It is not every day that the gaming community is blessed with a major surprise announcement, especially from Valve – but that is what we got with the Steam Deck, despite early rumours in May. The portable PC from Valve came seemingly out of nowhere and has the entire community buzzing – and the community has thoughts varying from overtly positive and optimistic to confusion and reservation.
The Steam Deck, for all intents and purposes, is a pretty powerful PC that can run the best that the Steam library has to offer – but that is not the only thing it can do. What is perhaps most exciting about the Steam Deck is the fact that players can essentially access games from other great libraries like the Xbox Game Pass or the Epic Games Store.
With decent-enough hardware, a rather interesting design, and all the goodwill that Valve has earned over its illustrious run in the industry – there is a lot to like about the Steam Deck – but perhaps it is not all sunshine and roses.
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Lest we forget the Steam Machine
As excited as nearly everyone is about the Steam Deck – there is also a cautious voice at the back of everyone’s head that reminds them that this is not the first time Valve has tried their hand at console-like hardware. The Steam Machine is a stark reminder that perhaps a pre-built hardware platform isn’t exactly something that the PC crowd is necessarily clamouring for.
It wasn’t that Valve had essentially hadn’t tried their level best with the Steam Machine – the platform had the full weight of the company behind it. Yet, despite all the marketing and the decidedly weird controller – the Steam Machine struggled to sell and was quickly abandoned by Valve. For consolation, the weird controller is still around in case players ever felt that the analog sticks were just getting in the way of them enjoying their games.
One of the many reasons for its failures was speculated to be the fact that there simply wasn’t a great demand for the product. Purely because it was trying to bridge the gap between a console and PC – when users tend to generally favour one extreme or the other – and that it was simply a half-measure in both respects.
It wouldn’t be right to knock the Steam Deck for the failures of the Steam Machine – but it is hard to shake off the feeling that perhaps the PC community, or the gaming community at large, doesn’t take kindly to console-PC hybrids. Yet, the Steam Deck has more to offer to the average gamer than the Steam Machine in one respect – it is a handheld device.
Steam Deck – The PC Master Race and on the move
Valve ran into quite a lot of trouble concerning the SteamOS and the generally “janky” nature of the SteamLink on their previous outing – but perhaps that failure was good education. Quite smartly, Valve will now allow players to use Windows on their hardware and not force them into using the SteamOS – which opens up all kinds of possibilities.
In theory, that alone should make it an instant winner for a lot of players – but it being portable certainly drives home the point. The fact that players can essentially blitz through Stormtroopers in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order during their morning commute will certainly help sell the Steam Deck to the PC fanbase as a great addition, a companion piece for their main PC.
One of the other things that makes the Steam Deck quite an appealing prospect for many is its potential to be a great emulator. As it can run Windows, the thing can run all kinds of emulator software – allowing players to relive the magic of vintage titles with relative ease – also on their morning commute.
The Steam Deck boasts of some pretty impressive hardware – quite especially AMD’s custom APU, which is a Zen 2 + RDNA 2 “powerhouse”. That seems like it can pack a punch and be able to run some of the biggest AAA titles of today – yet that is also what seems to be giving a lot of fans some pause.
All that power, contained within the confines of a handheld PC-console hybrid, sitting comfortably in the player’s hands – what’s going to happen when users decide to see if the Steam Deck can “run Crysis”?
How hot does it get?
So far, only a select few have been able to get their hands on the Steam Deck – and it is not easy to determine whether the next-gen AMD APU featuring a 4-core/9-thread Zen 2 CPU and an RDNA 2 GPU will run into issues that come with overheating.
One of the biggest issues PC gamers have to constantly deal with is having an effective cooling system for their setups so as to mitigate how hot a high-powered build tends to get. All that power of about 2 teraflops right in the player’s hands does seem a little concerning.
The Steam Deck, however, isn’t the first portable PC around – as others like the recent GPD WIN 3 have tried their hand too. So far, that hybrid-handheld PC doesn’t seem to be catching flak for heating issues, despite packing some pretty serious hardware. It’ll take a lot more testing and usage over time to determine whether the Steam Deck has an issue with overheating, as is the case with most PCs.
How will the Steam Deck fare in a market like India?
The Indian gaming community is one that has always embraced the PC Master Race as their go-to platform of choice for gaming and the Steam Deck looks massively appealing – but to whom? The pricing of the PC seems to be put in a weird place where it begins to lose a lot of its appeal as a nice, companion piece for their main setup.
Regional pricing for countries such as India haven’t been revealed, but the standard US price is a tad bit aggressive, to say the least. The lowest-priced model comes in at USD $399, which directly converts to about 22,383 – but reports from IGN India suggest that the cheapest variant of the Steam Deck could sell for about Rs. 40,000 in India.
In a country like India, building a decent PC takes quite a lot of work, but most gamers would agree that Rs 35,000 is not a decent chunk of change to build a decent-enough PC. The Steam Deck, for Rs. 40,000 presents a rather appealing offer for the Indian gamer.
The cheapest next-gen console one can purchase, the Xbox Series S is priced Rs 34,990, and for a little bit more -players can cop themselves essentially a portable Xbox with the Steam Deck. Plus, its docking capabilities will allow gamers to get a full, console-like or PC experience.
Markets such as India might prove to be rather fruitful for Valve as there is a solid demand for affordable PCs in the country and the handheld bit makes it quite a big sell. With mobile gaming forming the zeitgeist in the country, perhaps the Steam Deck could make a huge impact and turn mobile gamers onto the portable PC instead. If Valve does indeed decide to launch in the country, perhaps there is a major chance it could be a runaway success. It might not do PS5 numbers right from the get-go, but eventually, it might blossom into the go-to platform for the country.
The only part about the Steam Deck that remains uncertain is how much of a beating it can take in terms of heating and how well it runs big AAA titles of 2021 and beyond. It will take a lot more information to develop a solid idea of what the Steam Deck really is and who is it for – but for now, it doesn’t hurt to be a little hopeful.