What It’s Like To Buy And Use A Steam Deck In Australia

What It’s Like To Buy And Use A Steam Deck In Australia
Contributor: Edwin Crump

This piece originally ran on Kotaku Australia on January 18, 2023. It has been retimed for the Easter Long Weekend. We’ll be back on deck Tuesday! — David.

The Steam Deck spent most of 2022 not-so-quietly revolutionising the world of PC gaming. To be more accurate, the world where it was available. To date, Australia has been officially locked out of the Steam Deck, one of 2022’s biggest gaming stories. Despite repeated attempts to get details out of Steam Deck maker Valve, there have been no clear timeframes given on when, or even if, Valve’s handheld gaming PC will officially make it to our fair shores.

That hasn’t stopped some people from importing them from countries where they are available. And, presumably, thanks to the wider availability of the device where it is already being sold, local retailers like Kogan, Dick Smith (which is Kogan hiding in a yellow raincoat) and Catch are now taking pre-orders.

The buying experience

I am here to tell you that I am Some People. I have gone through the (probably stupid) process to get a Steam Deck in Australia. While I love the device, there are certain things that people should be aware of should they also wish to buy or import one before they’re officially launched here — if they ever are.

A quick explanation of why the Deck was right for me in the first place. This is something that you should really consider before embarking on a quest to get one for yourself. The cost and risk of obtaining and owning a Deck in a country where it’s not officially supported means that the whole experience is a niche one, despite how popular it seems on gaming websites and forums. For me, a combination of an existing toddler, the unique setup of my house, and an impending baby meant that flexibility in gaming was becoming of supreme importance to me. The Deck allows me to play PC games wherever I am, and niceties such as the suspend function mean that I can play and stop whenever a child or my partner needs something. It also allows me to utilise a library I already had with games of my choosing, rather than being limited to the Switch’s library (and performance woes) and the spectre of repurchasing games that I already own just to have them in a format where it fits my life better.

So how do you get one? Let’s be frank: bringing a Steam Deck into Australia is pretty stressful. There are a couple of ways you could hand over your hard-earned dinero for one though, including picking one up from sites such as eBay or StockX. You could also fake your location for a Steam account and try to buy one directly from Valve, before having it shipped to a mail forwarder or family overseas. With any of these options, though, keep in mind you may need to find a courier who can deliver devices with lithium-ion batteries internationally, something that’s not always guaranteed.

How did I do it?  I initially chose the eBay route, ordering from a UK seller. The package didn’t even leave the country. It was damaged in transit, and UK customs really didn’t want to allow the lithium-ion battery in the Steam Deck to be shipped to Australia. I spent the better part of a month arguing with eBay customer service for a refund.

Ultimately, however, someone grey imported a unit to my city, and after the eBay experience, I bought it with a double markup — one from the original seller and one from the grey importer.

So the Australian online retailers, grey importers though they may be, might actually be your best bet for now. Not only are their markups relatively sensible (so far), you get the added benefit of much shorter shipping times and payment with an Australian business. Buying accessories is another matter. Most people will want some form of protection or additions for their Deck, like a skin, screen protector, specialised USB-C dock or more. Given the market for the Deck in Australia is so small, there are very few retailers with options at the moment. You’ll likely be importing these accessories too, often with the international shipping fees we’ve come to expect.

Concerns to look out for (e.g. repairs, warranty, scams etc)

Friends, I want to tell you about a time my heart stopped. I dropped my Deck. I thought that my Steam Deck’s case was zipped up, but as I confidently walked with it to another part of the house, it tumbled out of its protective confines and onto the tiled floor.

Fortunately, it landed in perhaps the best possible way, on its right edge, avoiding damage to the buttons, analog sticks or screen. But it highlighted to me the stakes of importing something like this. Any accident, mistake or technical failure could render your expensive toy useless. There are no official support or repair stores in Australia (or, for those where the Deck is distributed by Japanese retailer Komodo, apparently), so if anything breaks, it is up to you or a knowledgeable friend to attempt repairs. So while your Deck may officially have a warranty, it is as good as useless unless you want to ship it back overseas to a mail forwarder and then onto Valve, a tedious and risky process. That is if the reseller even provided the receipt for it in the first place (ask if it isn’t clear from the listing).

There is one mitigating factor in all of this — Valve’s partnership with tech repair site and right-to-repair advocate iFixit. iFixit sells genuine Steam Deck parts, so you can replace like-for-like if anything does go wrong. But even then, due to nebulous “shipping regulations”, iFixit will only ship most replacement parts within the USA. This extends even to replacement buttons, something I’m sure shipping regulations are extremely concerned about. So once again, you’re back to needing a mail forwarder to get these to you, adding time, cost and complexity to your repairs.

I also noticed the right trackpad vibrations were distractingly loud and rattly whenever there was a moment of intense action. This turns out to be a common defect that is repaired by Valve in the US, UK and other countries. But with no RMA services available in Australia, I’m stuck with choosing to open it up myself or living with the issue. I opted to turn off trackpad haptics and am playing with slightly reduced functionality. It feels bad, but I’m glad there is a software solution to this particular problem. Other issues may be more serious and fiddly to fix. There is a feeling of living slightly precariously every time you take the Deck out of its protective case.

Should you import one too?

So the big question is should you import a Steam Deck too, whether through family in another country, trusting an eBay seller, or putting your faith in Kogan? It is hard to say, and each person will have to make their own decision about whether it is going to prove valuable for them. Honestly, you probably shouldn’t at the moment, but waiting is hard, and with no word on official availability, it’s always tricky. It is a bit safer now some bigger names are selling on their websites, but Steam has tried to warn people away from these sellers.

Potential alternatives (e.g. GPD Win 4, Aya Neo Air)

But if you can’t officially get a Steam Deck in Australia yet, are there any options that are available for Australian gamers? Fortunately, there are some that you can grab right now if you have the cash.

The Ayaneo Air Pro and Ayaneo Next

Handheld pc maker Ayaneo have launched the Ayaneo Air Pro and the Ayaneo Next through retailers such as EBGames. This has the benefit of local retailer warranty and repair support. Being able to physically walk into a store and speak to someone who can help is a huge deal, however, even with markups, these remain expensive and have potentially less performance and company focus than the Deck.

GPD Win 4

Alternatively, you could look at the IndieGoGo campaign for the GPD Win 4, which looks to be one of the better options on the horizon. The GPD Win 4 looks like it will continue a long line of well-built handheld gaming PC options from GPD and is potentially more powerful than the Deck if that’s your priority.

Emulation Devices

Emulating systems of yore is a great experience on the Deck, but for a cheaper option focussed mainly on emulation, 2022 was something of a flowering of good products in this market, with options ranging from the Miyoo Mini to the Ayn Odin. And while they aren’t available in Australia officially, there are a number of Aliexpress sellers more than happy to ship them to Australia.


With Valve already discussing what the next steps for the Steam Deck’s hardware could be, there’s always the risk that buying relatively late in the product’s cycle leaves you with last year’s product while the new and shiny is out there making a name for itself. But that’s part of the appeal of the Deck, to me, at least. I’m not necessarily looking to play the latest and greatest at top settings. I want to reclaim my gaming time, my sense of identity as a gamer and in the gaming community and zeitgeist. And in that regard, the Deck has been a giant win for me. I’m excited to see what comes next from Valve, but for now I’m enjoying playing games in ways that were impossible before.

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