If you’re passionate about video games, then you’ve probably heard of the new Steam Deck by Valve Corporation. And when you heard the news, you might have experienced a brief spell of deja vu.
At first glance, the Steam Deck looks eerily familiar. It has a long rectangular screen, ABXY buttons, two thumbsticks, and a dock.
If you think this sounds like the Nintendo Switch, you’re not alone. In fact, this has been a common observation in the gaming community ever since Valve released teasers of the Steam Deck. And they’re not unfamiliar with the news.
But apart from the nearly identical physical features, there’s little that makes the two the same. The specifications, software, and hardware in the Steam Deck mainly have PC gaming in mind. And that’s not surprising as Steam’s primary audience is made up of mostly PC gamers.
So what are the features in Valve’s upcoming Steam Deck? How do they cater to PC gamers? And what does Valve have to say about the comparisons made?
Why You Should Get the Portable Game Console Steam Deck
For at least $399, you can now bring your Steam library anywhere you go. Slated to be released in December this year, the Steam Deck is currently available for pre-order. According to the official Steam Deck website, fans of the gaming platform can choose among three configurations:
- 64GB Steam Deck for $399, which comes with a carrying case
- 256GB Steam Deck for $529, which has faster storage and comes with an “[e]xclusive Steam community profile bundle”
- 512GB Steam Deck for $649, which has the fastest storage and comes with several other perks, such as a “[p]remium anti-glare etched glass” and an “[e]xclusive virtual keyboard”
While the three vary in cost, the website says each maintains the same frame rate and graphics quality. All three models boast the same features as well.
So why should you get the Steam Deck? If you’re often on Steam to play games and want to be able to play them anywhere, then this is for you.
Because the device is essentially a “physical embodiment of [the] Steam library,” as Valve industrial designer John Ikeda put it during an IGN interview, Deck users get to enjoy all the games and benefits they receive on Steam.
This means all Steam games are playable on the Deck. Additional features like cloud saving and chat are available as well.
The Steam Deck also has a 7-inch screen, similar to the upcoming Switch OLED model. It’s touchscreen, too, but users can control game elements using the thumbsticks or the trackpads. The trackpads reportedly serve as controls for games originally meant to be played on the PC.
Other notable features include the gyro sensors, the ergonomic grip of the device, Bluetooth and wifi connectivity, and the dock used mainly for external displays.
Is Gaming Better on the Steam Deck Compared to the Nintendo Switch?
According to Valve developer Pierre-Loup Griffais in the IGN interview, the Steam Deck went through a lot in terms of its capacity to display a wide range of games on Steam, including those that have yet to be released.
“The real test for us was the games coming out last year,” he said. On the prototypes, these games wouldn’t run smoothly. Now, however, there’s supposedly no Steam game the Deck cannot handle, an article in Kotaku says.
In terms of gameplay, the Steam Deck seems to surpass the Nintendo Switch. A report in Game Rant points out a significant difference between these devices. The Nintendo Switch runs on 4GB of LPDDR4 SDRAM, while the Steam Deck runs on 16GB.
While this may cause some people to worry about the device’s battery life, the Valve team integrated a solution to address this issue. In the Steam Deck is a frame rate limiter designed to increase the console’s battery life, an article in Engadget says.
But despite this, we think comparing the Nintendo Switch to the Steam Deck could be a classic case of comparing apples and oranges.
In an interview with IGN, Valve designer Greg Coomer said their decisions behind the Steam Deck revolved around “customers that were already having a good time interacting with the games that are on [the Steam] platform.”
In a similar vein, Nintendo Switch users enjoy it for its portability and access to Nintendo games. In terms of the technical specifications of both, several may argue the Steam Deck is far superior. But it’s also helpful to remember Steam games were built for the PC, and the Valve team designed their mobile game console with this in mind.
Is the Steam Deck Another Manifestation of Mobile Gaming’s Popularity?
In older articles, we elaborated on the rise of mobile gaming during the pandemic. Since COVID-19 hit, there’s been a 75% net rise in mobile gameplay, which a study found will likely remain in the next two years.
But what’s the reason behind this trend? Many of the study’s participants reasoned they’re motivated by the need to be entertained or to pass the time. This makes a ton of sense, considering a lot of us have been staying indoors for over a year.
While Valve’s timely announcement and release of the Steam Deck coincides with the growing popularity of mobile gaming, we’re not so sure if this is a result of intention or coincidence.
The Steam Deck is not Valve’s first attempt at deploying their games to other devices. In 2014, they released a group of devices that aimed to be a cross between console and PC gaming, a report in Tom’s Guide says. Collectively, these devices were called Steam Machines.
Unfortunately, it did not pan out in the way Valve envisioned. And it doesn’t seem to be up on the Steam website anymore. However, after seven years of developing and prototyping, Valve is finally releasing a new and more compact device for Steam fans to enjoy.
The Steam Deck, a dead ringer for the Nintendo Switch, is a portable Steam library created for fans of Steam games. It has three configurations, all ranging from $399 to $649. While these configurations differ in terms of storage space, all three retain the same features.
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