ZedClampet mentioned, but the big thing will be availability. Will they be able to produce & ship enough to keep up with the orders? That could be huge. Is it going to be a similar situation like the Nvidia RTX cards: great technology but very few people can actually buy one? A situation like that would certainly limit its success.
Brian Boru: As a few have said, availability of the whole Steam—and every other PC games retailer—library will be this device’s ‘killer app’. So the main issue, as others also said, is supply—if they can get a good number on the table early December, then it’ll be a holiday smash. Otherwise, a painful wait.
The basic storage is low—256GB might get you 2 AAA titles on board. 512 helps, but they really should have a 1TB option as well.
This can only help PC gaming, so I wish it every success.
Johnway: The premise is interesting enough; your steam game collection on the go with the ability to upscale when at home etc. It worked for the Nintendo Switch so will it work here? To be brutally honest I doubt it. My main doubt is perhaps the hardware itself, game specs increase constantly and will this thing obsolete very quickly. But then again, you are playing on a smaller screen so that might work in its favor to keep things low. But on the other hand, the basic/mid tier model 64/256 gb disk space is pretty worthless if I want to play modern games that have 100gb+ as standard… But for now, I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt. If Steam/devs work their magic and somehow get most/all of the games running on the deck for several years then great.
flashn00b: I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned how John Carmack criticized the Steam Machines’ usage of Linux, and how he was proven right when they launched and failed. With the failure of the Steam Machines in mind, I doubt the average consumer would see Proton running Windows games on Linux, but rather a Linux box with no games if you look at the Steam Linux library. To those people, going for the more convenient Nintendo Switch would be the better option for them than to jump through the hoops and sweat bullets over the removal of SteamOS in favour of Windows
I think it’d do well for Valve to provide developers with an up-front monetary incentive to port those games so those that are even vaguely interested in the system would have zero risk when making those games for the Steam Deck. Reason that’s important is that if they’re to make games for the Steam Deck and it goes belly up, the developers will be punished for it rather than Valve. I also would like to think that Valve should approach Japanese developers into porting their console games to SteamOS so as to help sell the Steam Deck as a Switch Pro model from an alternate universe. Stuff like Rune Factory 5, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles or even games that are only on the PS4 and/or Xbox One but not on PC could help push that point forward