Monday, January 24

Steam Deck: is the Nintendo Switch for nerds? | Games

IIt seems that Valve has done it again. The company that surprised everyone by going from game developer to digital marketer with the launch of Steam, then jumped into virtual reality with the HTC Vive and Valve Index headsets, is now taking on Nintendo with a powerful handheld game console.

Announced on July 16 and scheduled for release in December, the Steam cover It features a 7-inch LCD touch screen, a variety of analog and touch controls, a gyroscope for motion detection, Wi-Fi connectivity, and a base station so you can connect to a monitor. From a technological point of view, it is based on a custom AMD Zen 2 processor, an AMD RDNA 2 GPU and 16 GB of memory. In a recent deep dive into machine specs, Eurogamer I found it compared to the Xbox Series S console in terms of performance.

But the real competitor Valve must be looking at is the Nintendo Switch. The Switch has effectively cornered the handheld gaming market, with its clever mix of handheld and home gaming capabilities, its library of great own games, and its own digital store. Through titles like Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Monster Hunter, he has sold us all the idea of ​​playing epic console games on the small screen.

But the Switch is a tightly controlled walled garden, with limited online functionality, and it would never run Microsoft Office. Valve is powering the Steam Deck as a fully capable handheld PC, with web browsing, video streaming, and access to all of your favorite productivity programs, as well as games. It will even allow you to access rival digital stores, so you are not locked into the Steam library. The two touchpads on the front are there to mimic mouse controls, but you can also plug in a mouse if you want, and the base will allow for an Ethernet internet connection. Valve says it expects six to eight hours of battery life, but let’s see how it keeps up with some of the more visually demanding titles.

Full-featured?  ... the next handheld is positioned as a capable productivity machine as well as a game console.
Full-featured? … the next handheld is positioned as a capable productivity machine as well as a game console. Photography: Valve

It is, in effect, a Nintendo Switch for nerds: a handheld console that provides access to thousands of Steam games, but also anything else the user wants. It’s not the first notebook PC – there are plenty available from smaller niche manufacturers – but it’s the first from a company with Valve’s weight, hardware design skills, and digital gaming platform. It’s something PC gamers will be able to take on vacation (which they might not do with a gaming laptop), and they’ll be able to play alongside their main PC, progressing on, say, Into the Breach while sitting in a cafe or a cafe. train, and then collect on the big screen at home.

Is that something that PC gamers really want to do? And haven’t we already burned our fingers with Valve’s other experiment with small-form-factor PCs: the unfortunate Steam Machines? The answers seem to be yes to the first question and a strong no to the second. The Deck has already caused a stir. The reservation system completely imploded over the weekend, as interested shoppers received error messages for hours. Naturally, resellers have reacted quickly, offering confirmed pre-order purchases on eBay for up to $ 4,000, although Valve has avoided bulk buying from pre-order machines by allowing only long-term Steam user account orders and limiting to customers to a pre-order each.

Valve has been aggressive on pricing. The base edition costs £ 349 / $ 399 with 64GB storage, £ 459 / $ 529 with a 250GB SSD and £ 569 / $ 649 with a 512GB SSD, so the cheapest model is comparable to the new OLED Switch, which retails for around £ 310. Valve boss Gabe Newell told IGN that doing this right was “painful” but “crucial”, and they seem to have the right balance of power and cost, although it’s doubtful that the specs are up to the task of handling the latest PC titles. Users are likely to accept lower-performing versions of new games for the convenience of playing on the go, but will depend on the developers to provide the option.

Newell has said in his video interview with IGN that he hopes to sell millions of Steam Decks, and if the chaotic pre-order process is something to go through, there is certainly interest from Steam’s 120 million active users. And while the Switch offers an extremely stable and easy-to-use experience that Valve will have a hard time replicating with its more open system, the Steam Deck user base is likely to be far more tech-savvy and competent, and less likely to need or want the guy. hand control presence offered by Nintendo.

The way games are going right now – using cloud servers and remote saves to divorce games from whatever device you play them on – Steam Deck seems like the right device at the right price. In a world where people are starting to move again, it also feels like a very crafty timing.

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