This week, Valve turned the video game industry on its head after announcing the Steam deck, your first portable console. While rumors had already surfaced about it in recent months, the presentation took us all by surprise. Of course, it is inevitable to compare it with the Nintendo Switch, a product in which they have been inspired to some extent. Does this also mean that Valve intends to end Nintendo’s reign in the laptop market?
Let’s be honest. The Steam Deck, due to its characteristics and price, is quite attractive. Being a laptop, it was expected that many people would make a direct comparison with the Nintendo Switch. If we evaluate each of its specifications, it is evident that Valve’s proposal fares better, and by a wide margin. This has made some think that the Japanese console is in danger, but it is not.
The truth is that the Steam Deck is not trying to hunt down the Nintendo Switch, far from it. Although both belong to the portable sector and the normal thing would be to assume that they will face each other, the potential buyers that each one pursues are completely different. To verify the above, you only need to look closely at what matters most when buying any console: the catalog of games it offers.
The Steam Deck makes all of its steam library. In other words: the catalog of the world’s largest computer digital games store. However, if we take into account that it will also be possible to install Windows, because at the end of the day we are facing a portable PC, we can also include the extensive Xbox Game Pass catalog -for PC-, the Epic Games Store and an expanded variety of third party software.
Basically, the Steam Deck wants to bring the experience of computer games, as well as those of PlayStation and Xbox consoles, to the palms of your hands. How does the Switch survive? Like any other Nintendo console in the last four decades: with Mario, Zelda and Pokémon, among other exclusive franchises of the great N. Its market is so well defined that the Steam Deck does not pose any threat.
Both can coexist and succeed without getting in the way of the other, because its offering at the software level is very different. People buy the Switch for the latest Nintendo games, titles you won’t find anywhere else. Here are the tests.
The Nintendo Switch travels a lonely road
Unlike PlayStation and Xbox consoles, where usually the games that accumulate the most sales belong to third-party franchises, including GTA, FIFA or Call of Duty, on the Switch, it is Nintendo’s own games that occupy the top positions. According to data provided by those in Kyoto until March 31, 2021, the 10 best-selling titles in the history of the Switch were published by Nintendo itself:
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (35.39 million) .Animal Crossing: New Horizons (32.63 million) .Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (23.84 million) .The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (22.28 million) .Pokémon Sword and Shield (21.10 million), Super Mario Odyssey (20.83 million), Super Mario Party (14.79 million), Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee! (13.28 million). Splatoon 2 (12.21 million). New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe (10.44 million).
We have to head to 15th position to find a third-party proposal: Capcom’s Monster Hunter Rise. Among the top 40, there are only four games that Nintendo did not directly engage in publishing. The above clearly indicates that the Switch is sustained by its first-party catalog. The market acquires this console to enjoy franchises that do not have a presence on other platforms. At least not officially – greetings, emulators.
Steam Deck goes for a niche ignored by PlayStation and Xbox
If the Steam Deck is not intended to steal users from Nintendo … So what is the market that Valve wants to conquer? One that PlayStation and Xbox, for one reason or another, have chosen to ignore.
PlayStation threw in the towel in the portable sector after the PS Vita failure. Their efforts are completely focused on maintaining the leadership of the desktop consoles, a purpose that was renewed with the beginning of a new generation. With the excellent start-up of the PlayStation 5, Sony is unlikely to pay any attention to portable hardware again.
Xbox, on the other hand, has never tried its luck on laptops, although lately they are trying to gain ground on mobile devices with the help of Xbox Cloud Gaming (xCloud), its streaming video game platform. Those led by Phil Spencer are throwing the house out the window by growing Xbox Game Pass and placing it on all possible devices. The Steam Deck, surely, will be one of them.
Thus, the door was open for a giant of the sector to dedicate its resources to offer a portable console capable of allowing us to enjoy GTA V, Call of Duty: Warzone, Destiny 2 or Assassins’s Creed Valhalla, for example.
All of the above does not mean, however, that the Steam Deck has created a new segment of video game hardware. In fact, for years there have already been quite similar portable consoles aimed at the same niche. The big difference is that almost none of them have the endorsement of a giant like Valve, except for the Nvidia Shield Portable. The latter arrived in 2013 with a limited catalog and did not take off as Nvidia expected.
The price of the Steam Deck, the key to everything
The main advantage of the Steam Deck over its peers is undoubtedly the aggressive price. The legendary Gabe newellValve CEO acknowledged in an interview with IGN that the Steam Deck was designed with the idea of being offered at the most competitive price possible. “We knew that price was very important, so from the beginning, we designed it with that in mind and we worked very, very hard to reach the price we are at,” he said.
It is quite possible that Valve is losing money for every Steam Deck sold, a normalized situation in the ways of PlayStation and Xbox. Of course, they are strategic moves that they aim for the long term, and that only companies with enormous economic potential can afford it.
Valve’s main objective, in addition to dominating a niche made up of some computer gamers and desktop consoles, will also be expand that particular market. If the Steam Deck manages to become an attractive device for more people, why not think that PlayStation and Xbox will have the concern to gain presence in the portable sector? We’ll see how it goes in sales.