Valve has unveiled their long-rumoured handheld gaming PC, the Steam Deck (more on that here). We of course have our own stance on Valve’s latest entry into the hardware market, but let’s also take a look at the industry’s reaction from across Twitter.
First, Niko Partners’ Daniel Ahmad points out that while devices like the Steam Deck are hardly new, Valve is perhaps best placed to make a success of such an approach.
Handheld gaming PC's are not a new concept, and while they have become more popular thanks to successfully crowdfunded devices such as the GPD Win, they have not broken out of a niche.
Valve is much better positioned than others to enter this market and this is a smart move
— Daniel Ahmad (@ZhugeEX) July 15, 2021
Elsewhere in the thread, Ahmad praises Valve for solving all three of the core issues for these devices: Providing enough power for portable PC games, finding the right price point for a wider audience, and monetising beyond the hardware itself. Additionally, he points out that, thanks to Steam integration, the device has access to thousands of games out of the box, without the need for developers to work on ports.
Ahmad does point out that it’s “still unclear if gaming handheld PC’s can break out of the current niche they are in,” but that the enormous success of the Nintendo Switch is proof that there is an appetite to play high end games on the go.
Developers may not need to work on ports – but as Ant Workshop’s Tony Gowland points out, there’s still likely work to be done for a number of games to make them Steam Deck-friendly.
For real though, on Steam Deck lots of strategy games are going to need extensive UI work to make text readable (and buttons finger-sized) on that screen, and anything that relies on tooltips for important info is going to need re-designing.
— Tony Gowland (@Tony_Gowland) July 15, 2021
“People seem to be unaware of how much work goes in to the UI side of a solid console/mobile port,” Gowland added. “For many games strategy games the player experience is going to be really bad until they are updated. And are there going to be enough players of your game on SteamDeck to make spending that money on updating it make sense? Maybe? I dunno.”
Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier underlines a key potential market for the Steam Deck, and a way for Valve to win back purchases that have recently been going to Nintendo.
Steam Deck skeptics might be undervaluing the huge audience of people who play most games portably (dad of toddler here!). For years every indie game announcement has been met with "When is it coming to Switch?" If this thing feels great (big if), nobody needs to ask that anymore
— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) July 15, 2021
The Switch has certainly become something of an indie darling since its launch, no doubt helped by its portability. By introducing a Switch-like handheld of their own, Valve can perhaps win back some of the indie fans that have made their way to Nintendo. Although he does go on to say that the $650 highest-end model is certainly a “tough sell, but Steam sales might help make up for that in the long run.”
Though as Team17’s Debbie Bestwick points out, the target market is likely still the hardcore audience, at least for the time being.
Not sure I’m right here but are we the target audience? I remember switch and everyone saying no.. I tagged it ‘lifestyle gaming’ which it absolutely has become. Commute less works for many but lots of us are heading back in a world we need to commute. Steam deck is for hardcore!
— debbie bestwick mbe (@djbteamsters) July 15, 2021
Epic Games’ Tim Sweeney, owner of rival Epic Games Store, celebrated the announcement.
Amazing move by Valve! A handheld PC/console hybrid running the SteamOS fork of Arch Linux, and it’s an open platform where users are free to install software or their choosing – including Windows and other stores. https://t.co/jf5TWUWGP5
— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) July 15, 2021
Of course as Sweeney points out, the Steam Deck is an open platform – meaning that it’s possible to install and purchase games via the Epic Games Store as well.
Digital Foundry’s John Linneman meanwhile seems impressed by the hardware, though expresses disappointment at its screen.
The Steam Deck looks great for sure but, I have to admit, I'm rather disappointed in the screen specs. 1280×800 at a maximum of 60hz and it's still an LCD?! With that resolution I'd have hoped for 120hz support at the very least (though…battery life). Still, cool overall.
— John Linneman (@dark1x) July 16, 2021
Elsewhere in the thread, Linneman goes on to state that: “[t]he issue here is that 60hz inherently doesn’t look great on a sample and hold LCD. It’s very blurry. An optional BFI style solution would have been nice.”
Technical details aside, there’s plenty of excitement across the industry for Valve’s new hardware. As evidenced by No More Robots’ Mike Rose:
Thought about Steam Deck for the last hour, and honestly, it might be the most exciting video game hardware I have seen in my lifetime
I've never wanted gaming hardware to stick the landing so much
— Mike Rose (@RaveofRavendale) July 15, 2021
A statement that prompted a lot of excitement for what the Steam Deck might mean for indies in the replies.
Personally though, I think StudioAC Games’ Adam Campbell gets to the heart of the matter:
I don't like Steam Deck because it's another piece of temptation.
— Adam Campbell (@AC_Revolution) July 16, 2021