As reported by The Verge over the weekend, the legendary repair advocates over at iFixit.com plan to offer essentially every part of the Steam Deck for sale, including the motherboard with its custom AMD chip. While word of this was undoubtedly exciting for Steam Deck fans, iFixit took to Twitter to state that the news was a little bit premature and that a full reveal of its replacement parts offerings is yet to come.
Though the Steam Deck is a powerful and impressive machine, many have noted key areas where it could be improved. iFixit has been quick to offer solutions to this, such as quieter replacement fans for folks looking to hush up the machine’s ever-present whine.
When you combine this with the fact that Valve—much as it did for its now-departed Steam Controller (RIP, my darling)—has made the CAD files for the Steam Deck available under a Creative Commons license, and designed the machine to be remarkably modular in comparison to other controllers and portables, it’s hard not to be impressed and inspired by the potential for this machine to become a gold standard for user repairability in the video game space.
All of this is of significance when you consider the reality that virtually every controller out there seems to be suffering from the inevitable “drift,” with some users pursuing interesting avenues of repair. Nearly all controller analog sticks come from the same manufacturer, Alps, using hardware that iFixit describes as having “predictable [and] preventable issues.” iFixit claims the sticks’ dual-potentiometer design is likely to wear out with as little as “400 hours of game time.” Pending any future changes to the standard mechanisms used in these devices, or more generous replacement programs, having access to modular parts that require a few simple tools can at least offer a quick solution to players willing to crack their devices open—or provide said services to others.
Beyond repairability, access to CAD files has inspired fan-made solutions to accessories Valve has yet to make itself. A trip through Thingiverse will reveal all kinds of stands, docks, and battery holders designed by gamers with an eye for engineering and access to a 3D printer.
With recent system launches that fail to deliver on hype or meet fans’ hopes still fresh in memory, it’s interesting to observe a community that’s taking solutions and ideas into its own hands. Services like iFixit providing good-quality replacement parts and educational teardown / repair videos can hopefully inspire a greater overall awareness and education of the overall awareness of the repairability of gaming devices, and encourage manufacturers to give more thought into their construction methods and repair options.