Valve’s digital games platform Steam has done fantastically well. The dominant PC storefront reached 1 billion accounts back in April 2019, and as of the start of 2021, it’s enjoying more than 120 million monthly active users, which puts the service ahead of both Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, according to Eurogamer. Now Valve has a chance to capitalize on its Steam-powered momentum with its new Steam Deck “all-in-one portable gaming PC,” which ships in December with a starting MSRP of $399.
The monumental success of the Nintendo Switch has proven the popularity of the handheld form factor, but Steam Deck isn’t a console or a Nintendo-like handheld. As the description implies, it truly is a fully-fledged PC but in portable form. Users can dock it, attach a mouse, keyboard, or other peripherals, and they can replace the pre-installed Steam OS with traditional Windows if they desire. In fact, users could even install Steam rival Epic Games Store, an option that hasn’t gone unnoticed or unpraised by Epic CEO Tim Sweeney.
For developers, giving players access to the massive Steam Library on the go potentially opens the doors to a new audience, even if they do have to adjust for UI and text size for some titles. Mike Rose, founder of indie publisher No More Robots, told GamesIndustry.biz that he sees Steam Deck as a possible “game changer.”
He explained: “If Steam Deck explodes and becomes a competitive device that millions of people buy… on my side it takes very little effort for us to get our games up and running.” And the announcement of Steam Deck is already drawing publisher interest, as Ubisoft, which had tapered its Steam releases in recent years, said it would put more of its titles on Steam if the device takes off.
It’s worth noting that Valve has attempted console-like hardware in the past. Steam Machines offered consumers prebuilt gaming PCs for the living room back in 2015, but they never fully resonated with the gaming audience. According to Interpret’s New Media Measure®, there’s still a robust opportunity for Valve to pursue when looking at the overlap between console players and Steam users. When looking at console owners, more than two-thirds have used Steam to purchase a game in the past three months. Additionally, among Steam users, 36% own at least one video game console, and from a portable form factor viewpoint, more than a third of Steam users own a Nintendo Switch or Switch Lite.