If Valve had been able to stick to its original timeline, quick-on-the-draw Steam Deck buyers would have their handheld gaming PC right now. Originally, the company pitched a December launch for the first wave of handhelds, before pushing the estimate back to February.
Given the squeeze on inventory for everything from PS5 restocks to the best electric cars, cynics wondered if this would be the first delay of many. Not so, says Valve, which states that the February timeline is “on track” — albeit with a pretty significant caveat.
“First and foremost, we’re on track to ship Steam Deck on time,” the company wrote in a blog post. “Global pandemic, supply issues, and shipping issues notwithstanding, it looks like we'll be able to start getting these out the door by the end of February,” the post continues.
Those first eight words are doing a lot of heavy lifting, here. The global pandemic and supply chain issues have been responsible for pretty much every tech shortage and delay in the past two years, and it’s affected everything from cars to phones manufactured by companies of all sizes — including the mighty purchase power of Apple.
On top of that, the Steam Deck is a cutting edge handheld, and far less technically ambitious projects have been impacted by the possible pitfalls.
Take PlayDate. Like Steam Deck, it’s a handheld gaming system, but unlike Steam Deck it has a monochrome screen and a 180Mhz processor — and yet December pre-orders were pushed back into ‘early 2022’ due, in part, to supply chain issues.
“With lots of pre-orders in place, we immediately placed an order at our factory for all the parts needed for 2022 units and beyond,” the company wrote in an email to backers. “The response was… sobering. Many of our parts have been delayed significantly. In fact, we can’t get any more of Playdate’s current CPU for — you’re not going to believe this — two years. Like, 730 days.”
The global chip shortage, the company concluded, is “very real” and here for the foreseeable future. “Covid-19 caused an ever-cascading set of worldwide supply chain failures that are leading to many, many electronic parts being simply… gone,” it added.
PlayDate’s solution was to switch to a more widely available CPU, which is something that’s less easy to do with cutting-edge hardware — like Valve’s Steam Deck.
If we had to guess, we’d imagine Valve has factored in the possible issues and still believes February is likely, with the caveat in place as cover.
All the same, just because the first batch are on target for February doesn’t mean that people further down the queue won’t be impacted by the ongoing issues that continue to give companies of all sizes one colossal headache.
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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.