Valve recently unveiled their most ambitious hardware yet, the Steam Deck, which is a handheld gaming console running the Steam library.
Valve is primarily known as the company behind Half-Life, Counter-Strike, and Dota, as well as the biggest PC game marketplace, Steam. The company has also dabbled in some hardware, including the Steam controller, which has the most unconventional layout, but a solid touch screen replacing the analog stick and D-pad. Coupled with that is the Valve Index, one of the best VR headsets.
With that being said, Steam Deck is Valve's most ambitious project yet.
How Steam Deck builds up to be more than just another handheld console
Steam Deck is not just the most ambitious attempt at a handheld console, it is the best one yet. Here are a few ways Steam Deck is shaping up to be more than just another handheld console.
Taking Linux gaming to the moon
Since the early days, Microsoft’s Windows has always been the choice for game developers as the go-to PC OS, for its widespread userbase and standardized structure. However, one of the downsides is that Windows is extremely resource-intensive, which leaves limited headroom for games to take advantage of the hardware.
Valve’s Steam Deck runs SteamOS, which is a custom version of Linux. While the list of native games for Linux is limited, Valve is implementing a translation layer called Proton, which runs Windows games on SteamOS with little to no performance penalty.
If the Steam Deck equipped with SteamOS becomes as widespread and popular as Valve expects, developers will surely consider Linux as a viable OS for their games, and optimize their upcoming game to run on the system natively.
Truly portable PC gaming
While portable gaming isn’t anything new to the console space, which has had prominent handheld systems from the Gameboy till the current Nintendo Switch, PC has always lacked a truly portable option.
While gaming laptops do provide an option, they are often bulky and push the definition of portability to the edge, in order to accommodate the necessary hardware.
Steam Deck is the perfect compromise between portability and performance. The engineers at Valve have carefully chosen and optimized hardware to accommodate the smaller size while maintaining a playable framerate. And as a bonus, steam games can now be played on the bus.
One library to play all
Rather than a fully-fledged primary setup, handhelds have always been considered as a secondary option alongside a primary PC. As such, one of the main problems ends up being the game library. Players will rarely buy two versions of the same game for different platforms.
Steam Deck is a brilliant solution to that problem, as it carries over the entire steam library. And with cross-progress and cross-save, a player can shut down his primary setup for the night, take the Steam Deck to bed, and pick up right where they left off.
Retro-indie dream machine
One of the highlights of Steam is its bi-annual sales with games discounted from 80-90%. This gives players an amazing opportunity to build up a massive library of older and indie titles. However, the games end up in a pile of unplayed titles gathering dust.
While the steam deck won’t be able to run the latest and greatest games at the highest quality with maximum framerate, it is perfect to revisit older and indie titles.
At its core, Steam Deck is a PC running an open-source OS (Linux). This means layers will be able to run a slew of software. One of the top choices making the rounds on social media is that of different emulators working on the handheld.
With its vast control options and portability, it is quite perfect for emulating older consoles. This will also help with game preservation.