Valve's new Steam Deck announcement has taken the internet by storm. Many gaming pundits and players alike are calling it a complete Nintendo Switch killer. However, on its own, does the Steam Deck equal death for Nintendo's beloved handheld/console hybrid.
We'll look at all the factors to figure out how worried Nintendo needs to be about Valve's handheld Switch competitor.
The Steam Deck vs. the Nintendo Switch
If you're not 100% familiar already, the Steam Deck from Valve is a handheld gaming PC running SteamOS, Valve's own Linux-based operating system. The Nintendo Switch is Nintendo's eighth-generation handheld/home console hybrid system released back in 2017.
Both systems aim to bring games that were traditionally thought of as home experiences into your hands. Nintendo relies on its 4-year head start and strong brand awareness, while Valve relies on its reputation and powerful new hardware.
While the Nintendo Switch has been going from strength to strength for years now, many are wondering if the older hardware will compete with Valve's new kid on the block. With a much more powerful handheld experience on the horizon, should Nintendo quake in their boots? The answer is probably not, at least not yet.
Comparing Game Libraries
One of the major advantages that the Nintendo Switch has over the Steam Deck is the 4-years it's had to build a library. Since its release in 2017, the Switch has accrued nearly 4000 titles across its digital and physical releases. That's quite a lot for a new device to compete with. The Steam Deck has the advantage that it's essentially a Linux-based gaming PC on the go, meaning there is a decent library backing that up.
Only around 700 games will actually work on SteamOS right now. With the announcement of the Steam Deck, that number is probably going to climb. The pre-orders have been a runaway success, so developers may take SteamOS a bit more seriously, but that is going to take time to build up. In addition, some may argue that you can technically install Windows on a Steam Deck, enabling a full suite of Windows games on the device.
While it's true, you can install Windows on your Steam Deck, only the technically minded sort will bother to do it. Since Nintendo markets at a broader user base, including both gamers and families in general, losing some of the technically minded hardcore gamer market probably won't sting the brand too badly. As time goes by and the Steam Deck becomes more widely known and gets more games, Nintendo may have more to worry about.
Hardware Fatigue and the Nintendo Switch
A big part of the argument about the Steam Deck being a Nintendo Switch killer centers on the fact that Valve's machine is groundbreaking, while the Switch is 4-year-old hardware. Everyone was hoping for an upgrade with the Switch OLED, but we got a slightly better screen and a new kickstand.
This argument makes some sense. If you don't have a Switch yet and are looking for a decently powerful handheld, then the Steam Deck is probably a bit more appealing. However, this isn't necessarily a cause for concern for Nintendo.
Power has never been the deciding factor in a console's success. Nintendo often succeeds because its games are accessible, and it has a strong core fanbase that loves its IPs, and you can only get those properties on a Nintendo system. Sure, Nintendo will eventually need to think about upgrading the Switch. Either to a more powerful version or a next-gen console in the same family.
But, right now, it's unlikely that anyone who still loves and uses their Switch is going to be enticed away by fancier graphics as long as games keep coming to the Switch platform. If there is a danger to Nintendo, it lies in another area of the Steam Deck.
3rd Party Developer Loyalty
While Nintendo has always had strong brand recognition, it also can't survive completely off that image alone. If it could, people would have cared about the Wii U. Nintendo needs 3rd party developers to back it up while folks wait for big 1st-party releases.
The real danger posed by the Steam Deck is its potential to entice third-party devs away from Nintendo's platform. If the new system launches well and sells an enormous number of units, this might tempt many developers to shift their focus.
With so many games already on Steam, developers could see it as a logical step to patch SteamOS support to capture this new audience. With more powerful hardware to work on, a guaranteed audience, fully finished games that only need porting, developers may jump ship on the Switch. Just look at the last years of the Nintendo Wii. The console had a vast amount of software, but with so much shovelware on the system, this translated to a drop in sales.
With more powerful hardware that people were still buying games for, 3rd party developers abandoned the platform. This is a pattern that is similarly emerging with the Switch. It has had an insanely great few years since launch, but if you've spent any time on the store, then you know it's shovelware city. With a powerful rival on the horizon, Nintendo needs to be careful not to repeat their mistakes of the past.
Nintendo Shouldn't Panic, It Should Plan
This isn't an immediate threat. It will take a couple of years for the Steam Deck to get a proper foothold, giving Nintendo plenty of time to prepare. With either a new Switch-like system or a decent hardware upgrade, the big N can avoid too much damage. Like we said above, Valve's new console currently mostly appeals to tech-savvy folks. The big family audience of the Switch probably won't jump systems, even if SteamOS suddenly sees a major increase in games.
After all, Valve has tried this before with Steam Boxes; a plan to create gaming PCs, running an OS without enough games, that were more expensive than a console. While the Steam Deck is almost certainly going to be more successful, it won't pose a tremendous threat unless Valve plans on pushing into the more casual side of the market.
The Steam Deck Isn't a Switch Killer, But It Could Become One
While it's true that the Steam Deck probably isn't going to be an immediate threat to the Switch, that doesn't mean Nintendo can ignore it. The company isn't above making mistakes, and getting too complacent is certainly a mistake it has made many times in the past.
If Nintendo wants to stay on top, it needs to start planning now, or we'll just have another Wii U situation.
Author: William Worrall
Source: William Worrall.” Will Valve’s Steam Deck Kill the Nintendo Switch?”. Retrieved From https://www.makeuseof.com/will-valve-steam-deck-kill-nintendo-switch/
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