Gaming consoles are territorial, fighting over exclusives and playerbases. You might think that, as a gaming handheld, Valve’s new Steam Deck is too, but the tech company says that’s not the case. Not only will you be able to download third-party apps onto the device, you’ll even be able to access competitors’ shops like the Epic Games Store.
The question was put to Valve in an interview over on IGN today. “Can I log into my Epic Games Store account?” the outlet asked. Here was designer Greg Coomer’s response:
Again, you can really do anything that you would expect a [Linux-based] PC to be able to do. So the answer to those things is yes.
Steam Deck will run a new version of SteamOS, a Linux-based platform. But Valve says it won’t restrict what players want to install on the handheld.
“The default Steam Deck experience requires a Steam account (it’s free!),” read’s the company’s FAQ. “Games are purchased and downloaded using the Steam Store. That said, Steam Deck is a PC so you can install third party software and operating systems.”
That’s in stark contrast to other handhelds like Nintendo’s Switch and Sony’s now-obsolete PlayStation Vita. Those devices only ran those companies’ operating systems and software. Owners who wanted to install other operating systems or programs have notoriously had to jailbreak the systems in order to do so. That’s still the only way to get Netflix running on the Switch, for example.
While it’s still far from clear how easy it will be to install third-party stuff on the Steam Deck, or how well Epic Game Store games would run, if at all, it’s a notable stab at openness in a market characterized by walled-off ecosystems. Epic Games itself is still in the midst of a giant lawsuit with Apple over whether it abuses a monopoly status on iPhones with the App Store. While the trial is ongoing, some digital storefronts on smartphones and PCs are already starting to reduce the commissions they charge sellers.
Now if only my PS5 would let me stream Game Pass.
Update - 12:04 p.m. ET, 7/16/21: Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney is also excited about the news. “Amazing move by Valve!” he tweeted yesterday.
“A handheld PC/console hybrid running the SteamOS fork of Arch Linux, and it’s an open platform where users are free to install software or their choosing - including Windows and other stores.”