Valve believes there is a bright future ahead of their Steam Deck platform.
In an interview with Axios, Valve hardware designer Yazan Aldehayyat shared this insight:
“We do think that a Steam Deck 2.0 is necessary. Steam Deck OLED was necessary. We feel like there’s a road map ahead of us.”
Aldehayyat actually also talked about the company’s prior Steam Machines initiative, saying that their past hardware fulfilled its purpose, and they were ready to move on.
Steam Deck, released in February 2022, is Valve’s first successful platform. It uses SteamOS, a platform that Valve launched with their Steam Machines initiative from 2014.
The impetus for Valve’s hardware initiative is to end their dependency from Windows, which is where Steam launched, and where the lion’s share of Steam users play their games today. Valve didn’t have an easy way to get away from Windows, because the FOSS community has failed to clone the OS and its capabilities.
Valve’s solution is imperfect, but has proven to be feasible. WiNE, a compatibility layer, allows Windows programs to work outside Windows. Valve forked WiNE to create Proton, their own implementation focused specifically on getting games to work outside Windows. Subsequently, Valve built their own OS, called SteamOS, where Proton is optimized in such a way that it just works out of the box.
Steam Machines competed directly with Apple and Windows on an operating systems level. Valve partnered with many Windows OEMs, to make their own gaming PCs that ran on SteamOS. For various reasons, including the low compatibility with Steam’s library, the high cost of entry, and Valve’s failure to entire gamers, this initiative failed.
Valve went back to the drawing board, and reentered the market with a gaming handheld. While most gamers assumed Valve was primarily inspired by the Nintendo Switch, there were also some OEMs already making gaming handhelds that ran on Windows. In particular, GPD and AyaNeo were making their own versions of this idea. But their devices were expensive and had low production runs.
Valve’s success showed gamers, as well as OEMs, that there is a bigger market for these devices, and now ASUS and Lenovo have jumped into the market as well. Valve, for their part, is launching an improved Steam Deck OLED very soon. Even better, Valve confirmed they will release a Steam Deck 2 in the future.
Valve, to their credit, have also innovated on gaming handheld PCs, and likely have also influenced Nintendo’s decisions for their future hardware. We are looking forward to all the future innovation in this space, from both Valve and Nintendo, but also possible future players as well.