January 27, 2023

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The Steam Deck changed PC gaming

The resounding success of the Nintendo Switch might suggest that anything similar in form factor and price would do just as well. But since its launch in 2017, nothing has garnered the attention quite like Nintendo’s hybrid console. Valve, makers of standout devices like the Valve Index as well as equally unsuccessful products like the Steam Controller and various Steam Machines (if you can even remember those), was a surprising new competitor in the industry when it announced the Steam Deck. A handheld PC that could take your Steam library anywhere sounded far too good to be true, but since its launch in February this year, it’s a device that never fails to surprise.

There were a few things standing in the way of the Steam Deck’s success at first. At its launch, Valve announced just over 100 games that had been verified as compatible with the Steam Deck, with only 60 of them achieving the highest compatibility level. The Linux-based OS and Proton – which the translation layer games would make use of – seemed capable of ruining any chances for the Steam Deck before it really took off. But that didn’t stop the early stocks from pre-ordering faster than most could react, setting the Steam deck up for a big and meaningful launch.

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Now Playing: 8 Horror Games to Play on Steam Deck

When it finally made its way into consumers’ hands, it had just the right amount of imperfection to be endearing. Yes, not every game in your library worked out of the box, but that didn’t seem to matter either when you could take games you played months earlier on a PS4 just as easily and run surprisingly well on a handheld. Smaller titles shone on Valve’s device, where hardware limitations were a much smaller factor in great performance and the form factor made playing those games more engaging than behind a monitor at a desk. The Steam Deck delivers on its promise of giving you a large game library on the go, while enticing you to continue expanding it within the Valve ecosystem.

Perhaps the greatest triumph was how it managed to completely simplify the process of playing games on a PC. Valve has used its console-like interface, Big Picture Mode, on Steam for years, but it’s never felt more at home than it does on the Steam deck. It’s satisfyingly easy to browse your existing library of titles and buy new games within the confines of a slickly designed interface, without exposing yourself to the tricky workings of the underlying software that make it all possible. With easy-to-decipher flags that signal whether or not a game works on the Steam deck, it’s easy enough to understand why something works or not without having to wonder if it’s something with your unique configuration in a desktop Build has to do and, worse, how you’re going to solve it.

Aside from the competing hardware, this user-friendly software layer is what sets the Steam Deck apart from so many other similar competitors, such as: B. the several handhelds of the brand Aya. These handheld PCs run primarily on Windows, which makes them far more similar to a desktop PC and, coincidentally, makes playing games a bit more of a hassle as the operating system and hardware struggle to work smoothly together. With such a tight connection between SteamOS and the Steam Deck hardware, handheld is the next PC gaming that emulates the ease of use of a console without sacrificing the granularity of choice that allows you to play games the way you do want it .

The Steam Deck is malleable enough to please even those willing to tinker with it, with a choice of options for refresh rates, resolution scaling (with system-level AMD FSR support), and options to limit power consumption to save battery life to extend. All of this has an impact on how you will experience gaming, coupled with the plethora of options that most PC titles offer. Although the high-level user experience allows most to enjoy games without the complexity of these options, they still exist for those who come from backgrounds where they are vital to overall enjoyment. It’s this balance that allows the Steam Deck to cater to the same PC crowd that has satisfied Steam for over a decade, while also inviting those who might be intimidated by the number of choices required, by simplifying much of the process will. Valve has successfully lowered the barrier to entry for PC gaming, with a device that also makes you question why you’re ever lugging around a much bulkier, hotter, and far more expensive laptop to play on the go again. It’s a feat that so many PC manufacturers have tried to achieve without coming close to that level of success.

It’s the Steam Deck’s flexibility that makes it such an enticing purchase, made even easier by Valve’s aggressive pricing, that makes building an equivalent desktop competitor a challenging prospect. Better yet, the Steam Deck could even serve as a productivity device, although it’s fine for relatively light workloads like word processing and web browsing. Because of its open nature, you can choose what Valve put on it and configure everything from scratch, load up Windows, and dig into Xbox Game Pass if you wish. You’ll be sacrificing much of what makes the Steam Deck so easy to use, but Valve’s decision to give you that choice (while also giving you the tools to undo everything if you want) is refreshing testament of trust its consumers, which so few platforms of this kind reflect. It’s a sign that standing in the way of such experiments would be a waste of time, and that it’s more beneficial to ensure that the support process is as refined as possible in terms of the time Valve itself spends on these systems would expend, and for those they will eventually support.

Just as it was almost impossible not to recommend a Nintendo Switch purchase, the same can be said for the Steam Deck on the eve of its first anniversary. It has become one of the easiest ways to get into PC gaming, allowing you to get started with a brand new Steam account for gaming on the go, or a new home for your existing library to store your existing library in need to compromise what it means to play games on PC and re-contextualize the perceived barrier to entry you need to overcome to simply enjoy this space. By streamlining the entire process of installing and playing a game while providing a customizable environment for just about everything else, the Steam Deck is an immersive device for a wide audience that will surely shape the future of PC gaming for some time to come will shape .

The products discussed here have been independently selected by our editors. GameSpot may receive a portion of the revenue if you purchase something featured on our site.