Valve already has big ideas for the next generation of Steam Deck machines •

Valve already has big ideas for the next generation of Steam Deck machines •

“This is something that personally, as a gamer, I’ve wanted for a long time, isn’t it? As soon as you start playing PC games, you’re like, okay, I want something which gives me the full fidelity of the experience with really great inputs that I can use in the mobile space The first time I think I wanted something like this was back in the 1990s you know , when I first played PC games.

Gabe Newell is, I think it’s fair to say, very excited about the Steam Deck. After a short delay and lots and lots of excitement, the laptop is finally here and it’s quite possibly Valve’s most exciting hardware to date. Or more exciting than one of the last notables, at least – the much-heralded steam engines that garnered a lot of hype when they were announced in 2013 but never really got a foothold with Valve moved to assure people that the platform wasn’t entirely dead just three years after the machines were released in 2015.

The degree of interest in the Steam Deck is in stark contrast to the shrug that encountered Steam Engines at the time, but it’s not really that different in its approach – indeed the Deck is simply an extension of the work done with the introduction of Big Picture Mode. which laid the groundwork for the Machines and a more focused repositioning of PC gaming away from the desktop.

“I consider everything we try to do as a kind of block,” Newell says of how Steam Machines informed the Deck. “You build the wall and you have to build a bunch of components as you go. The Steam Controller had a big impact on our thinking about input technologies and I think one of the big takeaways from the steam engine is that we’ve come to the conclusion that if we’re going to push these kinds of initiatives, we really need to do it internally where we can address all of the issues that we consider to be most important to players and software developers.”

I spent a few weeks with the Steam Deck and was impressed with what Valve achieved, although the device didn’t come without a few caveats. It’s a tedious, sometimes unwieldy thing – the tedious part of the territory when it comes to PC gaming, and also when it comes to wrangling so much of Steam’s library on a portable machine. Some of the fun – and frustration – comes from seeing how your back catalog performs on the machine, but I wonder how many newcomers to Valve’s ecosystem are supported, and if that might broaden the audience for games the same way the Switch did when it first launched in 2017.

Valve sticks to its commitment to review Steam’s entire back catalog when it comes to working on the Steam Deck – although by their own admission this isn’t entirely realistic, some games such than VR-focused ones not making much sense as far as current goes. hardware iteration.

“I think if we ignore the fact that this is a gaming device and just look at it in terms of value for money, and for its CPU and GPU, it’s a great device there. -down,” Newell says. “So I think we’re comfortable, ignoring the fact that it’s a gaming device, that it’s going to fit in there. But it’s a gaming device and that’s where has its most compelling applications.

“One of the things we’re interested in is that we’re very picky about entry-level pricing, and then our customers come back to us and order the most expensive SKU by far. It’s interesting, this are all early adopters, you know, but they say you should have given us, you know, more storage, more, you know, performance, more memory, and we probably would have bought in. That’s interesting, and that’s probably going to change as we start growing and catching up with demand, and we’ll see a shift over time towards the lower price, sort of more entry-level SKUs.”

What’s really fascinating, though, is where Valve sees Steam Deck going next. It’s a long-term project – and with brighter prospects than Steam Engines – that could take PC gaming to some interesting places if Newell’s thoughts on where he sees the next five years of the game. are something to do.

“Some of the conversations we have with software developers are like, okay, that’s great – but let’s try to figure out what the next generation of decks looks like,” he says. “What do we want in terms of solutions for mobile gaming, for mobile PC gaming? Does it open the door to new things? way, given the position of your hand – it gives you the opportunity to do things there.

2Prototyping for the Steam Deck began around four years ago, but the device’s genesis came with the introduction of Big Picture Mode in 2012.

“You know, all of these things are tied together, right? A lot of the technology that we might use and future versions of it comes from, you know, the technology that we have to develop for virtual reality and then if you go back and look at it as a high performance mobile PC gaming device, you kind of say, well, why can’t I have this in an integrated VR solution without thread?

“With headsets, you have a lot more ability to do things like neuromodulation or direct sensors and stuff on people’s heads, or you’re looking at information that’s easy to transmit through sensors close to someone’s hands. All of these things tend to snowball over time, and with each of them, we think what are we going to learn, what are we going to help software developers do, how does that translate by creating compelling solutions for gamers?

“Longer term, we might end up discovering that there are some interesting mobile-specific opportunities out there. If you start putting cameras on these things, you might find that there are classes of gaming experiences that really depend on these… Pokémon GO is a great example of an app that just doesn’t make sense for the desktop.

“But it depends on a set of facilities that today don’t really exist in PC gaming, the opportunity with later versions of Steam Deck is to start looking for that kind of apps or that kind of abilities, and see what kind of apps So once we start having unique game technologies in future versions of Deck, it would make a lot more sense to try and come up with custom apps and derive left.

3Progress on the software side has been rapid – making it a difficult thing for poor Digital Foundry to pin down, but at least suggesting that there’s still a lot of progress to be made on the devices users will receive on day one.

Pokemon GO on PC? It’s not quite the endgame I anticipated when asking Newell about the long term plans for the Steam Deck, but it’s still enlightening to see where he sees the device heading, and a logical step for Steam to move into one of the most lucrative and popular areas of gaming. There’s still some way to go, plus a few hardware iterations, so it’s not like that’s happening anytime soon – and Valve will be very busy over the next few months just to keep up with demand for its new machine. .

“We will definitely increase production as quickly as possible,” he says. “In fact, that’s a lot of what we’ve been doing over the last six months, working with our vendors to figure that out. We’re also fully expecting – and one of the big things in the PC market is – hopefully we’re gonna see other people look at this and say we can ship products like this as well so not only are we going to try and keep up with the demand, but hopefully others PC makers are going to recognize that the parts are in. And the demand for this type of solution is high enough that they also figure out how to ship similar devices.

“The good news is demand is high. The bad news is due to the pandemic, demand for all kinds of electronics just skyrocketed – if you talk to Intel or AMD or Nvidia or Ford Motor Company, the consumer demand has changed. If you can’t go to restaurants and you can’t go to movies, you’re going to buy nicer homes and you’re going to buy more expensive electronics. There’s just been a huge increase, and it just takes a while for the ability to catch.”

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