Steam Deck: Smoke and Mirrors

Like many others, I was really hoping for a Switch Pro – but we got Steam Deck instead. Yet this could be a classic win-win situation: The Switch got its cosy space in our hearts for the typical Nintendo entertainment. Though with Valve’s announced handheld, I can dive into the world of PC games in an uncomplicated, comfortable and location-independent way. A standardised interface and unified hardware allow developers to create the best experience for mobile gaming.

However, the glossy presentation still left a few questions. For one, the device is quite large and heavy. Is it really that comfortable? Of course, many classic PC games often require a large screen and the corresponding technology also needs space. But before I have to quibble with unnecessary compromises, there is always the laptop as an alternative. And that’s exactly what I compare Steam Deck to.

Maybe some console owners were flirting with Switch before and now they are in love with Steam Deck – better hardware, more sophisticated line-up. But the laptop is not a bad option either. So why should I choose Valve’s product? Don’t feel like dealing with technical specifications? Do I want something that I just have to switch on and everything is fine? Even for heavy Steam users this device isn’t a no brainer.

I can understand why the price for Valve was “painful”. For roughly 420 euros, you don’t get a gaming laptop experience that makes you say “Nice!”. Steam Deck could fill that gap. But even Steam Deck has to make a few sacrifices. And if it still ends up not running games like Destiny 2 or PUBG, what’s the point of switching?

Adding to that, the weight and layout of the sticks and buttons could be as “painful” to the gaming experience as the price is to Valve. And while the costs are low compared to conventional gaming hardware, it’s still 400 to 700 euros. Moreover I can already connect my PC to the TV very easily and even imitate a classic console experience with the Steam controller.

My personal killer feature isn’t the dock to connect it to the TV, the eight-hour battery life, hifi audio or the pause function, but the gyro sensors. I say that because I already loved them on the Nintendo 3DS. Combined with the stick, you can quickly and, more importantly, accurately aim at your target in a shooter. However, this requires developers to take this feature into account during development.

Games optimised for Steam Deck – in terms of technology and gameplay – could make all the difference. In light of Valve’s previous forays into hardware, however, my hopes are as dampened as my interest in Steam Deck itself. Valve wants to expand its channels without much fuss, but isn’t planning a revolution. Nintendo Switch and laptop strike me as the better combination over Steam Deck and laptop. I don’t attach much importance to the hardware.

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