Steam Deck won’t have Nintendo Switch-like drift, says Valve

Steam Deck being played
(Image credit: Valve)

Valve’s Steam Deck looks a lot like a Nintendo Switch at a glance, which may cause nasty flashbacks for anybody who has had to deal with the dreaded ‘Joy-Con drift’ issue that became so severe it resulted in several lawsuits. In short, degradation of the analogue stick leads to ‘phantom movements’ where players move without any user presses.

Apparently, Valve has considered this problem when designing the Steam Deck, and was quite clear that reliability was a prime concern when asked about the potential for issues by IGN

 “We've done a ton of testing on reliability, on all fronts really – and all inputs and different environmental factors and all that kind of stuff,” said hardware engineer Yazan Aldehayyat. “I mean, obviously every part will fail at some point, but we think people will be very satisfied and happy with this,” he added.

Designer John Ikeda backed this up, adding that Valve “purposely picked something that we knew the performance of” because “we didn’t want to take a risk on that.”

“I’m sure our customers didn’t want us to take a risk on that either,” he added.

Of course, nobody wants their hardware to fail, but Valve would actually be in a far worse position than Nintendo if the Steam Deck’s analogue sticks were prone to drifting, or some other kind of controller breakage. 

While the Nintendo Switch lets you simply disconnect a faulty Joy-Con and attach a fresh one in its place, the Steam Deck is a single unit more akin to the Switch Lite: if repairs were required on a stick, the whole unit would need to be shipped back to Valve. Add in the fact that, for now, the Steam Deck is not a mass-market product with plenty of spare parts to go around, and you can see why Valve wanted to ensure this problem was mitigated as much as possible ahead of release.

A more pressing issue for Valve is ensuring complete compatibility with Steam OS and its Proton software. In particular, there’s a concern that games with anti-cheat software currently don’t work via Proton, and that includes big names like Destiny 2, Apex Legends and PUBG.

It’s unsurprising, therefore, that Valve is working hard to fix this problem ahead of units arriving in early adopters’ hands in December. “For Deck, we're vastly improving Proton's game compatibility and support for anti-cheat solutions by working directly with the vendors,” the company writes

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.

  • russell_john
    I'll believe it when I see it ..... Most likely they are using the same Alps branded joysticks as Sony and Microsoft and they all have drift issues in a significant percentage of units .... I can only make it about a year before I have a drift problem with an Xbox controller at which point I just salvage a pot from on old controller and replace it in the controller I'm using ..... Problem is I just did that back around Christmas and only have 1 good pot left I can salvage off my junk unit
  • Arthur F.
    When I saw this article title, I was hoping it would be about Valve actually producing enough units to meet demand when released instead of having intentional supply shortages like Nintendo does with every new product launch. Looks like we'll all be dealing with Steamdeck scalpers on eBay already, while we'll just have to take their word for it about the joy-con drift thing for now...