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The Steam Deck

Val the Moofia Boss

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Nintendo, Epic, and Microsoft should all probably be somewhat concerned.
Given how well Steam's last "console" did, I'd say they have nothing to be afraid of.

People could already connect their PC to their TVs (via a cable or streaming) and play their games on the big screen if they wanted. If they wanted to play on the go then they could stream their PC to their phone. And most people who buy the Switch aren't buying for the dual functionality; they're buying for access to the current library of Nintendo games.
 

ParadiseLost

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Given how well Steam's last "console" did, I'd say they have nothing to be afraid of.
Steam's last console was just a fancy streaming stick, and was pretty much doomed to fail from the moment it launched.

People could already connect their PC to their TVs (via a cable or streaming) and play their games on the big screen if they wanted.
That was just an example of the functionality of the device; it isn't really a major selling point at all.

If they wanted to play on the go then they could stream their PC to their phone.
Not a thing most consumers are even aware of, let alone would actually use.

If you mean things more like X Cloud or such. I think those are also much more impractical than the average person realizes.

And most people who buy the Switch aren't buying for the dual functionality; they're buying for access to the current library of Nintendo games.
Again, the dual functionality isn't really the selling point here. The portability and library is. Along with the much better technology.

Steam Deck runs in Standard Definition, same as the Switch. But its technical specs are way better. Leading to ironic situations like the fact that the Steam Deck will probably run Monster Hunter Stories 2 way, way better than the Switch does, despite the fact that Stories 2 was optimized for Switch hardware.

When you consider how much cheaper games are on Steam vs Nintendo, there isn't even a real console price difference.

Honestly... here's the thing, if you want a portable console and you don't care about Nintendo Exclusives or couch co-op... what reason is there to buy a Switch?

I was planning on buying a Switch for travel, depending on the SteamPal and Nintendo Switch Pro announcements. I'm definitely not buying a Switch now.

To be clear, I'm not saying Steam Deck has a snowballs chance in hell of actually taking significant market share from the Nintendo Switch. But I do think it has a serious chance of stealing potentially as much as 10% of the handheld market share from Nintendo in the next five years, as a ballpark estimate. And that is some serious money.

It might not be a competitor in a lot of situations (for example, with families considering buying a Switch). But I think it can hold its own as a portable option with serious gamers, because there are a lot of serious gamers who see the Switch as a way to play games portably (why else would ports of games like Doom: Eternal, Wolfenstein 2, Witcher 3, etc. happen?) and for these games, Steam Deck is a vastly superior alternative.
 

ShadowArxxy

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Steam's last console was just a fancy streaming stick, and was pretty much doomed to fail from the moment it launched.
In my opinion, the Steam Box was actually a very useful -- if specialized -- device. I don't use mine anymore, but that's because I moved to a small condo where there's no longer an extensive physical separation between my gaming PC and my TV.
 

ParadiseLost

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In my opinion, the Steam Box was actually a very useful -- if specialized -- device. I don't use mine anymore, but that's because I moved to a small condo where there's no longer an extensive physical separation between my gaming PC and my TV.
The Steam Boxes (officially called Steam Machines) were literally just PCs running Steam's custom version of Linux.

Also, I was referring to Steam Link.
 

Stargazer

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Yeah this thing has my attention. In the absence of a "Switch Pro" with improved specs, this is really tempting for me. I already have a decent gaming desktop, and a gaming laptop, and a Switch...but I dunno, this is just reeeeeeally tempting. It would be so nice to play some of my favorite PC games on the go that haven't made it to Switch. And the experience with games that can play on both will be far superior on the Deck. They showcased Jedi Fallen Order specifically running on the Deck...that's one of my favorite games in recent memory, and to be able to play it on a handheld? Tempting, that's all I can say.

What's interesting about all of this is that this continues a growing trend of handheld PC gaming. There are already devices on the market like the GPD Win 3 and the Aya Neo. And Dell showcased a handheld gaming PC device at a tech show a year or two ago as I recall, though that has yet to come to market. And now a big player like Valve is looking to making a splash. I have a feeling that this isn't just a flash in the pan, but an emerging product category. I do think a big driver of this is the Switch. I think the Switch illustrated that there is a demand from older consumers for devices to play "AAA" games on the go. A handheld PC can fill that demand, and go a step further in the experience than the Switch does. No, I don't think these products really pose a threat to the Switch. They occupy a price category above the Switch sort of by necessity, they're always going to be a little more niche than Switch just like how gaming PCs are a little more niche than game consoles. But I think there's a chance for them to find that niche, to successfully coexist with the Switch like gaming PCs successfully coexist with game consoles.

