It’s in our nature to start comparing new devices on the market against those that we perceive as its competition, and of course, the Steam Deck, too, has been compared with all the major consoles in the industry. The one that it seems to be pitted against most often is the Nintendo Switch, not only because of its form factor, but also because, in the absence of the long-rumoured Switch Pro announcement, the Steam Deck seems to be doing things that many feel the Switch should do.
But according to Valve, they haven’t set out to compete against Nintendo’s hybrid system at all. Speaking with IGN, Valve designer Greg Coomer said that with the Steam Deck, Valve is targeting core audiences who are already invested in Steam, rather than looking to capture the Switch audience, and any similarities between the two device’s form factors don’t really indicate any desire for competition.
“We tried to make all the decisions really in Steam Deck that targeted that audience and that served the customers that were already having a good time interacting with the games that are on that platform, on our platform,” Coomer said. “That really was how we were making our decisions. We’ve ended up with a device that cosmetically shares some traits with a Switch, but that just was… it’s kind of an artifact of how we’ve proceeded down the design direction.”
Meanwhile, Valve CEO Gabe Newell also chimed in with a similar statement, saying that the two devices are going after completely different audiences, and that that’s going to be instantly apparent in several ways.
“I think Nintendo does a great job targeting the audience they do with the content that they have,” Newell said. “And that’s going to be different. Like when you pick this up, it feels much more like the ergonomics for somebody who’s used to playing with an expensive game controller, right? Because it’s bigger and it’s bulkier than a Switch. And if we’re right, that’s the right trade-off to be making for the audience that we’re going after.”
He added: “Let me put it this way: if you’re a gamer, and you pick up a Switch, and you pick up one of these, you’re going to know which one is right for you, right? And you’re going to know it within 10 seconds.”
One look at the Steam Deck’s specs (or even its price) is enough to tell you that it really isn’t attempting to go after the same crowd that the Switch does. With its SSD, features such as ray-tracing, and more, it’s clear that the design philosophies behind the two devices differ in some fundamental ways.