All hands on Deck!
July 16, 2021 9:48 PM   Subscribe

Valve has announced the Steam Deck, a handheld PC that will not only be able to play games from Steam, but also anything a computer can normally do. It is due out in December of this year and the base model will sell for $399. Here's a hands on preview from IGN.
posted by FJT (66 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
how do they plan to stop piracy?

Looks like the plan is to do it the smart way, by making piracy simply less convenient than just playing by their rules.

Either it will be trivial to load whatever you want to work

According to the linked video you can install whatever you like on it. It comes with Steam OS, which is Valve's own Linux distribution, and the video specifically mentions that you could put Windows on it if you wanted to. So I'd imagine that pretty much any Linux distro would work as well. Looks like quite a tidy little ultra small form factor PC.
posted by flabdablet at 10:57 PM on July 16 [16 favorites]


Interestingly, I didn't realize that the handheld gaming PC concept was big in Eastern Asian. I'm guessing that most are playing heavily pirated games.

how does the first statement immediately lead to the next? there's a robust (legal) gaming ecosystem, where handheld market is well-served here (southeast asia, but EA-adjacent), especially the region is dominated by Android machines and peripherals.
posted by cendawanita at 12:38 AM on July 17 [16 favorites]


It's a x86 computer with a custom linux distribution, and you can do whatever you want with it, like most x86 computers (yes you can even install Windows on it). You can even dock it and turn it into a serviceable workstation, so if you want a very competitively priced computer, which happens to be a portable game console on the go, then this is it.

I don't know why piracy would be a big concern here, and why we'd pick on particular parts of the world as being particularly bad actors in this regard. There are whole stores (GOG) where you can buy games without copy-protection and hand them out, and publishers seem happy to sell their games there. With the way game development and distribution works these days, I think piracy is much less central a concern than it used to be.

Anyway, I'm very excited for this device, and from an engineering standpoint I think it looks fantastic. I pre-ordered one. Hot tip: if you have a steam account older than a couple months you can put in a pre-order now. Purportedly to avoid scalping, they're restricting pre-orders to people with existing accounts until tomorrow, so if you actually want to see one of these units within the next year it's probably best to get in there ASAP.

On another note, as someone who's run linux exclusively for more than I decade, and who likes to play video games, the strides that linux gaming has been making have been amazing. I would say 5-10 years ago a big push was from indie developers and publishers (e.g. Humble Indie Bundle), but these days the big push is from Valve. Valve has been driving and funding Proton, which is software based on Wine for running Windows programs/games on Linux, and these days I expect most games to run on my machines more-or-less flawlessly. I'm very excited to see the effect that a mass marketed Linux-based handheld is going to have.
posted by Alex404 at 1:19 AM on July 17 [18 favorites]


This thing fascinates me, even though I think I might be about as far as possible from the target market. I will never buy one, but I’m very curious to see if this is the time Steam releases a successful hardware thing.

On the other hand, well, I’m eagerly awaiting my chance to preorder a Playdate, heh.
posted by DoctorFedora at 2:12 AM on July 17 [4 favorites]


I think that Valve's timing on this is a bit odd. Streaming has gotten to the point where it works well for anything but competitive multiplayer games. Even a cheap Android phone plus a game controller is enough to make it work and it's a hell of a lot easier on the battery than running a game locally. It would have made much more sense a couple of years ago.
posted by wierdo at 2:53 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


This looks like a bandwagon device: this year has seen a sudden efflorescence of small handheld gaming PCs like the Onexplayer (disclaimer: I have one on order), the GPD Win 3, the Aya Neo, and others. Here's a comparison. These are also PCs running Windows 10, in more or less the same form factor as a Switch (the GPD Win 3 has a screen the size of a Switch Lite: it consciously apes the old Sony Vaio UX handhelds which are even smaller.

... And the punchline? They're all decent platforms for running Steam. Even if you have poor or no internet access, contra wierdo's point about streaming.

(I went for the Onexplayer because: the screen is larger, higher resolution, there's a reasonable-sized keyboard cover, and it's just basically a < 1Kg tablet PC that doubles as a gaming console but that you can reasonably expect to use for work purposes. The Steam Deck may be more use for dedicated Steam gamers: the others all have pros and cons.)
posted by cstross at 3:19 AM on July 17 [5 favorites]


Valve has claimed that all Steam games will run on this device at launch time. This is a bold claim, given that it's running on Arch Linux. If it's true, though, I hope that the same will hold for anyone else running Steam on Linux (modulo maybe the odd hardware/driver problem).