Ok, now to talk about the specs a bit. A key takeaway is that this is running on the same tech as the new generation of consoles -- AMD's Zen 2 CPU architecture and RDNA 2 GPU architecture. Zen 2 is a couple years old now, but it's still pretty good, and RDNA 2 is AMD's latest and greatest (and was really well received vs Nvidia's Ampere, excepting ray tracing performance, which wouldn't really be a possibility in this performance class for either chipmaker anyways). Obviously it's much less powerful than what's in the new consoles, but it's the same basic tech. Compared to a couple similar devices, the Aya Neo and the GPD Win 3, there are pros and cons. Notably the Steam Deck has a 4 core, 8 thread CPU, while Aya Neo has a 6 core CPU (without hyperthreading). So the Aya Neo may have more CPU headroom. But the Neo's GPU is an older Radeon Vega architecture with 6 compute units (CUs), while the Deck is RDNA 2 with 8 compute units. So it will have much better graphical power. The GPD Win 3 uses an Intel CPU and integrated graphics so it's harder to directly compare, but it may be in the same spot of having more CPU power but significantly less GPU power than the Deck. And on these devices I think they're going to run into a GPU bottleneck well before hitting a CPU bottleneck, so my money's on the Deck for being the better solution. Plus, the Deck uses faster LPDDR5 RAM rather than the LPDDR4 that the Win 3 and Neo have. That's a really big deal, and a big advantage the Deck is going to have over those devices.

One thing that needs to be said though is that the base model Deck is DOA. Only 64 GB of internal memory, and it's eMMC memory, which is slower than a standard SATA 3 SSD? Yuuuuuuck. Most modern games won't even fit on that. The mid tier model with a 256 GB NVMe SSD will be much better just from a performance perspective, though it's still only going to be able to install like three or four modern games at a time. And forget about installing modern games to a flipping micro SD card and expecting a decent experience. If I get this, I'm going for the full 512 GB model, and I think they probably should have made a 1 TB model.

Given how well Steam's last "console" did, I'd say they have nothing to be afraid of.

People could already connect their PC to their TVs (via a cable or streaming) and play their games on the big screen if they wanted. If they wanted to play on the go then they could stream their PC to their phone. And most people who buy the Switch aren't buying for the dual functionality; they're buying for access to the current library of Nintendo games.
If you mean "Steam Machines", Valve is handling this very differently. Steam Machines were supposed to be a console alternative...but Valve just opened the platform up to any hardware integrator that wanted to make something. The products ranged from $500 to $2000. There was no coherence, it was just PC gaming running SteamOS instead of Windows. This time, it's a specific device Valve is making themselves, with only three clearly differentiated SKUs. I think this stands a much better chance of succeeding than Steam Machines did.

And I've tried streaming games from my PC to my phone, using one of the very games Valve showcased on the Deck, Jedi Fallen Order. It was an unplayable mess.
 

Terthna

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Speaking as someone who owns a GPD Win 2, and regularly follows news regarding that company and the Ultra-mobile PC market as a whole; this is a game changer. It looks on paper like it blows pretty much everything else that has been released recently out of the water, and it couldn't have come at a worse time for companies like GPD; who are struggling right now even more than usual with severe quality control issues.

Now personally, I'm not a fan of the form factor; I prefer clamshells with built-in thumb keyboards that protect the screen (I was seriously upset when GPD announced that the Win 3 was going to be designed completely differently from the Wins 1 & 2), over screens with half a controller bolted to either side.
 

ParadiseLost

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I just really want to be able to take my Steam library on the go. Even casual games.

I could fit a dozen VNs onto this thing and be taking less than 10% of the drive. And TB-RPGs just feel like they would be perfect for this. Things like Octopath Traveller and Persona 4 Gold.

Bloodstained: RotN and Lego games... A lot of games feel like they'd be perfect for this.
 

Val the Moofia Boss

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In retrospect, perhaps the SteamDeck will sell better than I had initially thought, not because of its mobility gimmick, but because it's effectively an entry level gaming PC. If you're a PC noob and want to get into PC gaming, you either have to flush thousands of dollars down the toilet on a crappy prefab rig, or you have spend dozens and dozens of hours doing research on what you should buy, browsing on where to get the best discounts for the parts, learning how to assemble all of the stuff (and perhaps buying tools to assemble the rig), then spending hours getting your drivers and security systems and Steam setup, etc. That's rather intimidating for first timers. Or you can just lay down $650 for a SteamDeck - which is a pretty good gaming PC and can be hooked up to a monitor with a mouse and keyboard - and you're good to go.
 

