Valve's Steam Deck is due to start shipping to early bird customers as soon as the end of 2021, though the promise of a handheld Steam machine has proven so popular that anyone aiming to pre-order a Steam Deck is now being told they may have to wait until the second half of 2022 to get one.
When the Steam Deck does finally arrive in customers' hands, they're in for a treat: Valve has designed it to support suspending and resuming games, just like the PS5 and Xbox Series X and Series S consoles.
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The good news comes courtesy of a recent IGN chat with Valve, in which the company outlines how it tried to design the Steam Deck's operating system to replicate the strengths of modern game consoles in a portable handheld device.
According to Valve designer Greg Coomer, giving players the option to suspend their game, put the device down, then pick it back up later and jump right back in without having to relaunch the game or load a save was a key priority for the Steam Deck team.
“That feature came up from the earliest conversations with AMD [the developer of the Steam Deck’s APU], also with Steam developers internally,” Coomer told IGN, adding that the team put a priority on "making sure that we didn't lose sight of the importance of that feature."
The Valve team is also reportedly trying to work out how to let Steam Deck owners suspend a game on the Deck, then jump back into it later on a separate PC and pick up where they left off. This kind of interoperability is potentially possible because the Steam Deck is basically running native Steam with some minor tweaks, which also means that the Steam Deck will get the same improvements Steam gets, and vice versa.
In fact, Valve told IGN that some of the Steam changes made for the Steam Deck will start showing up in the desktop version of Steam before the Deck even launches.
Plus, at some point down the line, Valve plans to replace its aging Big Picture Mode with the Steam Deck UI. That means we could see a future in which you can start playing a game on your PC, suspend and pick it up on your Steam Deck when you're away from home, then pull the same trick again when you want to relax on your couch and play on your big TV using your old Steam Link.
It's great to see Valve working out how to bring suspend/resume to the realm of PC gaming, as its one of the best features of the new PS5 5 and Xbox Series X/S consoles. And it's possible that Steam Deck could even outclass the modern consoles on this front if Valve gets everything running smoothly, given that both Microsoft and Sony launched their consoles with suspend/resume features that were spotty at best.
Infamously, the PS5's rest mode was still broken six months after launch and continues to be untrustworthy, as countless users report losing progress due to the PS5 closing suspended games without warning. The suspend/resume features on Microsoft's Xbox Series consoles have proven more reliable, and given how useful they are, it's exciting to see Valve bringing them to PC gaming.