Valve are working with the main anti-cheat vendors (multiplayer anti-cheat is the single biggest hurdle for Linux game compatibility right now), but I worry that the solution will essentially be "Sure, Valve, we'll let you run games on your device, but not on anything else." You'd think that that would be impossible, since it sounds like this is fundamentally just a PC, but who knows?

I’m very curious to see if this is the time Steam releases a successful hardware thing.

Hm, does the Index count?
posted by nosewings at 3:48 AM on July 17 [2 favorites]


I'm interested to see if it will fit in a range of hands. This sounds silly, but I have a steam controller, and it's basically unusable because it's too big for my small hands.
posted by Braeburn at 4:24 AM on July 17 [9 favorites]


Well… my kid has never played Portal or the Half Life games, and I do have them on Steam. Some don’t run well on our Macs. They’d very likely run well here.

On the other hand, after a year of too much video game time, I’m pretty sure me pre-ordering a new game console to promote EVEN MORE SCREEN TIME would trigger divorce proceedings so perhaps I ought to skip this one?
posted by caution live frogs at 6:11 AM on July 17 [2 favorites]


I preordered one. I waited a few hours, so my place in the queue is in Q1 2022.

I went for one of the ones with more storage; were it a locked-down console like the Switch, 64Gb onboard plus all the MicroSD cards it can eat would suffice, though given that it's a gaming-spec Linux PC, I'm sure I'm going to use it for other things, for which the capacity would be useful. (I'm guessing the storage is soldered to the mainboard rather than being a socketed mSATA module one can upgrade.)
posted by acb at 6:41 AM on July 17 [2 favorites]


I like this, but on the other hand my Steam link and controllers mostly collect dust.

Depending on how this goes, it may hit clearance before all the preorders are fulfilled.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:23 AM on July 17 [2 favorites]


so if you want a very competitively priced computer, which happens to be a portable game console on the go, then this is it.

Earlier this year I spent more than twice the price of this thing for a basic gaming computer
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 8:30 AM on July 17 [2 favorites]


I like this, but on the other hand my Steam link and controllers mostly collect dust.

Depending on how this goes, it may hit clearance before all the preorders are fulfilled.
I'm going to say this louder for the people in the back:

The Valve Index is extremely successful and continues to be the premier open virtual reality headset if you're looking for something that isn't locked down and entirely controlled by Facebook.

Seriously the Index is constantly sold out and you're left waiting for more stock, what gives acting like Valve has never made good hardware.

Also, I still use my Steam Link, so different strokes for different folks, I guess. It was way cheaper than getting a dedicated PC to stream to.
posted by deadaluspark at 8:47 AM on July 17 [11 favorites]


(I'm guessing the storage is soldered to the mainboard rather than being a socketed mSATA module one can upgrade.)

Nope, it's an m.2 drive, though an unusual form factor (2230?) that there is a small market for because I think some Surface devices also use it?

(on googling, yep, the above is pretty much true! see here)
posted by Dysk at 9:04 AM on July 17 [3 favorites]


I really want one of these, it feels like the perfect tv media box (and it's portable!) but Valve is region-locking me out.
posted by simmering octagon at 9:05 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


Sorry to derail, but: the Index is really nice, but it starts at $1K, plus at least a $1.5K computer, vs. $300 for a Quest 2, which is ready to go out of the box. I detest Facebook too, but the Index is economically inaccessible and a pain to set up and use. Oculus got this one right.
posted by phooky at 9:16 AM on July 17 [2 favorites]


I also still use my steamlink (purchased for a song at the same time as the controller) and it works even better now than it did 4 years ago. I'm not sure if it's internet speeds, or firmware updates, but I have generally positive opinions of steam hardware.
posted by Braeburn at 9:16 AM on July 17


It matters to me that it runs an officially supported Linux distribution that I can control as a normal PC, and it matters to me that the maintainers of that distribution are Arch and Valve. I trust both a lot more than a random Chinese OEM Indiegogo product, especially since this will clearly appeal to Linux hackers (it runs Arch, btw) enough that it will get community attention.