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I don't like that the dock is coming later and will be sold seperately, but I have to admit that the top end one of these is tempting, though I agree 1TB storage is what it should have.
 

ParadiseLost

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I don't like that the dock is coming later and will be sold seperately, but I have to admit that the top end one of these is tempting, though I agree 1TB storage is what it should have.
... They are already selling these at a loss of probably $200+ per machine.
 

Robovski

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Indeed. PC games have exploding storage requirements for AAA titles. Kinda want to buy one with more capacity if I can up-front but I don't expect it to be the same price.
 

Stargazer

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I don't think he's saying that they should sell it for the same price as the one with 512GB of internal storage; just that the top end should have 1TB.
Yeah that's what I mean. If I buy this I'm going for the 512 GB model, and I would have splurged up to $700-$800 if it meant getting a full 1 TB. I feel like that should be the standard for a game system in 2021. (It's the one drawback to the Xbox Series S. It's a great value, but the 512 GB storage means you're probably going to buy an expansion card, and those are pricey. You'll end up spending nearly as much as you would have just buying a Series X.)

In retrospect, perhaps the SteamDeck will sell better than I had initially thought, not because of its mobility gimmick, but because it's effectively an entry level gaming PC. If you're a PC noob and want to get into PC gaming, you either have to flush thousands of dollars down the toilet on a crappy prefab rig, or you have spend dozens and dozens of hours doing research on what you should buy, browsing on where to get the best discounts for the parts, learning how to assemble all of the stuff (and perhaps buying tools to assemble the rig), then spending hours getting your drivers and security systems and Steam setup, etc. That's rather intimidating for first timers. Or you can just lay down $650 for a SteamDeck - which is a pretty good gaming PC and can be hooked up to a monitor with a mouse and keyboard - and you're good to go.
Well that's part of the appeal, but I think you may be underestimating how much people actually do want to play PC games on a handheld. The portability was in fact a big driver of the Switch's success. Keep in mind that the Switch sold well from the get go, before it had a large library of games. Yes it had Breath of the Wild and that made a big difference, but that was just one game. I remember people complaining there was barely anything to play on Switch besides BOTW at launch. And Nintendo needs more than just its game library to sell consoles, re: the Wii U. The device itself needs to have a unique appeal to set it apart from Sony & Microsoft, and for the Switch it was the portability and dual functionality.

The games matter, and the portability matters. There's a reason a number of games like Doom, The Witcher 3, Skyrim, etc have seen successful ports to the Switch even though most people interested in those games already own them on PC or console. People are willing to spend money on those games again to take them on the go. For me there's a plethora of favorite games that have yet to be ported to Switch - Jedi Fallen Order, Mass Effect Legendary Edition, Dragon Age Inquisition, etc. I already have them in my Steam library, I can already play them on my PC, but it would be really cool to play them on a handheld. I think that's a big target demographic for the Steam Deck, that Valve is looking to sell to people who have sizable existing Steam libraries and would just love to take that library on the go. Not just "first timers".
 

Terthna

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Well that's part of the appeal, but I think you may be underestimating how much people actually do want to play PC games on a handheld. The portability was in fact a big driver of the Switch's success. Keep in mind that the Switch sold well from the get go, before it had a large library of games. Yes it had Breath of the Wild and that made a big difference, but that was just one game. I remember people complaining there was barely anything to play on Switch besides BOTW at launch. And Nintendo needs more than just its game library to sell consoles, re: the Wii U. The device itself needs to have a unique appeal to set it apart from Sony & Microsoft, and for the Switch it was the portability and dual functionality.

The games matter, and the portability matters. There's a reason a number of games like Doom, The Witcher 3, Skyrim, etc have seen successful ports to the Switch even though most people interested in those games already own them on PC or console. People are willing to spend money on those games again to take them on the go. For me there's a plethora of favorite games that have yet to be ported to Switch - Jedi Fallen Order, Mass Effect Legendary Edition, Dragon Age Inquisition, etc. I already have them in my Steam library, I can already play them on my PC, but it would be really cool to play them on a handheld. I think that's a big target demographic for the Steam Deck, that Valve is looking to sell to people who have sizable existing Steam libraries and would just love to take that library on the go. Not just "first timers".
Personally, I bought my GPD Win 2 expecting to use it not just as a portable gaming device, but as a fully-capable handheld PC; so I'm not a fan of the recent design trend in the Ultra-mobile PC market that attempts to emulate the Switch's success, by mimicking its design cues and focusing solely on delivering a gaming handheld that just so happens to run PC games.
 

