Talk to Gabe Newell about Steam Deck and Valve ideas for the future

“It’s something that personally as a gamer I’ve loved for a long time, you know? So as soon as you start playing PC games you think it’s worth it, I want something that gives me all the fidelity of the experience with a lot of control and who can use it as a portal”. The first time I wanted something like this was back in the 90s, when PC games stopped playing.”

Gabe Newell is, frankly, pretty excited about the Steam Deck. After a bit of a delay and lots and lots of public anticipation, the American company’s laptop is finally here, and quite possibly Valve’s most emotional hardware to date. Or at least Valve’s hardware is more exciting than the last time when they announced one Steam Machines that generated enough anticipation when it was announced in 2013, but never got to say goodbye to Valve has confirmed to the public that the platform isn’t all dead just three years after the machines went on sale in 2015.

Interest in the Steam Deck contrasts with indifference to what was currently being embraced by Steam Machines, but the new machine isn’t exactly that distinct in its scope. In fact, the Steam Deck is simply an extension of the work that was done with the introduction of the Big Picture Mode which made the ingredients for Steam Machines and a keyboard-speed PC game depot.

“Think of everything we tried to do as a kind of block,” Newell explains when discussing how the Steam Engines laid the foundation for the Steam Deck. “You build walls and you have to build after the other components are advanced. The Steam Controller has had a huge impact on the way we think about control technologies, and I think one of the big lessons learned with the machine Steam came to the conclusion that if we wanted to apostatize for this type of initiative, we had to do it internally, fixing all the issues that we consider to be of great importance to gamers and software developers alike” .

I’ve been testing out a Steam Deck for the past few weeks and was impressed with what Valve did, except the device isn’t without its issues. It’s a complex and sometimes cumbersome device – a complexity that comes with PC gaming, as well as the time it takes to transfer a good chunk of the Steam library to a portable machine. Part of the fun – and frustration – is seeing how your catalog of games performs on the machine, although I asked how many neutrals the Valve ecosystem will enter with it and whether it will be able to broaden the audience for video games. on PC in the same way Switch did with the console when it launched in 2017.

Valve is committed to testing the entire Steam catalog to see if it is compatible with the Steam Deck, while recognizing that this will not be possible, for example, with virtual reality titles, which do not have sense in the actual iteration of the hardware. .

“I think if we ignore the fact that it’s a device for gaming and just look at it in terms of price and performance, because of its CPU and GPU, it’s a great device,” says Newell. “I think we would be in a state of ignorance ignoring the fact that it is a device for gaming. But it is, and that is where it has its most appealing applications.”

“One of the coolest things for us is that we bet very hard with the price of entry and then we go as consumers came to buy the cheapest SKU that was available. It’s interesting, that’s all Early Adopters, you know, but what that tells us is that if we had given them more storage, more performance, or more memory, they probably would have bought the same thing. It’s interesting, and it will likely change as we begin to expand inventory and meet demand, we’ll see a shift over time towards the lowest priced, entry-level SKUs.”

What’s truly fascinating, without a doubt, is where Valve will take you to the Steam Deck in the future. It’s a long-term project, with a brighter future than Steam Engines, that could take PC gaming to some interesting places if Newell’s ideas of where the device will be finished in five years.

“Some of the conversations we have with software developers are worthwhile, that’s great, but we’re trying to see how the next generation of the Deck will be,” he explains. “What do we want as solutions for portable games, for portable PC games? Does this open the door to new things? dada the position of your hand – it gives you the opportunity to do things in this direction”.

The prototype of the Steam Deck started about five years ago, but the origin of the device was born with the introduction of the Big Picture mode in 2012.

“You know, all of these things are tied together. A lot of the technology that we’re using and may be using in future releases comes from, you know, technology that we’ve developed for virtual reality. And if you think and see the machine as a high performance laptop, then why can’t I have that in an integrated solution without VR cables?”.

“With headphones, we have a lot more possibilities for things like neuromodulation or direct sensors and things in people’s heads, or you can see information that’s easy to transmit through sensors close to the user’s hands. All of these things have to snowball over time, with each of them thinking what are we going to learn, what are we going to do to help software developers? does it translate into time to build attractive solutions for players?

“In the long run, we might end up discovering that these are interesting and specific opportunities for laptops. If you try to put cameras in these devices, you might find that there are gaming experiences that really depend on them… Pokémon Go is a great example of an app that has no meaning in the registry.” .

“But it depends on a series of things that currently don’t exist in PC gaming, and the opportunity with the next versions of Steam Deck is to start looking at that type of application or that type of possibility, and to see what kind of applications When we start to have unique game technologies in future versions of the Deck, that will be when you have a lot more sense to start trying to create custom applications and take advantage of them “.

Progress with the software has been rapid, making it difficult for Digital Foundry partners, but it also suggests there’s still a lot of work to be done with the devices that will get the first users.

Is Pokémon Go on PC? It wasn’t, since then, what I expected when I asked Newell about the long range plans for the Steam Deck, but it was illustrative to see where he would run the device, and a logical step for Steam to venture into one of the most lucrative and popular areas of video gaming. There will be a lot of that by then, because there are several iterations of the hardware, with which it’s not something that’s coming soon, plus Valve will be busy in the next few months trying to keep up with the demand of the new machine.

“From there, we will increase production as quickly as possible,” he says. “In fact, that’s a lot of what we’ve been doing over the last six months, working with our employers to see how to do it. We’re also looking forward to it – and that’s one of the great things about the PC market – to see other people looking at this and making products like this. Not only will we try to keep up with the demand, but we also hope that other PC manufacturers will recognize these types of parts. And the demand for this type of solution is as high as one thinks of launching similar devices.”

“The good news is that demand is high. The bad news is that due to the pandemic, demand for all types of electronic components has disappeared. If you’ve spoken with Intel, or AMD, or Nvidia, or with the Ford Motor Company, they’ll tell you that consumer demand has changed. If you can’t go to a restaurant or a movie, you’ll buy a nicer house, and you’ll buy a few more appliances electronics for manufacturing capability to meet this demand.”

Translated by Josep Maria Sempere.

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