I can't wait for what Valve does with this and Proton, but I really am equally excited for what the Linux community does with the first really mass market open source gaming handheld. Just like the raspberry pi, there's the potential for a really good combination of large company and community that could produce great things.
posted by jaduncan at 9:30 AM on July 17 [8 favorites]


The Valve Index is extremely successful and continues to be the premier open virtual reality headset if you're looking for something that isn't locked down and entirely controlled by Facebook.
tigrrrlily and I have HP Reverb G2s, which are an alternative to the Index with sightly better resolution. While they're amazing, and more affordable, HP doesn't seem to understand how to support consumer HMDs as a product. I suspect Steam will do well in that regard with the Deck.
posted by Flight Hardware, do not touch at 9:34 AM on July 17


If they don't release an app for it that displays a bunch of animated macro keys you can use to control a streaming PC, and call it "St[r]eam Deck", then they are just wasting everyone's time.

> I started calling it Steam Gear as it reminds me of my Game Gear and I'm
> guessing the battery life will probably mimic it too.

Might I suggest "Gabe Gear" ?
posted by sourcequench at 9:47 AM on July 17 [13 favorites]


Does it have 5G? Could see something like this effectively converging my laptop and smartphone into one (cheap!) Device. I'm already at the point where I'm upgrading phones only to keep the OS security up to date. Linux would be a relief.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:53 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


Does it have 5G?

Nope, WiFi only. But it's a pc with a USB port, so you could hook up an external 5g modem to it.
posted by Dysk at 10:06 AM on July 17 [2 favorites]


Might I suggest "Gabe Gear" ?

GabeBoy.
posted by mookoz at 10:10 AM on July 17 [8 favorites]


I'm certainly interested in this device possibly as anything that lets me play my steam library remote would be good to have. I honestly have double bought some games on the Switch so I can play them in areas that aren't attached to a monitor/tv, and despite the technical limitations, played those games more on Switch than anywhere else. So this device would actually save me money in the long run.


I'm also here to defend the hell out of the Steam Link, as I use one literally daily and they have saved me a great deal of headache with my odd set up. (My PC sits in a room about as a far as it could from my office for a myriad or reasons, VR being the core one) The Steamlink lets me have my office PC free save for a tiny black box, inputs and a monitor and stream my PC to it. I have two in different rooms and a third backup in a box in case one of those completely bites the dust. I will defend the wonderfulness of the Steam Link till I die, and will cry the day I have to set up a Raspi to replicate the function.
posted by Twain Device at 10:19 AM on July 17 [2 favorites]


I have to wonder how much they’ll make on just buying slots to pre-order. You’d think people would learn, given the disastrous state of pre-order games, but I guess PT Barnum was right.
posted by JustSayNoDawg at 10:20 AM on July 17


I have to wonder how much they’ll make on just buying slots to pre-order

Not a huge amount, the preorder reserve is only $5 and only accounts that have already bought more than that were eligible in the first wave. It does seem to have overwhelmed their website last night so there is plenty of interest.

I didn't see Valve claim this device will play every steam game, because that definitely won't be true. There are some weird old games that only play on certain hardware, and Proton will definitely have trouble with some of the anticheat software used by Fortnite and other competitive games (although most of those aren't on Steam). Of course you could install windows on it and then it could play every steam game so that statement might be almost true.

But still, a portable device that plays 90% of steam games out of the box for a reasonable price is a pretty attractive offer. I can see it making a lot of sense for anyone who does a lot of traveling (do those people still exist?)
posted by JZig at 10:27 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


It doesn’t solve a problem that I actually have (how much on the go pc gaming do people want?), but it is a neat device. I’m looking at it as a Linux first tablet with controllers attached. It would be nice if they had usb4, but I bet that 3.2g2 is about the max it could drive externally. Usb4 is nice in that it is more efficient in dividing between multiple devices.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 10:31 AM on July 17


Might I suggest "Gabe Gear" ?

Only if one of its features is it's also a massive knife.
posted by howfar at 10:59 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


Mod note: One very early comment removed, some replies left. Opening up a thread with a "here's my assumptions about a different part of the world" generalization is basically always a bad idea, do not do that.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:03 AM on July 17 [6 favorites]


Proton will definitely have trouble with some of the anticheat software used by Fortnite and other competitive games (although most of those aren't on Steam).

