As we learned yesterday, Valve’s new Steam Deck product is a portable game device capable of running high-quality PC games, priced in the $400 – $650 range.
That sounds an awful lot like what people were hoping for out of a generation advance for the Nintendo Switch. But despite the similarities, analysts are saying these two products will be serving very different markets.
Matthew Bailey, senior analyst at Gamasutra research partner Omdia, explained why: ” The main point to make here is that the Valve Steam Deck should not be seen as a direct competitor to the Switch,” he said.
“Indeed, both devices are going after two distinct markets, with the Switch targeting more casual, console gamers while the Steam Deck – which Valve is clearly pushing as a ‘PC’ device – will primarily target existing PC and Steam gamers.”
He said that Omdia’s user research data indicated only one in ten PC gamers owns a Nintendo Switch typically as “a secondary gaming device.”
Without too much worry about competition from the Switch (or vice versa), does Valve have any advantages in launching the Steam Deck? Bailey classified it as a “low risk launch” since Valve isn’t dependent on the Steam Deck for its primary market. But with a number of pandemic-driven supply shortages, Valve does face some risk of the device not selling as well as expected.
Analyst George Jijiashvili also pointed out that some Steam Deck owners might face a barrier they don’t find on the Switch–their preferred games might not work properly on Steam’s Proton-based OS.
“According to crowd-sourced ProtonDB’s data, 30% of top 100 non-Linux Steam games are either unplayable or have significant issues,” he stated. “ Installing Windows on the Steam Deck is something that Valve permits, but it remains to be seen what sort of impact doing so would have on the battery life and overall performance of the device.“
This isn’t the first time Valve’s tried to get customisable, Steam-driven hardware off the ground, but for whatever reason the Switch-adjacent hardware certainly seems to have piqued the world’s interest.