Will Steam Deck be a one off? While that question is hard to answer before units have even reached early buyers’ hands, it seems that Valve has ambitions to make more handheld gaming PCs in the future, even if other companies don’t rush to join them.
“We are hopeful that this category becomes an actual category where there are multiple choices within it,” Steam Deck designer Greg Coomer told our sister site PC Gamer. “We intend to continue making devices in this product line.”
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You may want to take this pledge with a pinch of salt, given the company’s patchy history of supporting hardware, but the ambition is there for now at least. And the company is hopeful that they won’t be the only ones building handheld PCs optimized for gaming.
“We also think it makes sense for other people to fill this space,” Coomer continued. “So, if we're right about that, then there will be more choices within the category, where other manufacturers are participating, making handheld PC gaming units themselves, and calling them something else.”
It’s not surprising that Valve would want this, given it would take the pressure off the company while driving more people to the Steam store front. But it’s less obvious what other hardware developers would get out of it.
The aggressive $399 starting price for Steam Deck is something that Valve president Gabe Newell previously described as “painful” but “critical”. Valve can afford to take a hit on hardware, because the assumption is that buyers will then spend more money on the Steam storefront, where Valve takes a 30% cut on every sale. For the likes of Razer, Alienware and other PC hardware makers, money would have to be made on the hardware alone which would be a tall order with Steam Deck so competitively priced.
Still, if any hardware makers do take up the challenge, there are plenty of things they could do to differentiate themselves. Reducing the size would be something with some appeal, given the current model dwarfs the Nintendo Switch and every other handheld ever made as the tweet below demonstrates, but that’s just scratching the surface.
For size comparisons here's a GBA, Vita, Switch, Steam Deck, and a Game Gear! pic.twitter.com/3uPYTJ0NmNAugust 6, 2021
“Somebody might want to, for example, make a version of this highly tuned for long battery life and streaming games from another PC,” Coomer continued, describing this as “a pretty interesting” possibility. “And, you know, it's just one version that we're not planning to do right away, that somebody else might want to… Lower cost, higher battery, very different architecturally, technically."
While it’s still possible to reserve a Steam Deck from Valve directly, the initial allocations have long been snapped up, and buyers will have to wait until “after Q2 2022” for their units to arrive.