Following previous leaks, Valve has officially confirmed that it is returning to the PC manufacturing space with a new handheld device.
The Steam Deck is a portable PC that is capable of running games from a player’s Steam library. It is laid out similar to the Nintendo Switch but is significantly larger with “paddle” buttons on the back of the hand grips. It also has touch pads similar to those of the PlayStation 4 DualShock controller to emulate mouse movement on either side of the screen.
The hardware is capable of running a wide variety of titles, with Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Control, and Doom Eternal being highlighted as games the Steam Deck is capable of playing.
Valve partnered with IGN to show off some of the unique features of the Steam Deck. The device has Bluetooth built in, allowing players to use wireless headphones or plug in a separate controller to play games. It also can be “docked” like a Nintendo Switch to let players plug in multiple controllers or plug in a mouse, keyboard, and monitor to use it as an actual PC. This can be achieved with an official Steam Deck dock accessory or with a series of standard peripherals.
IGN showed off the Steam Deck’s modularity and power by setting it up and plugging two arcade sticks into it in order to play the newly released fighting game Guilty Gear Strive. Not only that but they plugged in a keyboard, mouse, and monitor to play Crusader Kings 3.
The Steam Deck looks to be a very versatile way to play games and it will offer players the ability to play traditionally PC-exclusive titles from the comfort of a mobile device. A number of different models will launch with different price points. Details can be found on the Steam Deck website.
The Steam Deck will launch in December 2021.
Will the Steam Deck be any good?
The Steam Deck looks like an excellent piece of hardware, but players ought to be wary of buying into anything that Valve is selling. The company has a long history of introducing new things and abandoning them shortly thereafter. While this is most applicable to games, with recent releases like Artifact and Dota Underlords losing development support after high-profile launches, it’s the same with Valve hardware as well.
Valve’s previous attempt to release hardware surrounding its Steam digital storefront came in 2015 with the Steam Machine. Steam Machines were a line of PCs made by companies like Alienware that ran the Valve-made SteamOS operating system. While the hardware’s quality varied depending on the model, SteamOS suffered from performance issues and was not updated over time. SteamOS was largely abandoned within two years.
Depending on the success of the Steam Deck, Valve may find the means to actually deliver the regular updates and support needed to create a viable alternative to video game consoles. But that would be a first in the history of the 25-year-old company.