Valve have said they are working directly with anticheat vendors regarding this.
posted by jaduncan at 11:42 AM on July 17 [3 favorites]


So, how long is its hardware going to run newer games at acceptable specs?
posted by delfin at 11:59 AM on July 17


I didn't see Valve claim this device will play every steam game,

In the initial announcement, Valve said the Deck can "pretty much run anything you could run on a PC", but later specified that at the very least Apex Legends, Destiny 2, and R6 Siege won't work. However, Redditors already took the initial piece of info and ran with it to the point saying that the Deck can play everything in Steam and also every Nintendo game through emulation, and then proclaimed over and over again that this was a Switch Killer and Nintendo's days were numbered.

This seems a little bit presumptuous to me. The Switch is fun because it's an easy-to-use handheld console with a broad selection of games that appeal to different audiences and age groups. This includes Nintendo fans that like Mario and Zelda, but also people who like indie games. It's also been out for about four years and has sold around 90 million units.

The Steam Deck is literally a handheld PC. The color, the size, and all the buttons/touchpads makes this thing look intimidating, like something Christian Bale's Batman would whip out to control an army of drones. Yes, there's a bigger selection of games on Steam AND you can also load up Windows and the Epic Store/GOG/etc. and then you can throw some emulators on there to get even more games. But I don't see a general audience going to all that trouble. And I don't know why emulators are seen as such a big deal when emulators have been on tablets and phones for at least 10 years (not to mention iOS and Android having their own games), and Nintendo is still around.

But I don't think the Deck will fail. I'm not sure if it will be more than a niche product. Even if you have a massive library of games on there, it doesn't mean it will be fun. A lot of Steam games are designed to be played on a desk or on a couch. First, meaning longer gaming sessions that don't always fit neatly in the 15 minute pockets of free time people have as they are on the go. Second, this is still a seven inch screen. I had trouble playing Total War Shogun 2 (2011) on a 47-inch TV because the fonts were too small, there's no way to enlarge them, and I ended up having to sit a foot away from my TV. So, my guess is some older games will have UIs designed for PC that will make it hard to read on a small screen, and also some stats and spreadsheet heavy games will also suffer for the same reason.

Another related thing: I don't know how FPS games will fare on this thing. I've never used a Steam Controller, but from reading various experiences people seem to be pretty divided on it. Single player FPS may be playable, but I think for MP or competitive FPS people won't use this because they'll be at a disadvantage against mouse/keyboard players.

However, for popular indie games, which are more action-y games that are usually platformers or metroidvanias, etc., it'll work. As proven on the Switch. So, I think it'll cut into the margins of the Switch's user base in that way.

If Valve wants this thing to be a lasting success with a large user base, they'll need to either tweak more existing games to "fit" how people will use and play on the Deck OR release some games that take advantage of it's capabilities (best to do both, of course).

One question I have is: Will this allow multiple games to be run on the Steam account? Meaning, one person is using a Deck to play on a Steam account while another person is on the PC playing something else on the same one.

One use case that I have not really seen anyone really mention yet is getting Itch.io's site/store to run on the Deck. Itch's games are eclectic, they're short, experimental, and some are free. Meaning, they kind of fit into short play sessions, so are perfect for a handheld. For me, if this was sold first as a machine you an play 1000+ Itch games on, they would have my interest more. But I also realize I'm a niche of a niche audience as not very many people even know about Itch.
posted by FJT at 12:05 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]


I have a daughter who is way into gaming and plays a lot of indie games via Steam. She's in need of a better gaming computer, but money has been tight around here. She's coming over here in a little bit and I'm going to ask her what she thinks of this; it looks to me like it could be a good, more-affordable option while we wait for the day money rains down on us and she can get her gaming PC.
posted by Orlop at 12:13 PM on July 17 [4 favorites]


One use case that I have not really seen anyone really mention yet is getting Itch.io's site/store to run on the Deck.

From leaf's twitter (the owner of itch): Because a few people have asked: The @itchio app should run perfectly fine on a stock Steam Deck, no OS changes needed. I actually develop on Arch Linux system so I can confirm the app works well and is easy to install :)
posted by simmering octagon at 12:13 PM on July 17 [3 favorites]


My daughter wonders if it can actually play Control, a famously beefy game, which is prominently shown on-screen. Thoughts?
posted by Orlop at 12:20 PM on July 17


We put down a deposit on one for one main use case: My partner wants to play PC games in bed or on the couch. We have a decent desktop gaming PC already, but if you work from home and want to game at the end of your day, it's nice to not be sitting at the same desk in the same position you just spent 8 hours in. Yes, gaming laptops of course exist but their ergonomics aren't as conducive to playing while semi-reclined.

