As we discussed earlier this week, the Steam Deck has had one hell of a launch year. It should be no surprise, then, that Valve has its eye on the future of its new handheld, which it has officially categorized as a “multi-generational product.” The company has now revealed a bit of what it’s hoping to improve and where it’s looking to expand in the hardware game.
In a wide-ranging interview with The Verge, Steam Deck designers Lawrence Yang and Pierre-Loup Griffais talked about ambitions and concrete goals for the Steam Deck. After nearly a year out in the wild, the Deck has certainly impressed with its performance and wide selection of games. However, areas for improvement are clear: The screen is serviceable, but it’s far from that of, say, the new Nintendo Switch OLED Model. And the battery not only tends to drain quickly but, as iFixit observed in its review, it’s one of the least fixable things in an otherwise repair-friendly device. We know now that these last two points are top of mind for Valve.
Though the company didn’t reveal much of its plans for the screen’s improvement, it did share some insight into the battery, its replaceability, and how future iterations of the product are addressing areas of concern.
With a battery that’s quick to lose its juice, and the nature of such a power source being to degrade over time, poor replaceability is a disappointment. Griffais told The Verge that due to the possibility of battery expansion, “you can’t really have the battery-shaped hole [inside the Deck] be exactly the same size as the battery” and that all of the glue that holds it in place is to keep it from moving around too much.
Concern for a rattley battery was apparently an issue in development. “In some of our early prototypes,” Griffais said, “we had [the battery shifting around] and I’ll tell you, it doesn’t feel good at all when you’re just moving around and trying to use your Deck.” Yang comically added, “You don’t want a Steam Deck maraca, and you don’t want a battery possibly touching other important components and jostling them around.”
So the decision to secure the battery in place so rigidly was necessary to get the Deck in a playable, shippable, and reliably safe state. Yang revealed that Valve has “rolled in a change to the geometry of the [glue that holds the battery]” which should allow for easier removal and repairs down the line.
Valve also revealed, perhaps to the surprise and joy of a select few, that a new Steam Controller is also something the company is aspiring to make happen. The original Steam Controller was a bit of an odd bird, but its high level of customization certainly caught the attention of a dedicated, if small, fan base. Us select few who fell in love with it already knew it, but the Steam Deck has continued to demonstrate the need for more malleable and dynamic gamepads for PC gaming.
But if you’re ready to throw money at the screen for a follow-up to Valve’s owl-shaped controller, I’m sorry to say that it might take a while. “Right now, we’re focusing on the Deck,” Yang said. “[A controller is] definitely something where we’d be excited to work with a third-party or explore ourselves.”