Are You Intrigued By The Steam Deck?

Are You Intrigued By The Steam Deck?
Just let me play Persona 4 Golden wherever I want. (Image: Atlus)

It’s time for Ask Kotaku, the weekly feature in which Kotaku-ites deliberate on a single burning question. Then, we ask your take.

First there were rumours of a Nintendo Switch Pro, which turned into the announcement of the Switch OLED. Some fans, fuelled by speculation, were disappointed. Enter Valve.

Valve, maker of Half-Life, Half-Life Alyx-player the Valve Index, and unavoidable online marketplace Steam, unveiled its surprise portable gaming PC, the Steam Deck. Just like that, a heck of a lot more people seem interested in the possibility of tiny handheld gaming PCs. (Too bad Steam Decks are now pre-ordered into the back half of 2022.)

So this week, we Ask Kotaku: Are you intrigued by the Valve Steam Deck?

Ash

Oh hell yes. I am a lazy gamer. There are often situations in which I’ll have a strong desire to play a PC-only game but no desire to sequester myself in the cold solitude of my room to do it, so I simply won’t play. With the Steam Deck, I can sit on my porch or in my sunroom and just vibe with one of the many not-on-Switch games that I’ve been eager to play but haven’t because I don’t want to be stuck at my desk.

Steam Deck will be my Persona 4 Golden machine. I literally bought that game on Steam with the intention of playing it mobile from my Mac laptop only to notice that the Steam version of P4G isn’t Mac compatible (womp womp). I haven’t touched it since. I’ll be psyched beyond measure to have a device on which I can play this game on the go. And! According to an itch.io dev, Steam Deck will be compatible with Itch.io’s app. I am stoked to make my Steam Deck my “all the small things” indie paradise machine. I can’t wait!

Steam Deck: So you can stop sleeping on gems like Hollow Knight unless they come to Switch. (Screenshot: Team Cherry) Steam Deck: So you can stop sleeping on gems like Hollow Knight unless they come to Switch. (Screenshot: Team Cherry)

Ethan

Hollow Knight came out in 2017, but nobody at Kotaku started yammering on and on about it until June of the following year when it finally came to Switch. There are a bunch of games like this — Stardew Valley, Slay the Spire, Crypt of the Necrodancer — great indie games that came to Steam first but I never bothered with until they arrived on Nintendo’s hybrid portable because I didn’t want to play them at the same PC I spend hours working in front of every day. The Steam Deck seems like the perfect solution for that.

I’m not convinced that the thing will feel good to hold, or even be that easy to play with, especially for Steam games that haven’t really been optimised for a handheld control scheme. If a game doesn’t require a cursor, I almost always prefer to play with a controller, and there are plenty of games that release on Steam that only support mouse and keyboard at first. Still, if I can play my favourite arcade-y platformers, roguelikes, and bullet hells anywhere I want before they come to Switch and get that Nintendo markup, it seems like $US400 ($546) well spent.

Plus, Steam has a ton of old and new games that will likely never come to Switch, from Dragon Age: Origins to Wildrmyth. If Valve actually does the hard work of making the Steam Deck a solid user experience (a big if) then it could easily become my favourite console.

Where I would consider playing the Steam Deck but probably wouldn't because I don't go to the beach to play PC games. (Photo: Paula Bronstein, Getty Images) Where I would consider playing the Steam Deck but probably wouldn’t because I don’t go to the beach to play PC games. (Photo: Paula Bronstein, Getty Images)

Zack

No. Its specs and price are nice enough, sure, but I have a long enough memory to recount the days when Valve tried to push Steam Machines on folks. Or what about the ill-fated Steam Link? Or the cool but barely supported Steam Controller? Not to mention all the rumours of projects dying as people at Valve lose interest or move on to something shinier. Needless to say my confidence in Valve shipping and supporting this thing is very low.

Even if it was amazing and Valve had a great track record in supporting and making hardware this would still be a pass for me because it doesn’t really seem useful. I rarely go out on long trips and I work from home. So I spend a lot of my time around video game consoles and a fast PC. I have no need for a portable PC. And when I do go on a rare trip or vacation, I’m trying to escape my job and not bring it with me in the form of a handheld PC with a so-so battery and meh-quality screen. If I want to play something, I can whip out my phone and kill some time for a lot less, and it won’t break my wrists holding it.