I've seen a number of commentators asking "who really needs to play PC games while on the go?" and lamenting the relatively short battery life of the Steam Deck, but there are other reasons why you might want a small, handheld device. She loves her Switch because she can drop it in its dock and play on a TV, then later decide she wants to continue playing while lying down and just take the thing to bed. Being able to do the same with her Steam library as well is pretty attractive.
posted by good in a vacuum at 12:38 PM on July 17 [6 favorites]


Another related thing: I don't know how FPS games will fare on this thing. I've never used a Steam Controller, but from reading various experiences people seem to be pretty divided on it. Single player FPS may be playable, but I think for MP or competitive FPS people won't use this because they'll be at a disadvantage against mouse/keyboard players.

While it's not a First Person Shooter, the most popular Third Person Shooter for a long time was Fortnite and it was primarily being played by people on phones and tablets. Mouse + Keyboard absolutely still dominates in terms of precision, but obviously tons of people without access to mouse + keyboard are still playing it regardless. Fortnite has full crossplay, so you can be playing on a tablet and be matched with someone playing on a PC.

Just my two cents re: "but the controller is weird and it's not like PC gaming at all!"

If people are willing to play shooter games on a fucking phone with weak-ass badly responsive controls on the screen of the phone itself, I think they can handle trackpads.

Source: Every single game of Fortnite my nephews have played has always been on phones and tablets.

EDIT: Extra Source: 73 million people played Fortnite EXCLUSIVELY on iOS. 73 million people don't give a shit about mouse + keyboard and still play anyway, even though they can be matched against people using mouse + keyboard. That doesn't even mention Android numbers.
posted by deadaluspark at 12:53 PM on July 17 [2 favorites]


Streaming has gotten to the point where it works well for anything but competitive multiplayer games.

In a home environment with stable wi-fi I'd agree. On the bus to school, in the back of a car on a road trip, in an airplane, on institutional or free wifi, I think network virtual pcs still aren't reliable, particularly with a fairly reliable 50ms or better response rate. A handheld that stutters all the time because of network latency is going to bomb on the marketplace. Consumers are unforgiving when it comes to human-noticeable latency.

Thin clients aren't ready for primetime yet IMO, because free wi-fi and 4g mobile isn't good enough, not all the time. Humans can recognize stutter down to milliseconds of latency, a major reason live music sessions couldn't happen during lockdown.
posted by bonehead at 1:00 PM on July 17 [3 favorites]


> I preordered one. I waited a few hours, so my place in the queue is in Q1 2022.

I got in 5 minutes after open, but still Q1 2022. I think the December dates are a handful of people to drive interest.

> My daughter wonders if it can actually play Control, a famously beefy game, which is prominently shown on-screen. Thoughts?

Apparently, all video shown is on real devices. Note that the resolution undocked is ~720p, so dialing down most graphics settings is going to be more-or-less unnoticeable.

Valve has to have been working on this for a while: the Steam Link app for IOS has support for custom control layouts. It's configured a bit like the Steam controller, but there's an additional middle touchpad representing the screen and a bunch of extra M1-M8 buttons. What struck me while playing around with it is that it's forcing configuring a controller, even if you're going to be re-arranging the on-screen buttons for the touch interface after.

I think that the additional bits will make automated or semi-automated controller profile creation really easy for the Steam Deck: pre-populate the control scheme with whatever community/official profile is closest and then you can tweak the last bits if there's any friction (which is pretty easy to do while playing, if something bugs you).
posted by Anonymous Function at 1:10 PM on July 17


Just my two cents re: "but the controller is weird and it's not like PC gaming at all!"

Hey, I don't think controllers are weird at all. I loved Splatoon on the Wii U, and felt that game alone made the system worth it to me. I primarily based the mouse/keyboard vs controller opinion on what I've seen from the PCMR and adjacent gaming folks represented on Reddit, the same ones who will say anyone that plays Nintendo games or games on iOS are "casuals", etc. etc. That's the audience that needs convincing, and maybe seeing Valve release the Steam Deck will do just that.
posted by FJT at 1:22 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]


If people are willing to play shooter games on a fucking phone with weak-ass badly responsive controls on the screen of the phone itself, I think they can handle trackpads.

