Steam Deck Developers Explain Probable Future of Steam Deck and Possibly Why a More Powerful Switch Isn’t Here — GeekTyrant
I recently read an article from The Verge where Sean Hollister got to talk with Lawrence Yang and Pierre-Loup Griffais, designers for the Steam Deck, about the handheld gaming PC that gamers are loving. It’s a really good interview with a lot of things to take away from it, so I highly recommend heading over and reading the whole thing. Throughout, Griffais and Yang talk about how Valve wants to work with other companies to integrate SteamOS with their hardware, the potential for a Steam Controller 2, and more. However, the part that stuck out to me was when the pair talked about hardware upgrades that their team is looking at for the Steam Deck.
For starters, they talk about how the battery design currently implemented in the Steam Decks isn’t ideal because it’s hard for users to replace it. The team has already rolled out some changes to hopefully make this less of a problem. They also talked about the fans and how some Steam Decks use a fan from Delta Electronics that tends to whine while in use. If you have that problem, there appear to be some fixes you can implement including ordering a Huaying fan from iFixit or using electrical tape creatively (do both at your own risk). However, Yang also explained that while Valve stopped using the Delta fans for a bit, they’re back to using them as they’ve made a foam solution to help with the noise.
Those two tidbits are fine, but it’s later on in the interview that I really got excited. Hollister asked Griffais and Yang about hardware areas they’d target for improvement in a new Steam Deck and they answered battery life and the screen. The pair were pressed about improving performance from the handheld and Griffais gave an incredibly insightful response:
Right now the fact that all the Steam Decks can play the same games and that we have one target for users to understand what kind of performance level to expect when you’re playing and for developers to understand what to target… there’s a lot of value in having that one spec.
I think we’ll opt to keep the one performance level for a little bit longer, and only look at changing the performance level when there is a significant gain to be had.
This looks awfully familiar for some reason. The other major gaming handheld is the Nintendo Switch. Its first hardware upgrade saw an increase in battery life. The next was an improved screen. Neither one included performance increases. Huh. Let’s sit with that for a minute. It’s fascinating how both companies seem to be thinking along the same lines for their hardware upgrades. Now, Valve and Nintendo are very different companies and their products are related, but also different. It’s not a perfect 1:1 comparison. However, this nugget right here might give us insight into why we haven’t seen a more powerful Switch yet.
Nintendo’s done some power upgrades in the past. Remember when they launched the New Nintendo 3DS in 2014-2015? It was more powerful, but I’m not sure how well it did compared to the original 3DS and sadly I can’t find those numbers. However, I’d be surprised if a ton of people who already had a 3DS went out and upgraded. The Switch is still selling like mad and I imagine that Nintendo has seen how doing a mere hardware upgrade wouldn’t be worth it. They’d probably have to charge more which already alienates many consumers; consumers could easily get confused by a “Switch Pro,” “Switch U,” “New Nintendo Switch,” or whatever they name it; and let’s face it, not enough people would upgrade to make it worth their while. It’s most likely more important for Nintendo, like Valve, to see and understand the value in having a single set expectation for consumers and developers.
I know I’ve gone off on a bit of a rant, but I read the interview and it all just clicked! Maybe Nintendo will prove me wrong and announce a performance upgrade for the Switch soon. I think it’s more likely that we’ll hear about the Switch’s successor in the next year or two and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was not just a more powerful Switch. Nintendo tends to do best when they really aim to shake up the gaming industry. What are your key takeaways from the interview? I know that I’m now probably gonna wait until the better screen and/or battery before getting a Steam Deck.
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