Valve’s upcoming portable gaming PC, the Steam Deck, isn’t going to be the Nintendo Switch killer some have speculated about online.
But Nintendo may still have an unforeseen problem on its hands.
The Steam Deck, slated to begin shipping to pre-order customers at the end of 2021, is going to have a custom designed AMD APU, a slice of silicon that is both a CPU and GPU, as well as quad-channel 32-bit LPDDR5 memory.
There will be three different versions based on storage memory size — a 64 GB eMMC memory option, and much faster and larger 256 and 512 GB NVMe solid state drive options.The prices will be $399, $529 and $649, respectively, with expandable storage via a microSD card slot — and it will come preloaded with a new version of Steam OS, although Valve says you’ll be able to install other game stores and even Windows and Linux onto the device.
A dock with USB 2.0, HDMI and ethernet ports will be sold separately, allowing users to connect to TVs or other monitors and use other peripherals, such as a mouse and keyboard.
Valve also touts that there has yet to be a game developers have thrown at the Steam Deck from the Steam library that it hasn’t been able to handle. Which is all fine and good because people with large libraries on the service will be able to take their games with them.
But it’s not going to slow sales for the Nintendo Switch OLED, which is set to launch alongside “Metroid: Dread” on Oct. 8, or the Switch Lite or any other games or products Nintendo is currently working on or planning to roll out.
Nintendo fans are going to buy Nintendo games, regardless of how bad the Switch runs Nintendo’s own games, because it still produces some of the most well-made, beloved games on the market right now that you cannot get elsewhere.
“The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD” is proof of that. It’s a remake of a game from 2011, retails for $59.99 and had a bad reputation among fans for clunky motion controls from the original launch a decade ago, which have been updated for this revision.
It’s already Amazon’s third-best selling retail game in 2021. The Switch OLED model is already unavailable for pre-orders, and according to a July 16 story on Tech Times, the current lineup of Switch consoles has already sold 85 million units as of March.
This creates a problem for Nintendo because the Steam Deck has the power inside it to allow users with the know-how — lack of fear for potential legal consequences — to install emulation programs onto their Steam Deck and create a library of content from across all of gaming history.
And this backs Nintendo into a corner that it’s been avoiding for some time.
Nintendo fans have been clamoring for the company to release titles from the Nintendo 64, Gamecube and Wii consoles on their Switch systems for years and Nintendo thus far has shown no interest in doing that.
If there was one thing Nintendo did right during the Wii U era of 2012-17, it was probably the Virtual Console, a massive online library of older Nintendo titles available for purchase at a relatively cheap price of about $10 a game to those who still own a Nintendo Wii U console, which may not be a lot nowadays as the Wii U was Nintendo’s biggest commercial bust ever. Many assumed the company would carry this service over to the Switch, given its relative success during that time.
But that has never materialized over the past four years. While the NES and SNES apps do provide some access to older titles, Nintendo has locked those behind the Nintendo Online service subscription fee of $20 a year, with no word coming any time soon whether more content is to follow.
Which is why, regardless of the legal ramifications, people will still try to run emulated games on the Steam Deck when it does begin to arrive in players’ hands. Gamers, particularly fans of old Nintendo titles, will go to any lengths, whether it’s a $60 drop in the bucket or outright piracy, to play those games.
So maybe Nintendo could save everyone the headache and heartache and just give the fans what they want already.
Dan Isenberg writes about game and tech things for the Altoona Mirror. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @TheseDanTweets.