I admire the hell out of the Steam Controller (pictured here with optional eggs) even if I spend more time configuring it than playing. I admire the hell out of the Steam Controller (pictured here with optional eggs) even if I spend more time configuring it than playing.

Alexandra

I’m only mildly intrigued. Like, would I enjoy a free Steam Deck? Of course, I’d mess with that. But paying $US650 ($887) for the vaguely capacious one is a much bigger ask. I already have too many devices that I don’t use and a portable Steam player would just add to the clutter and choice paralysis.

Which isn’t to say it’s not cool. One aspect that does intrigue me is that it carries forward some of the interface ideas pioneered by Valve’s legit innovative, forward-thinking Steam Controller. The dual touchpads, four rear bumpers, and sheer programmability of it all are all really exciting. Triggers look pretty good too. However, the d-pad and face button placement make them look like afterthoughts and ergonomic nightmares. So, note of concern there.

The screen doesn’t impress me either. Maybe I was wrong to expect 1080p rather than slightly over 720p, but 1280×800 feels pretty crusty these days and I’m a little concerned that the odd 16:10 resolution could cause display annoyances with games that prefer 16:9. Hopefully no big deal?

Still, I really like Ash’s notion that the Steam Deck would be a perfect device to enjoy smaller indie games and Itch.io material. If I were to jump on board, that’d be the most compelling use case for me.

My face when I act shocked that Valve has all my money. (Photo: Dean Drobot, Shutterstock) My face when I act shocked that Valve has all my money. (Photo: Dean Drobot, Shutterstock)

Lisa Marie

I am more than intrigued by the Steam Deck. I immediately knew I would reserve a spot for the 512 GB model. My partner is also a massive gamer, so between the two of us, it’ll definitely get used a ton. It largely appeals to me for the exact reason I often don’t play on my PC as often as I’d like: it’s convenient. I know some people love having a dedicated game station and/or room, but I much prefer to be on the living room couch or in bed with my partner and kitties while gaming. I can do this with console games, and especially with my Switch. But I’m loath to break out a PC game so I can sit in the office by myself.

I see the Steam Deck as a luxury item, more so even than a solid gaming PC. But it’s one of those purchases that I look at with my adult money and no one to tell me no and dive right into. Treat yourself.

Because I want to get in on games like Hades before the Switch hype. (Screenshot: Supergiant Games / Kotaku) Because I want to get in on games like Hades before the Switch hype. (Screenshot: Supergiant Games / Kotaku)

Ari

Steam Deck allows me to reveal a dirty little secret: I’ve never owned a gaming PC, and I’ve no intention of ever investing in one. Too big. Too expensive. Too much research to fine-tune the thing to perfection. And any rig I build would require new parts on a constant cycle if I’d hope to have the most cutting-edge machine at all times.

Has this stubborn stance affected my job? You bet! Sometimes it’s demanded I wait ages until a game comes out on Switch (see: Hades). Sometimes it’s meant I’ve missed a game entirely (see: a list too long to type out). But the Steam Deck is small, fairly priced, and, best of all, requires no research commitment whatsoever. Finally, I’ll be able to play PC games. Whew! Feels good to get that off my chest.

Portable gaming PCs have been here the whole time! (Photo: GPD / Amazon) Portable gaming PCs have been here the whole time! (Photo: GPD / Amazon)

Fahey

Nope. I think it’s neat and I’d like to try it out, but it’s nothing new in the hardware space. There are a bunch of handheld PC gaming devices already on the market. Most of them are kind of crappy, but they can indeed play PC games at decent speeds and resolutions. Like this GPD dealio I found on Amazon. It costs over $US1,000 ($1,364), sure, but it has a built-in keyboard and a fancy sliding display.

Hell, I’ve been playing with these things since back in 2013, when Razer released the Edge handheld PC gaming tablet. These devices have existed for a long time, just like gaming PCs were around a long time before Valve brought out its Steam Machines. I like that they’re trying to bring the price down to make portable PC gaming more affordable, but if people really wanted a PC gaming portable that’s not a gaming laptop, they would have caught on by now.

How About You?

Kotaku’s weighed in, but where do you stand? Do you want to use the Steam Deck to cosy up with your favourite indies? Or do you think it’s a waste of money? We’ll be back next time to deliberate and debate on another nerdy issue. See you in the comments!

Comments

  • I’d say interested rather than intrigued.

