Say hello to the Steam Deck, an alternative to the Nintendo Switch

Valve’s Steam Deck is an upcoming handheld gaming PC that will rival the Nintendo Switch. Illustration by ylivdesign on

Steam, the video game distribution service run by Valve, is developing the Steam Deck, a handheld gaming PC that can run everything from indie titles to fans’ favorite AAA games. Steam is releasing the handheld console, which features full PC functionality, in December 2021. 

The device differs from other popular handhelds, like the Nintendo Switch, in that it boasts much faster hardware and can run an enormous array of games. Almost any game that players can enjoy on PC can also play on the Steam Deck, while the Nintendo Switch can only play Nintendo titles. 

The Steam Deck’s processing power bears more similarities to next-gen consoles like the Xbox Series X and Playstation 5 than the Nintendo Switch.

The Steam Deck comes in three different versions: 64GB, 256GB and 512GB, costing $399, $529 and $649. The 256GB model features an exclusive Steam Community bundle with purchase, while the 512GB comes with anti-glare etched glass.

“We think Steam Deck gives people another way to play the games they love on a high-performance device at a great price,” Valve founder Gabe Newell said in a press release. “As a gamer, this is a product I [have] always wanted. And as a game developer, it’s the mobile device I [have] always wanted for our partners.”

Given that few other companies offer options for handheld gamers and the Steam Deck is the first handheld gaming PC, Steam anticipated the popularity and hype that quickly surrounded their innovative new console. 

The company requires fans to reserve their device on Steam’s site before placing orders in December. However, securing a Steam Deck hasn’t proven easy for everyone.

After Steam opened pre-orders for the Steam Deck in early July 2021, Steam’s servers went down for almost an hour, preventing some hopeful Steam Deck owners from reserving their device and creating controversy. 

Your company should be better than this,” Beth Brockman, a fan who hoped to buy the device, shared on Twitter with a screenshot of an error screen

Gabe Howell and Mike Harrington founded Valve in 1995, and the company has since grown to earn the label of the tech company with the highest profits per employee. Today, the 26-year-old company carries a value of over $3 billion.

While Steam Deck reservations cost only $5 from Steam’s website, scalpers on eBay have begun reselling them for thousands of dollars. Some people, fearful that Steam would run out of reservations, bought these items even though sellers priced them at over 200 times the original price.

Both eBay and Steam quickly took steps to counter this behavior. eBay claimed they would ban those who breach their policies, including those who resell Steam Decks 30 days before the handheld’s release.

“We understand how frustrating it can be for gamers to see overpriced listings for presale hardware,” an eBay spokesperson said in an interview with Eurogamer.

Steam continues offering reservations for their Steam Decks for $5 long after the temporary outage, allowing anyone interested to reserve their device. Those who place their orders later will receive their devices months after those who ordered in July. S

Steam has stated on their site that they plan to adjust inventory to account for reservations.

While the Steam Deck’s reservation system initially proved challenging for many people hoping to purchase the device, Steam has a few challenges of its own to face, including potential competitors.

 No other company has ever managed to threaten Nintendo’s longtime hold on the handheld gaming market. Still, Steam strives to do so even as other hopeful companies begin to develop handheld offerings.

In October 2021, a user posting on GBA Temp, a gaming forum, discovered a leaked image and product description for the Lenovo Legion Play, a potential competitor for the Steam Deck. 

The company published the leaks to the MWC 2021 Barcelona site, suggesting that developers unveil the handheld there. 

“Designed for AAA gaming, the Lenovo Legion Play is the first Android cloud gaming console,” the leaked product description read. “The console lets users play hundreds of cloud games, stream their game library, or play mobile games.”

The product description for the Lenovo Legion Play asserts that developers designed it for AAA gaming, making the potential device a commendable adversary for the upcoming Steam Deck. While the Steam Deck can play PC games and integrate players’ Steam libraries, the Lenovo Legion Play can only play mobile games that run on Android OS.