Why Valve Could Change My Mind With the Steam Deck

A chance for Valve to not stink at hardware

Key Takeaways

  • Valve unveiled the Steam Deck, a portable PC designed to let you take your PC gaming on the go.
  • While its main design revolves around playing games, Valve says the Steam Deck is a fully viable PC, allowing you to install third-party applications and software.
  • Despite Valve’s failures with tech in the past, the Steam Deck has me cautiously optimistic that the company can actually deliver on a really cool (but niche) device.
The Steam Deck from Valve.

Valve

Following the full reveal of the Steam Deck, I’m excited about the possibilities the device could deliver on. In fact, it could change my mind about how lousy Valve is at hardware.

Valve has a spotty history with making and releasing its own hardware. I talked about this extensively back in May, when the first rumors of the Steam Deck started to make the rounds. I wasn’t the only one that thought Valve might be biting off more than it could chew, either.

Experts shared their thoughts on the rumored handheld, and together we agreed that Valve should probably stick to doing what it does best: running Steam and never releasing the third game in a series. 

Now, though, a few months after those initial rumors, and with the official reveal of Valve’s portable handheld gaming computer, I just might be willing to change my mind.

Finding a Niche

One of my most significant points of contention about Valve and new hardware comes from how the company has handled its past investments in the field. The Steam Link and Steam Controller are essentially dead in the water now and never really took off.

Throw in the failure of the Steam Machines—computers explicitly designed to play games using Steam’s Big Picture Mode—and it all seemed like a recipe for disaster. After all, we didn’t need Valve to revolutionize the PC gaming world; things are pretty good the way they are. Right?

Maybe. See, the most interesting thing about the Steam Deck isn’t how Valve has clearly ripped off the design of the Nintendo Switch. It’s very apparent the portable design of the Switch played a part in those design meetings—the Steam Deck will even offer a dock that users can connect to monitors and TVs.

Additionally, it’s designed to support local cooperative and multiplayer, which is another fine addition to the portable PC’s features. 

No. The most interesting thing about the Steam Deck is that Valve says it isn’t just a Steam Machine. It isn’t just a device built to allow you to play video games from your Steam library.

Instead, it’s a full-fledged Linux PC that you can install third-party software and applications on. Valve even claims you can install Windows on it, which means you aren’t tied to Linux in the long run.

Shipping and Handling

It doesn’t matter how promising new technology is—or how cool it looks. If you can’t get your hands on it, what’s the point? This is another area where Valve seems to have learned its lesson. Instead of relying on outside manufacturers as it did for the Steam Machines, the company appears to be handling it all itself.

The Steam Deck from Valve with Steam showing on a laptop computer behind it.

Valve

This means you don’t have to rely on outside retailers to adopt the system, and everyone who orders a Steam Deck is going to end up with the same thing—no matter when they buy it. Of course, some things are subject to change within the device, but it isn’t going to be a completely different make up entirely. Instead, it’ll just have additional components added in for some extra juice.

Valve also introduced a reserve system for the Steam Deck, which shows again how the company is learning from its past mistakes. Instead of simply manufacturing a load of devices nobody wants, letting users reserve one—which requires a small reservation fee—gives Valve a good idea of how many people want one of these new devices. It can then scale production as needed to hit those numbers and deliver a smoother rollout than past tech launches.

Sure, delivering a good purchase experience might seem silly when it comes to talking about the viability of tech, but it really can make or break how people approach your product. Valve is setting itself up for a chance at success that it hasn’t achieved with past releases of its hardware by offering a reliable system. Of course, it also helps that the specs of the device look outstanding too.

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