The first group of reservation holders can now complete their purchase of Valve’s Steam Deck, but its reception comes with wider implications.
As a powerhouse that promises compatibility with just about any game in Steam‘s library, Steam Deck was one of the most highly anticipated handheld gaming consoles in 2021. However, due to a global shortage of hardware components, Valve had to push the Deck’s release date to early 2022. With the first shipments underway, the company’s efforts to navigate the challenges of the handheld gaming market with such a revolutionary device are bound to be a true game-changer in the video game industry, and perhaps even beyond.
Driven by the desire to improve the mobility of PC gaming and cater to everyone’s budget, Steam Deck’s three distinct models come with the same core components but varying storage and adjusted price tags. Aside from the impressive hardware specifications that put the system on par with gaming laptops, the device’s biggest selling points are its portability and compatibility with the Steam library. But how does Steam Deck’s launch impact the future of gaming as a whole?
First and foremost, Valve laid the framework and successfully delivered a portable system capable of revolutionizing the benefits currently associated with PC gaming. While the idea of a handheld PC gaming device has been around for some time, the launch of Steam Deck is by far the biggest step ever taken toward that reality. At a competitive price, this portable stand-alone system now provides every gamer with a welcome opportunity to play demanding PC titles without the need for a dedicated high-end computer.
It is also important to remember that Steam’s hefty library of over 62,000 titles also factors into the device’s potential. From a technical standpoint, it puts the Steam Deck in a league of its own, which could very well chart the future of game development. As the number of available PC titles supported by the Steam Deck steadily rises, more and more aspiring developers are likely to consider tweaking their existing code for SteamOS rather than building it from the ground up to accommodate the hardware limitations of other portable gaming systems.
In addition to providing game developers with necessary tools to improve their accessibility features, Steam Deck also addresses the players’ desire for a more flexible approach to gaming sessions. Thanks to the updated Steam Cloud Sync, players can now seamlessly shift between their computer and Steam Deck while keeping their in-game progress. Since the service builds on Steam’s cloud save functionality, it ensures that all save files are automatically synchronized and downloaded when the player runs Steam on either device.
Many believe that the much-anticipated Steam Deck will eventually become a fierce contender to the Nintendo Switch in the handheld gaming market. While there are some similarities between the devices’ respective builds, putting them in the same basket does not do either system justice. Despite the fact that both have contributed to the video game industry with innovation and inclusion in their own right, the devices are marketed toward somewhat different audiences whose interests do not necessarily overlap. Nintendo Switch and Steam Deck should not be viewed as competitors, but rather contributors to a greater cause.
Whether Valve will raise the bar even further for upcoming handheld gaming systems after the first couple of Steam Deck batches ship remains to be seen. So far, the odds seem to be in Valve’s favor, and the company already has some ideas for the second generation, which will take advantage of Steam Deck’s sheer horsepower to push beyond the limits of the traditional PC gaming environment. As long as Valve has learned from its ill-fated Steam Machines and taken a few notes from Nvidia’s portable Shield and GPD’s WIN devices, the Deck’s potential to shape the future of handheld gaming is all but guaranteed.
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About The Author
Constantine Morgus (56 Articles Published)
Constantine Morgus is a Game and Narrative Designer by “trade”. He has also worked as a Content Writer and Ghostwriter in the past. Since Constantine is multilingual, he spouts (lyrical) nonsense more often than he would like to admit. Strangely enough, none of it is reflected in his Games Features… or so he would like to believe!