Gabe Newell Describes Steam Deck’s Price As ‘Painful’ For Valve

Gabe Newell Describes Steam Deck’s Price As ‘Painful’ For Valve
Image: Valve

If you want to play Steam games on the go and don’t feel like waiting the requisite 0-100 days for beloved indies to get ported to the Nintendo Switch, Valve’s now offering an answer to your cries: The Steam Deck, a handheld with PC-ish specs and a surprisingly reasonable price tag. Valve president Gabe Newell says that was by design — even if it comes at a premium for Valve.

Newell, who much like Sauron rules over his company from New Zealand, said in an interview with IGN that the biggest priority was making sure that Steam Deck is intuitive and performs well, with price “secondary” to that and “painful” as a result.

Valve hardware director Shreya Liu echoed Newell’s point, saying that price was key from the get-go. “We knew that the price point was very important, so […] from the beginning, we designed with that in mind, and we worked very, very hard to achieve the price point that we’re at,” Liu told IGN.

Newell went on to explain that Valve wants this to be the start of something bigger, and that means being “very aggressive” in how it establishes itself in the mobile space.

“Nobody has ever said, ‘Oh, we have a giant success where clearly there’s huge demand for this, but our margins are too thin.’ Right? And a lot of people have overpriced things and killed the opportunity, and sort of convince people that it’s an uninteresting category from the get-go,” Newell said. “We’re doing this for the long haul. And there’s a lot of opportunity.”

This is an especially interesting remark to hear coming from Newell, given that you could argue his company basically did exactly what he’s describing with its VR headsets, first in conjunction with HTC and then on its own. The Valve Index is perhaps the strongest argument in favour of VR ever conceived — at least, from an experiential standpoint — but with its $US1,000 ($1,347) price point, it’s a luxury item. Granted, there are many, many other reasons that VR remains a niche at this point, but that’s certainly a contributing factor.

That said, let’s not put the horse before the cart when it comes to ogling the Steam Deck’s price tag. Sure, the base model is $US399 ($537), but it comes with a puny 64GB of eMMC storage. There are countless individual Steam games that take up more space than that. There’s a reason Steam includes an option to organise your library by “size on disk,” after all. Once you start tacking on more storage space, you immediately enter pricier territory; Steam Deck’s 256GB NVMe model will cost $US529 ($713), and the 512GB version, said to have an even faster NVMe drive, will cost $US649 ($874). In the grand scheme of gaming PCs, that’s still not terrible, but it puts the non-diet version of the handheld out of reach for some.

That said, as with the Switch, micro SD cards are an option, so that’s something. Good thing, too; we’re gonna need extra space on our Steam Decks for all the games we’re apparently gonna be able to buy from the Epic Store.


  • “Newell went on to explain that Valve wants this to be the start of something bigger, and that means being “very aggressive” in how it establishes itself in the mobile space.”

    Maybe a decade ago this would have been something but these days they’re fighting an uphill battle on a slope that’s more vertical than horizontal. There are so many options these days for portable gaming, even in the PC space that it’s going to be very hard for them to carve out as large a slice as Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony.

    It’s even more of a battle for them when you consider that people will already have a device ecosystem and will now have to decide whether to buy another full computing device or set up what they have to do the same thing though perhaps on a less “dedicated to gaming” scale. It will be interesting to see if it becomes something mainstream, or it becomes another niche product like NVidia Shield Portable or Razer Edge.

    • While it’s true there are a lot of other comparable systems, none of them had what Valve has in a massive potential reach for advertising straight to their target audience. They’ve also got brand cache that I don’t think any other Switch-like PC concept has among their target audience (and they’re actually selling it, not just showing mockups that seemingly never actually make it to market).

      Honestly, I think they’ll do pretty well, but more importantly iterate pretty quickly for the aguably more important second version sometime down the line. I’m no expert, but I think the timing was pretty much perfect – after the Switch OLED proved not to be the upgrade some people were wishing for along comes a device that might just be axactly what those people were looking for (albeit without Nintendo games officially supported, though I’m sure these will be super popular for emulating older consoles)

      • The Steam Controller was a mixed bag in terms of how its build quality felt tacky and cheap, despite coming from the biggest online PC games sales platform and commanding a premium (for the time). While the Valve Index is nice and all, people are weary about buying anything like that from Valve again.

  • I’d take it a step further and call the Steam platform ‘painful’. Bloatware, unnecessary forced updates all on a system that adds nothing positive to the gaming experience outside the services of a normal store. Steam has just solidified itself as the first and therefore biggest middleman in digital gaming, but like all middlemen, their utility is nonexistent.

    This also looks like a revival of half baked concepts from the 90s – its almost identical to a Sony computer designed for internet browsing only. This is basically a crap off brand Nintendo Switch with an Apple-esque option to tack on memory for 10x the running price for that memory.

    Sick of marketing driven development int he gaming industry. #gamesmadebygamers

  • The only thing more painful than Valve making a loss per sale is developing RSI from how awkward those controls are. You’d think that, after the Steam Controller, they’d know what sensible controls placement is. Especially when they’re competing with other manufacturers in the porta-pc marketspace.

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