ParadiseLost

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Personally, I bought my GPD Win 2 expecting to use it not just as a portable gaming device, but as a fully-capable handheld PC; so I'm not a fan of the recent design trend in the Ultra-mobile PC market that attempts to emulate the Switch's success, by mimicking its design cues and focusing solely on delivering a gaming handheld that just so happens to run PC games.
Steam Deck will have a touchscreen though, so it shouldn't be too difficult.
 

Sobek

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Literally PC Master Race the Portable.

Given how it runs Linux and Gaben and Valve confirmed you can just fiddle with it how much you like this is in essence a portable entry level gaming PC. You have years of backlog PC gaming you can run thanks to Valve Proton to run windows games on Linux, and the emulation possibilities are simply immense. Anything below XBoxOne and PS4 will likely run flawlessly.

Switch, Gamecube, 64, Snes, Nes, Dreamcast, Saturn, Mega Drive, Genesis, Playstation 1, 2, 3, OG Xbox, 360.... All in one machine.

 

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Well I went ahead and reserved a 512 GB model. It's just $5 for a reservation, no commitment to actually buy, so why not make sure I'm at least on the list to be sure I can get this in the first half of next year? And I really do want this thing.

The guys at the Eurogamer tech column Digital Foundry of course made an initial overview video and an over hour long discussion video.



One thing they bring up in the discussion that I think a lot of people are overlooking is Windows drivers. People keep saying "Oh it's just a portable PC, you could erase SteamOS and install Windows if you want". But it uses a semi-custom AMD APU which, at this point, has a unique graphics component. If Valve has intellectual control over the chip design much like Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo control the chips in their devices, they may not release proper Windows graphics drivers. Valve won't stop you from installing Windows, and they're not going to explicitly shoot down the possibility when promoting the device. But they have no obligation to fully enable Windows on their device by providing graphics drivers. A comparison the Digital Foundry guys make is Linux on PS3. You technically could install Linux on an original PS3 - but you couldn't really do much with it, because there was no driver support.

Personally, this doesn't make much of a difference. I'm looking to use this for games, and by showing off demanding games like Jedi Fallen Order and Control I'm pretty confident in the performance of the Proton compatibility layer. But I suspect people expecting to be able to get a full Windows desktop experience out of the device may be in for a rude awakening.

Edit: On the more positive side, the base model may not be as DOA as I thought. Turns out that Valve is confident enough in their micro SD card reader that all the games showcased in the IGN videos were running off of micro SD. And thinking about it, that base model really is positioned as a competitor to the Switch. For just $50 more than the Switch OLED, you get a device with the same internal storage, and far superior hardware specs. There will be the added cost of a high capacity micro SD card, when technically you could get by on Switch just using game cartridges. But almost my entire Switch library is digital, so I think for many people they would spend on a micro SD card for their Switch anyways.

I'm spoiled on SSD loading times with my PC games, so I'm still going to splurge on the 512 GB model myself. But, if someone just wanted a handheld device to play "AAA" games on, and didn't particularly care about Nintendo exclusives, I think I would actually recommend going for the base model Steam Deck over the Switch. The Switch Lite is arguably still a good buy at half the price of the Steam Deck. But the OLED model? Between Switch Lite and the Steam Deck, I kind of think it's already irrelevant.
 
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Terthna

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One thing they bring up in the discussion that I think a lot of people are overlooking is Windows drivers. People keep saying "Oh it's just a portable PC, you could erase SteamOS and install Windows if you want". But it uses a semi-custom AMD APU which, at this point, has a unique graphics component. If Valve has intellectual control over the chip design much like Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo control the chips in their devices, they may not release proper Windows graphics drivers. Valve won't stop you from installing Windows, and they're not going to explicitly shoot down the possibility when promoting the device. But they have no obligation to fully enable Windows on their device by providing graphics drivers. A comparison the Digital Foundry guys make is Linux on PS3. You technically could install Linux on an original PS3 - but you couldn't really do much with it, because there was no driver support.

Personally, this doesn't make much of a difference. I'm looking to use this for games, and by showing off demanding games like Jedi Fallen Order and Control I'm pretty confident in the performance of the Proton compatibility layer. But I suspect people expecting to be able to get a full Windows desktop experience out of the device may be in for a rude awakening.
If that's the case, it at least gives the existing Ultra-mobile PC companies some sort of edge; theoretically at least, seeing as they seem to be in the process of transitioning away from their devices providing a full Windows desktop experience, and also focusing more on them being portable gaming devices. Personally, seeing as I refuse to use Steam and would only consider using one of their devices if it could fully run Windows, it just makes their device even less appealing to me.
 
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