With our Lord and Saviour Gabe Newell (CEO/Founder of Valve) bearing more than a striking resemblance to Santa it makes sense that he might deliver the perfect gamer gift this Christmas. Jumping two feet and half an arm into the handheld market with no fear. Bringing high end PC power plus the ridonculously large Steam gaming platform to our greedy little mits, it seems a no-brainer that the Steamdeck will make a glorious stocking filler this December. But will it topple the mighty Nintendo and their dominant stronghold on the handheld market? Let’s get into it!
All hands on deck
Handhelds need a couple of key factors to make them must-have items. A rich gaming library to choose from plus decent processing power while not sacrificing battery power. It would seem that the upcoming Steamdeck aces all these categories. Without putting my tech specs on, the processing power under the hood is very impressive. Think powerful PC that can run current triple A titles while being small enough to fit in your hands. The screen is large enough and sharp enough to display very crisp full HD (not quite 4K but on a small screen who cares) and the beefy processing power will allow smooth 60fps with graphic settings turn up to the max. What’s not to love?
Out of the box
There a three versions available at three different price points but thankfully the difference in tiers is very simple. Even at the cheapest price you get the full powered Steamdeck in all it’s glory. The difference in prices (which climb steeply) only really affects the amount of storage you have and the speed of the storage drive. At the highest end you also get an anti scratch fancy screen but seems like a minor point. The important thing worth noting is the cheapest model and the dearest model will still run the same games. Prices are going for $399, $529 and $649 in the US. Unfortunately for us lovely Europeans, we are paying a little more with prices of €419, €549 and €679. With storage being expandable through microSD it is very possible to purchase the base model and consider investing in extra storage at a later date. Nice!
Function over Fashion
The unit itself is much larger in comparison to the Switch but seeing people playing, it seems to fit comfortably in the hands for gaming sessions. The screen is a 7 inch LCD touch screen and it has the usual dual analog sticks, four shoulder buttons (2 analog) and four face buttons plus a d-pad. On top of that are customizable buttons on the back (think pro controller) and two trackpads that can mimic navigating with a mouse pointer with ease. As if that wasn’t enough, the sticks and trackpads all have built-in haptics which means it knows when your fingers are resting on them and the unit itself also has 6-axis motion. To put it simply…..that is insane!!! They’ve put every piece of technology they’ve developed with the steam controller and the valve index controllers….added the kitchen sink and somehow fit it all in on a handheld unit. Makes joy-cons seem….well childish really!
The biggest difference between Steamdeck and the Nintendo Switch (and all consoles while we’re at it) is that it’s open source. Similar to a PC, you can run Linux or Windows and you are free to add and remove whatever programs you wish. This means you don’t need to Jailbreak anything to experiment with the system. If you were so inclined, you might decide to spend the extra €55 it would cost you to buy the base model over the new Nintendo Switch this Christmas. Then if you felt like you were missing out, you might install an emulator and play every switch game ever made. You might even add mods to improve graphics and gameplay! Not me though…..that would be illegal (unless you own the originals and copy the games for backup purposes only of course!). Emulation aside, having a full powerful PC in your hands offers limitless potential for homebrew projects, coding, streaming and modding to name but a few possible uses.
Steam has long been the absolute Mac Daddy as far as gaming platforms go. Over 10,000 games were released on the platform last year alone. Ranging from truly inspiring pieces of art and truly awful trashcans on fire….it pretty much has everything! The pricing is also always great and it’s where you go to find a bargain. Steam sales over the years are an interactive event that offer amazing deals you just can’t get anywhere else. It’s confirmed that the Steamdeck will have full access to the Steam gaming platform which is a massive achievement in itself.
Nintendo Switch vs Steamdeck
So who wins? Will Gabe and his team at Valve knock Nintendo’s most successful console off top spot this Christmas? Honestly……probably not!! Nintendo have always marketed themselves towards the kids and have an image of being family friendly. They make genuinely amazing games full off imaginative design and don’t rely heavily on processing power. It’s all about gameplay and design and it definitely serves them well. Now take Valve and the Steamdeck. In my opinion, this is marketed towards the bigger kids. The grown ups who love their PCs and all that they entail. To be bold, I actually think they might struggle to appeal to anyone beyond enthusiasts. The price isn’t astronomical but it is a bit high for a casual gamer. Here’s hoping I’m wrong and the Steamdeck goes from strength to strength!! Who knows, maybe Mario will lose out this Christmas and need to get a second job…..wonder if he’s any good at plumbing??
Will you be picking up a Steamdeck or sticking with Nintendo this December? Are you annoyed that I didn’t even mention docking through USB-C or the rather excellent front facing speakers? Let me know in the comments below!