I guess one question is how large the overlap is between those people and the likely audience for Valve hardware, which is presumably composed of people who currently own a significant number of titles on Steam. My impression is that the demographics of Steam users still trend significantly (like over 100%) older than those of Fortnite players.

It seems to me that, if Valve were serious about looking for that latter audience, they'd seek a deal with Microsoft to announce in the latter half of 2022. Given that all MS seems to care about is bringing subscribers to Game Pass, a compatible handheld platform seems to offer them synergy rather than competition. Selling the Steam Deck with 6 months or whatever of Game Pass seems like it would be a good way to persuade a decent number of parents that it is a better deal than a Switch.

The problem is, of course, that the competition between Steam and Game Pass is likely only to grow, and I don't see Valve undermining its revenue source on the possibility of the Steam Deck. OTOH, MS's plan is evidently to eat Valve's (and everyone else's) lunch through what is effectively a price war, something which Valve can't hope to win given the comparative size of the companies, so a Steam subscription service seems out of the question. What to do, then?

It seems like the Steam Deck is probably an attempt to address some challenging long-term commercial questions. But although it looks like a decent product at an excellent price, I don't know if it really answers the questions raised for Valve by MS's current strategy and, more importantly, MS's apparent willingness to leverage the effectively unlimited funds they could throw at it.
posted by howfar at 1:37 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]


It matters to me that it runs an officially supported Linux distribution that I can control as a normal PC, and it matters to me that the maintainers of that distribution are Arch and Valve

Not a gamer here, but I am a Linux user, and this is exciting. If Valve improves the Linux gaming experience enough that my Windows-using friends will switch then I’m all for it.
posted by Monochrome at 2:30 PM on July 17


Humans can recognize stutter down to milliseconds of latency, a major reason live music sessions couldn't happen during lockdown.

It's worth noting that (mainly because differential timing of signal arrival is part of how binaural hearing locates sound sources) we're much more sensitive to audio latency that visual latency. Visual latency sensitivity is about 100ms, while audial sensitivity is in low single millisecond digits. That doesn't mean that 100ms network latency is tolerable for gaming, or that current cell infrastructure is up to the task in most places, but it does mean that the problem of making live music online is much more difficult than that of live gaming (which is why we've had online FPSs for a couple of decades).
posted by howfar at 2:48 PM on July 17 [4 favorites]


From Gamers Nexus ( one of my favourite PC hardware review Youtube channels ) : Valve Steam Deck Console Specs, LP-DDR5, Price, Release Date vs. Nintendo Switch.
posted by Pendragon at 3:02 PM on July 17


>My daughter wonders if it can actually play Control, a famously beefy game, which is prominently shown on-screen. Thoughts?

Steam Deck has 8 RDNA2 compute units to cover the 1280x800 screen
A Radeon 6700XT has 40 of the same RDNA2 compute units to drive a 2160p or 4K screen
1/5 raw compute resources for 1/9 of the pixels, seems legit
posted by k3ninho at 3:11 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]


Looking forward to this, though the timeline seems a bit long and perhaps some of the specifications will seem a bit dusty by the time a product is available. Still, a fiver is a small token, as it goes.

I’m eagerly awaiting my chance to preorder a Playdate

After Panic's Nova was released as a beta product, sold as a production release, but with all the bugs and serious problems related to a beta release, including lost work, I grew wary of putting down money for other Panic stuff. Which is a shame because it otherwise looks interesting, and I'd always supported the company's other products (Transmit, Coda, etc.). I hope they are using the time window provided by the pandemic lockdown to chase down bugs before putting out a final product.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 4:44 PM on July 17


I don't think this is going to scare any of the big console manufacturers, but I don't think it's intended to either. I think this is a really neat product, and for me personally I can think of a few things I'd happily use it for. For example, I love playing Switch games in bed; I think I played about half of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 that way (handheld performance be damned!). But what if I could play Euro Truck Simulator 2, or Grand Theft Auto V, or Crusader Kings III, or any of a thousand other games that will likely never come to the Switch or another portable device, in bed?

