So its been some time since the Steam Deck has been out and quite a few people have started getting their hands on Valve’s latest new invention. The man himself, the big G went out to hand-deliver people their Steam Decks in Seattle, even giving out many of them away for the low cost of nothing.
But this is more about what’s in the box rather than anything surrounding it, and how those insides are a remarkable evolution and deconstruction of every preconceived notion we have had about handheld gaming to date. Half-Life 1, the Source Engine, Half-Life Alyx, Valve has always managed to push the boundaries of what we thought was possible in the gaming space. So it’s nice to see that Valve has once again appeared to shatter another boundary that we had long thought impossible.
One of the best things that the Steam Deck does, even beyond just proving the powers of a handheld console, is that Nintendo finally has a bar to live up to. They are no longer the bar itself, while Nintendo still thrives in the quality of its exclusive titles, there are just as many people who buy the Nintendo Switch solely to play third-party indie titles or heavily optimized console ports of games, like DOOM or Skyrim. Steam Deck presents an alternative where… what if you didn’t need to completely choke the visual fidelity of your games in order to get them running on a handheld?
What if your handheld device could just play the latest next-gen releases like Elden Ring and even Cyberpunk 2077. You can literally even turn your Deck into a Nintendo Switch, or a portable PlayStation 2 or PlayStation 1 because of how easy it is to apply console emulation on the Deck. There have been showcases of Nintendo’s own first-party titles running better on the Deck through emulation than the Switch itself.
It’s not even just the power where Steam Deck again outdoes Nintendo, its convenience. Having the luxury to just transfer your Steam library into the Steam Deck is a luxury that Nintendo cannot match. The “Nintendo tax” that has always been slapped to any and all games ported or released on Nintendo Switch makes even less sense now that you can just buy games at a significantly more affordable cost through Steam due to the convenient regional pricing on the platform. This makes playing third party indie games on the Steam Deck a significantly more enticing option.
All of this is without mentioning just how much in touch Valve is with the community. There’s an excellent level of transparency here that is often lost between brand and consumer. While Nintendo still struggles to deal with any level of interaction with their fans. Here I would insert the meme of Steve Buscemi saying, “How do you do fellow kids,” but I think that would be inaccurate as there is no way that Nintendo will ever even try to make such an earnest effort for their community.
I don’t want this to be taken the wrong way however, the Switch is an excellent device, one that may have led to the existence of the Steam Deck in the first place. It has been home to some of the greatest games of this generation; games like Breath of The Wild and Super Mario Odyssey. Furthermore, the Switch is also more portable than the Steam Deck due to its size. Nintendo’s contribution to handheld gaming shouldn’t be downplayed simply because of the existence of the Steam Deck. Rather optimistically, the Deck represents a very bright future for handheld gaming and it’s going to be very interesting to see how other brands maybe even outside of Nintendo will react to it.