Since Steam Deck first launched last month, Valve said one of their main design goals was to ensure that all of Steam’s back catalog, including games from the last 12 months, was playable. It’s a big job for a cute little device, but when we talked about Zoom with Steam Deck designers Greg Coomer and Lawrence Yang last week, it’s clear the team never really considered other options. “Although we discussed versions of devices that were better suited for lower-spec games, for example, this was never the main focus of our work,” Coomer told me. “It doesn’t really appeal to a lot of people who work here.”
Steam Deck colleague Lawrence Yang agreed: “Yeah, we wanted a device that was powerful enough to handle anything you threw at it and if you wanted to play a really high fidelity game, could you do that,” he said. Reflecting on Valve CEO Gabe Newell’s comments late last month about limited giving PC gamers a good choice of mobile hardware.
The problem is, “[putting] Steam catalog first, “easier said than done, and without AMD’s newest line of low-power and high-performance APUs, the Steam Deck might not make it at all this year.
“We’ve been discussing such devices for a number of years,” Coomer said, “even when we mostly focused on things like Steam controllers or streaming devices we believed could be used.
“We weren’t really interested in making a handheld device that couldn’t play all the games on Steam. We’re thinking of developing something based on a completely different architecture – you know, something that isn’t typical x86. “A PC-like solution – but it would deviate greatly from the device it was originally designed for. To play games that are already on Steam, launch a product that has the right scope to play the latest triple-A games and do it really well, all in the factor small shape without melting too much – and we’re very happy with what we’ve been able to achieve. If we had tried a few years ago, it would have been much more difficult.”
It wasn’t just AMD hardware that was critical in launching the Steam Deck. Valve also took a lot of lessons from their failed steam engine in the creation of the Steam Deck and their work on controller development for the VR headset Index also helped keep the analog deck stick completely free of the dreaded stick drift.
There’s more to come from my chats with Coomer and Yang, so stay tuned for more Steam Deck news this weekend.