Tobold's Blog
Friday, July 16, 2021
Steam Deck thoughts

I am currently on my summer holidays, playing games (mostly Monster Hunter Stories 2) on my Switch. And I am hearing the news of the “Switch Killer”: Valve’s newly announced Steam Deck, a Switch-like console able to play Steam games. Color me skeptical. While I am well aware that there are far more Steam games than there are Switch games, and that Steam games are generally cheaper, I believe that the Switch has one fundamental advantage: Games that have been designed for its particular format and control scheme. Or, in other words, the Steam Deck will have lots of games that were designed for a PC with a large screen, mouse and keyboard.

As rhe name suggests, one of the big selling point of the Switch is that you can play it either handheld or docked, like a console. While you will be able to dock a Steam Deck too, that basically ends you up with a $399 PC; and PC gamers are terrible snobs, who will tell you that they have graphics cards more expensive than that. Most people buying a Steam Deck will never dock it, because they already got a more powerful PC. The reason to buy a Steam Deck is playing PC games handheld. I can think of a number of games for which that should work fine, especially indie games. I can also think of a lot of games that I sure as hell would not want to play on a 7” 1280x720 screen using thumb controllers. UI elements that have been designed to be readable on a 27” screen don’t necessarily scale down very well. And a thumbstick doesn’t have the same precision as a mouse. I’m not saying you can’t make great games for small screens and thumbsticks, but it is hard to make a game that is great on every possible screen size with every possible control setup. PC games aren’t usually designed for touch screen controls, for example.

There are some Switch games I don’t like, because they are basically ports of PC games and suffer from exactly these issues. And there are games on Steam, e.g. Monster Hunter Stories 2, which have been designed for a console and will run fine on the Steam Deck. But with my preference for relatively complicated games, I don’t think my Steam library would be a very good fit with the Steam Deck.

The biggest sticking point for me is the price. I already own a Switch and a gaming PC. I don't game outside of my home. So even though I'm intrigued by being able to play PC games handheld I can't justify spending $300+ when my PC is sitting right there.

If they had a cheaper version that just used Steam Link instead of running the games itself I'd be all over that.
The intriguing thing about this is how it's basically a full PC. People are talking about how you can load Game Pass (or Epic!) on there and basically have hundreds of games ready to go. Nevermind the ease of loading emulators. I bought a PSP many years ago specifically because I wanted to be able to play SNES games on the go. Being able to do that AND play the pile of indie games I have accumulated on Steam over the years is a major coup.

The problem I have these days is that I'm not "on the go." Having a toddler means needing to drop everything at a moment's notice, and we're all working from home so there is no commute or downtime at work. Not that it'd make a great impression whipping one of these things out at work anyway.

Nevertheless, with the PSP/Vita no longer being made, I'm just glad that these sort of things still exist. I would prefer not having to choose between Chinese knock-offs and locked-down Nintendo offerings in which they charge $50 for 10+ year old ports.
€549 for the 256GB version is just out of this world. Even the "cheapest" one (64GB) still sells for €419.
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