    The low-res, non-OLED screen, the low performance GPU, the 2hr battery life on demanding games, linux, the massive size and weight compared to other handhelds, coupled with Valve’s history with dumping hardware, results in me taking a wait and see approach.

    I’d want to hold the thing in my hands, feel the weight and size, see how the screen looked, and how good/bad games look at 1280×800 and how many features have to be turned off to get decent framerates before plonking down the cash. I’m, also not sure the PC games I enjoy would be as enjoyable on a handheld/small screen device. The UI of games designed for PC could also be a problem on a tiny screen.

    Some current games have struggled to be playable on the PS4Pro or even PS5, and both of those have considerably more graphics power, even if you run them at 1080P.
    Sure you can dial settings down, but past a certain point, are you getting a good experience?
    None of these questions have been definitively answered yet, so I’m on the fence till I can see one in action.

  • Interested, Yes.
    Its a portable form factor PC that’s aggressively priced. Even just using it as a RetroArch ROM emulator is awesome.

    Buying it doesn’t ecosystem lock me and I get instant access to over 450 games. (I buy a Dwotch, I start with a zero game collection)

    Disappointed its region restricted. Every Aussie should wish list it on Steam as No. 1 to get Valve metrics to bring it here sooner.

    Will be vastly interested to see how other developers respond. Dell, Lenovo, Razer, Nvidia and Microsoft all showed interest in mobile PC gaming earlier.

  • Not especially. Switch works because so much of Nintendo and the devs who make their core games are laser focused on that on device. its shortfalls, its strengths. Where as the Steam library is bonkers vast, its not especially logically how the overwhelming amount of games will simply function on such a limited device, EG different controls, different settings. I just wonder how that translate to a flawless user experience?

    Dont get me wrong I look forward to being proven wrong, just I have my doubts. Indeed I will definitely sit this generation out but hopefully once within time, it becomes a viable device.

  • Not really. I just don’t want to buy into tech that I’m confident isn’t going to sell well & won’t be supported by Steam in the long run.

  • I know people are apprehensive cause of the Steam Machines failure, but it mostly failed cause OEM partnershi0 went off track… the idea was affordable PC Consoles. Dell responded by putting SteamOS in a $3000 dollar Alienware box.

    By going direct to AMD and making the chipset themselves they cut the profiteering and OEM greed. By taking on all the engineering themselves, they reduce the third party risk that failed them before.

    Like seriously if they put the Steam Deck tech right now in a set-top home console, it would be a gaming PC cheaper than all the consoles. This is huge leap in gaming.

  • I have android installed on my switch and use it to stream games from my gaming pc and my ps5 while I lie in bed. I don’t travel so this setup already satisfies my use case for a steam deck. Had it a 1080p Oled screen I may have been interested to use it as an upgrade.

    • A surface go with a telescopic bluetooth gamepad would probably serve this role for you with better resolution.

  • Not at all. I’ll stick with my separate PCs and Switch, since I find the whole portable thing as overrated, particularly with no more travelling for the foreseeable future.

  • For me, it’s lets see how this iteration goes, let the early adopters adopt, get real world usability information, watch for a version 2 to address all the issues, then re-consider.

  • Judging by the availability of the Valve Index (which is the only Valve hardware to judge against), Australia might not get this thing for 2 years. So no, I’m not interested until there’s a chance us Australians can get one not via grey import. At least we’ll be able to carefully judge how it goes in the rest of the world before we’re allowed to place an order (probably). I’m most interested to know how easily it’ll be to put Windows on this thing and play non Steam games (itch.io, Epic, Gog etc.).

  • Like Fahey said, handheld PC devices in some form or another have been around for ages and even preceded the Switch (Whose ancestry in this area and the mobile cradle market is often overlooked) but hasn’t really taken off. If this was 10 years ago I’d be super excited but these days there’s just too many cheaper and more practical alternatives to buying a full on machine limited to its handheld casket. It will be interesting to see if it finds its niche or evaporates like the Steam Machine and Steam Link.

  • I’m certainly interested. I get stuck sometimes between waiting for a switch port of games I’d like to play handheld and waiting to see if the game suffers performance issues on switch.

    This might take some of this away and I already have a huge steam library, plus an ongoing humble sub.

  • No.
    I bought and built a near top of the line PC in 2019.
    PC games played since then Zero.
    Instead i used it as a PS2 & Gamecube Emulator.
    Buying this thing would be a waste of money.

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