Steam Deck has had a phenomenal first year

Steam Deck has had a phenomenal first year

Steam Deck has had a phenomenal first year

A Steam Deck stands in front of a gradient.

Image: Valve / Kotaku

While it’s hard to say whether or not ‘Steam Deck’ has become a household name, it definitely deserves such a status after an impressive introduction. Valve’s mini-PC had a unique first year of its kind, which could be the envy of other platforms. After various attempts to get into the hardware game, from complicated Steam Machines and Steam Controllers to the more successful Steam Link, Valve’s hardware ambitions finally came with a remarkable, perhaps even industry-shattering success. In a JNCO pocket form factor, Steam Deck is a small terror of PC computing power. And it provides its connection to the Steam market a library that no console could ever dream of at launch.

Initially available to pre-order, Steam Decks began shipping in February. While this delivery window was itself a delay (Valve originally targeted December), the fact that decks started appearing on the doorsteps of eager fans so quickly and regularly is something of a miracle in itself. The impact of the pandemic and various global supply chain and shipping issues have complicated a number of industries; consumer electronics was particularly hard hit. While the demand for, say, a PS5 is very different from that of a Steam Deck, it’s been two years since the PS5 began life and it’s still a bit of a challenge to get one. Steam decks though? Now you can buy one without reservation. Shipping is usually the only waiting period.

Not only did the Steam Deck arrive faster and more reliably than many other gaming hardware, it also arrived with a significant amount of games ready to play. True, this comparison might be a little unfair when you consider the fact that Steam Deck is basically a gaming PC that you can hold in your hands and not so much a generational “platform” as, say, PS5 or Xbox Series, but look to a title like Opening office work. Released by Valve clearly as a way to demonstrate the various features and graphical power of Steam Deck, you’d be forgiven if you’ve never heard of it. Unlike, say, Astro’s Playrooma similar type of “game” to showcase the capabilities of the PS5, there was no need to waste time playing (with all due respect to Star) demoware until the release of “the good games”. Right out of the gate, Steam Deck was delivering experiences like Check in a way we’ve never experienced before; PC game-grade graphics quality was yours to play on the couch, on public transport, in a park, or anywhere you damn please. Battery life might be a bit limited, but when you consider the level of performance you’re getting, it seems understandable rather than limiting.

And as a handheld console, Steam Deck gives the Nintendo Switch some serious competition. Sure, unless you’re running an emulator (which even Valve admits it did) the Switch will still have some exclusives that are not so easy to get on the Deck. But the Switch has been out for a while, using an older mobile processor, while the Deck uses real PC-grade silicon under the hood. Nintendo’s handset may have better average battery life and the new OLED model has a dramatically nicer screen, but it’s starting to show its age. Meanwhile the Steam Deck is out here crushing him Cyberpunk 2077 run through your hands. How Kotakuis Zack Zwiezen noted in his piecegreat recent titles such as Bayonet 3 And Alan WakeThe fight for the Switch remaster on Switch. While the Switch may be the most mainstream of the big three consoles, its sales are also starting to slow down, and more importantly, its ability to keep up with modern games is dwindling. Safe Bayonet it’s a Switch exclusive, but the Deck is more than happy to deliver thousands of modern, latest generation or classic games, sometimes at a flawless 60 frames per second.

Just over 10 percent of Steam’s entire library is “Verified” on Deck as of this year’s end, and countless more are playable with a little patience, workarounds, and compromises. My Steam Deck arrived around the middle of the year and I can’t remember the last gaming device I bought, in its first year, no less, that had that many playable titles right away. And it’s not just big games, the Deck immediately impressed with its malleability as a piece of gaming hardware.

Steam Deck runs a Linux-based operating system, just like the Steam Machines that preceded it. But unlike the steam machines, Valve included an accessible “desktop mode” which, with some limitations, provides a recognizable desktop experience that is fun to joke with and surprisingly usable. This allowed users to access alternative showcases like GOG or Epic with simple utilities like Heroic Games Launcher. To be clear, this requires a bit more computer knowledge and even some hacking skills, albeit all easier than hacking a console. But those learning curves have been flattened by the Steam Deck community and its will create and document smart innovations. Getting Epic Games Store games to work is as simple, if not easier, than installing a mod for a PC game. Hit Reddit or YouTube with a simple “how to install…” search, and there are tons of tutorials on how to set up different storefronts, customize your splash screen, and more.

With great product availability, the ability to deliver your Steam library to you on the go, as well as other PC-based game stores, Steam Deck didn’t have to justify itself unless portability is something you’re into. Of course, it has room for improvement, such as a better screen that was badly needed and better battery life, but few gaming hardware shipped with such a powerful game library with unique ways to reproduce them. And the fact that it’s all wrapped up in this incredibly customizable and modifiable open source software environment is the icing on the cake. 2022 has been a powerful year for Steam Deck, and it’s only just getting started.

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