This is true even in light of the existence of streaming options—having tried Xcloud, it's surprising what it can let you play, but the actual play experience is still marred by a significant amount of lag. Plus, no streaming service handles everything that's on Steam, and arguably not even a significant fraction of the library. Game Pass via Xcloud probably comes the closest; Geforce Now would've been a neat way to do it but publishers shut that down real quick by pulling their games off the service once it became clear they would see no additional revenue from letting users stream the games they already owned from Nvidia's cloud service. Stadia is still alive, I guess, but its library is miniscule. And hey, did you know Amazon has a streaming games service? If the answer is no, you're not alone.

I think demand for this won't be particularly high; it's definitely a niche product. But I think it'll be pretty successful as a niche product. As noted above, other companies have tried to build their own handheld devices and have been met with success despite having little brand name recognition or pedigree. Here's one of the biggest names in the PC gaming market putting their stamp of approval on the concept. As someone who's looked into a GPD Win or an Aya Neo before, this was a no-brainer.

Oculus got this one right.

All it'll cost you is $399 and your soul.

In all seriousness, I have wondered if the extremely low price point of the Quest 2 is a ploy to get as many people into the Oculus/Facebook ecosystem and start using all that juicy telemetry data for advertising purposes. I own a Rift and a Quest 1 and I'm pretty happy with them, but I'm never buying a Facebook headset again.
posted by chrominance at 6:05 PM on July 17 [3 favorites]


If you already have a PC capable of playing games, you don't have to care about which publishers are being petulant fools. As long as your internet connection doesn't suck too badly, you can stream from your own computer.

If you don't have a PC good enough to play games at reasonable quality/frame rate and want to play PC games (that will run under Proton, aren't complete disk space hogs, and can't be played on the cloud services), the Deck seems like a pretty affordable option.
posted by wierdo at 6:50 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]


Does this mean I can load modded games like Stardew Valley?
posted by Hermione Granger at 2:33 AM on July 18 [3 favorites]


I wonder what the most recent system this could emulate comfortably would be. I'm guessing PS2.
posted by acb at 2:56 AM on July 18


Some interesting points from the Gamer's Nexus segment:

-The screen is natively 16:10. GN brushes this off, but as someone who clings to 1920x1200 displays I can attest that it's often not handled well. Which, at least, means giving up screen real estate to letterboxing and/or a bad FOV. Often also borked UI.

-It supports docked displays at 8K (60hz) and 4K (120hz). Curious to see what performance is like at those resolutions given the relative grunt vs. desktop GPUs, plus whatever WINElike layer is involved.

Also, by mid yesterday delivery dates had slipped to Q2 2022 for the lower and midrange unit and Q3 2022 (!!) for the high end unit.


I've heard a lot of speculation about wiping SteamOS (or whatever the new thing will be called) and installing Windows on these. Do we have some reason to think this will actually work well (for gaming, rather than pocket pen-testing or whatever) or is it all just presumption based on PC-like internals? Do we think Valve is actually going to supply drivers for W11 this, or will it be vjoy and other hackery? What about the graphics chipset?

My daughter wonders if it can actually play Control, a famously beefy game, which is prominently shown on-screen

The game is already a year old. By the time you get your hands on one of these, it will be nearly two years old, or more. That said, trying to play it at 4k or 8k in docked mode may be a slideshow. If it can't run two year old titles well, it's not going to satisfy its target market. Time will tell.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:06 AM on July 18 [1 favorite]


(FWIW, I finished Control a couple weeks ago, and I played it on a motherboard from 2009, now sporting a Xeon 5675 and 980ti 6GB from 2015, plus a PCIe SSD from around 2018 or 2019. I had to scale a few things back, but it was fine -- and lots of fun.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:39 AM on July 18


If you don't have a PC good enough to play games at reasonable quality/frame rate and want to play PC games (that will run under Proton, aren't complete disk space hogs, and can't be played on the cloud services), the Deck seems like a pretty affordable option.

This is what I thought the use-case might be for my daughter—she has to scale back the specs on a lot of games on her computer. I expected her (and my 17-year-old, whose whole life since lockdown began has been gaming online with friends) to be much more excited about this thing than they were. My 17-year-old was only mildly interested, and my daughter (20) shifted the conversation immediately to some thinking she's been doing about possibly aiming for a gaming laptop rather than a new desktop machine.

Meanwhile, my partner, who works in software development, reports that many of his co-workers had already pre-ordered yesterday.
posted by Orlop at 9:15 AM on July 18


For $5, it's hard to resist reserving one to see how it pans out closer to release.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:17 AM on July 18 [2 favorites]


Also, by mid yesterday delivery dates had slipped to Q2 2022 for the lower and midrange unit and Q3 2022 (!!) for the high end unit.

