If you want to play Steam games on the go and don’t feel like waiting the requisite 0-100 days for beloved indies to get ported to the Nintendo Switch, Valve’s now offering an answer to your cries: The Steam Deck, a handheld with PC-ish specs and a surprisingly reasonable price tag. Valve president Gabe Newell says that was by design—even if it comes at a premium for Valve.
Newell, who much like Sauron rules over his company from New Zealand, said in an interview with IGN that the biggest priority was making sure that Steam Deck is intuitive and performs well, with price “secondary” to that and “painful” as a result.
Valve hardware director Shreya Liu echoed Newell’s point, saying that price was key from the get-go. “We knew that the price point was very important, so [...] from the beginning, we designed with that in mind, and we worked very, very hard to achieve the price point that we’re at,” Liu told IGN.
Newell went on to explain that Valve wants this to be the start of something bigger, and that means being “very aggressive” in how it establishes itself in the mobile space.
“Nobody has ever said, ‘Oh, we have a giant success where clearly there’s huge demand for this, but our margins are too thin.’ Right? And a lot of people have overpriced things and killed the opportunity, and sort of convince people that it’s an uninteresting category from the get-go,” Newell said. “We’re doing this for the long haul. And there’s a lot of opportunity.”
This is an especially interesting remark to hear coming from Newell, given that you could argue his company basically did exactly what he’s describing with its VR headsets, first in conjunction with HTC and then on its own. The Valve Index is perhaps the strongest argument in favor of VR ever conceived—at least, from an experiential standpoint—but with its $1,000 price point, it’s a luxury item. Granted, there are many, many other reasons that VR remains a niche at this point, but that’s certainly a contributing factor.
That said, let’s not put the horse before the cart when it comes to ogling the Steam Deck’s price tag. Sure, the base model is $399, but it comes with a puny 64GB of eMMC storage. There are countless individual Steam games that take up more space than that. There’s a reason Steam includes an option to organize your library by “size on disk,” after all. Once you start tacking on more storage space, you immediately enter pricier territory; Steam Deck’s 256GB NVMe model will cost $529, and the 512GB version, said to have an even faster NVMe drive, will cost $649. In the grand scheme of gaming PCs, that’s still not terrible, but it puts the non-diet version of the handheld out of reach for some.
That said, as with the Switch, micro SD cards are an option, so that’s something. Good thing, too; we’re gonna need extra space on our Steam Decks for all the games we’re apparently gonna be able to buy from the Epic Store.