Given that level of demand, there'd be pressure to lay on extra production capacity and get these out the door before they're painfully obsolete. OTOH, there is also the great chip shortage to contend with.
posted by acb at 9:59 AM on July 18 [2 favorites]


Meanwhile, my partner, who works in software development, reports that many of his co-workers had already pre-ordered yesterday.

I was surprised by reports that apparently the high end model is the biggest seller (followed by mid), and it's interesting to speculate that maybe the market for this is going to skew older than a typical console. I mean I guess I'm going to be a big part of the demographic: people who work at their computers all day anyway and don't necessarily want to hang out in front of it in order to game, and yet who happen to have built up large steam libraries over the years, and who are generally just more comfortable with PCs. My family has a Switch, but only my wife and kids use it, because... even though I'd love to pick up and play, consoles as such just aren't my thing. This device is a way for me to actually do that.

Does this mean I can load modded games like Stardew Valley?

I think that's a big part of the appeal.
posted by Alex404 at 10:13 AM on July 18 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I go to lengths (literally in some cases) to couch game using a PC. I reserved the high end model.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:16 AM on July 18 [2 favorites]


Maybe to put it another way, between huge Steam libraries, and retro game emulation, I think there's a significant number of people for whom paying this (higher than a typical console) upfront cost means they'll very rarely have to buy any software to game-on-the-go for years (much less anyway then the 15$ a month or whatever for typical streaming/subscription services).
posted by Alex404 at 10:22 AM on July 18 [1 favorite]


St(r)eam D(r)eck
posted by glonous keming at 1:24 PM on July 18 [2 favorites]


glonous keming

Eponyheretical
posted by snuffleupagus at 1:38 PM on July 18 [1 favorite]


The problem with the Steam Controller, from my own experience, is that on Windows it's made to ONLY work with Steam, and more than that ONLY Steam in Big Picture Mode. It is a case where they intentionally used software to restrict the uses it can be put to. That's why my Steam Controller has seen so little use.

But as far as obsolescence goes, since it can be used as a mostly-normal PC, even when it won't run the top of the line games acceptably, you could use it to run less demanding games, or even just software. Older laptops, so long as they're functional, can be used for simple web browsing, so there is at least that going for the first-gen Steam Deck, general-purpose PCs don't go obsolete as quickly as they used to.
posted by JHarris at 1:41 PM on July 18 [1 favorite]


Given that level of demand, there'd be pressure to lay on extra production capacity and get these out the door before they're painfully obsolete.

And remember that these aren't pre-orders, they're more like reservations. Something else can come out between now and early next year that grab's people's interests too. And there's really no penalty to cancelling, the worst that can happen is that your reservation deposite s credited to your Steam Wallet.

Steam hasn't published the reservation numbers. Some early leaks indicate that they have about over 100k units reserved in the first couple of hours they were open. If I had to make a super uneducated guess, I'd put total reservations right now around 500k to 750k.
posted by FJT at 2:30 PM on July 18




I'm cautiously optimistic but I'll probably wait until hands-on reviews are out before ordering one. I have very many games in my library that would do well on a portable device, especially the dozen or so visual novels I have but haven't gotten around to yet. (So basically, a replacement PSP.)

My Switch is moved throughout the apartment daily for change of location and posture. I can see the Steam Deck being just as convenient.
posted by lesser weasel at 5:53 PM on July 18 [2 favorites]


so, HL3?
posted by exlotuseater at 10:30 AM on July 19


I haven't had a PC that could handle modern games for something like 20 years. I've got a Switch and have bought a bunch of ports of PC games for it: Skyrim, Civ 6, Ori and the Blind Forest, The Outer Worlds, and I've also been given Cuphead as a gift. While I bought most of them on sale, I'd probably have been able to get them for free or close to it if I had bought them for the PC instead so I can see how a system like this would be quite appealing. I'm guessing that as long as the game works fine on PC with just a controller then it'll work on the Steam Deck, which is a lot of games. As far as the ones that tend to use the keyboard I guess we'll have to see how it's dealt with but I'm intrigued by this and will give it a closer look in a year or so when it becomes more readily available and after lots of other people have used it and worked out the big bugs.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:21 PM on July 19


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