Valve are without doubt one of the most successful companies in gaming. They have a fantastic roster of games, including Half-Life and Dota. In addition, they have the incredible gaming platform, Steam. However, when it comes to hardware their success has been less than inspiring. Does anyone actually own the Steam Link or Steam Machine? Therefore, despite all the hype, it is wise to be cautious. The Valve Steam Deck was announced on 19 July 2021 to be released in December 2021.
Much has been said about its similarity to the Nintendo Switch and that it could be a direct competitor. Here we take a look at whether the Valve Steam Deck can succeed in today’s market and whether it is actually a direct competitor to the Nintendo Switch. Indeed, it also faces stiff competition from great products that can turn your mobile phone into a great gaming machine at cheap prices.
A Fraught History
Valve’s first foray into the hardware market was with the Steam Machine, Steam Link and Steam Controller. All 3 were released on 10 November 2015 with users really needing all of them to make the most of the offering. However, sales were dismal. Valve confirmed that they only sold 500,000 Steam Controllers. Sales of the expensive Steam Machines are likely to be even lower than this. By the end of 2018, the Steam Machine and Steam Link were discontinued, with the Steam controller stopping shortly after, in November 2019.
PC Master Race
Valve’s aim here was to compete with the big boys of console gaming. They wanted to bring PC gaming into the living room. However, it clearly didn’t work out. For anyone familiar with gaming, there is quite a rivalry between PC Gamers and Console Gamers. Indeed, you just need look at the huge number of “PC Master Race” memes on the internet to get an idea of this. Therefore, the Steam Machine was a hard sell for Valve from the get-go. PC Gamers don’t want to play like console gamers. If they did, they would buy a console unit.
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Another problem for the Steam Machine was that it felt like old technology from release. This was only further highlighted by the Steam Link. Why would you need an expensive Steam Machine when you could just stream your games onto another device using the Steam Link at a much lower cost. However, even the Steam Link felt old. This could be easily replicated as a software. Indeed, the Steam Link does actually survive in this capacity today. There was never a need for it as a hardware option.
Valve Steam Deck
What is the Valve Steam Deck
Announced on 19 July 2021 this is Valve’s latest adventure into the gaming hardware world. They will certainly have a lot riding on it with strong hopes that it will be hugely successful. The Valve Steam Deck is a handheld console, with the idea that you will be able to play your Steam gaming library directly on the device. Like the Nintendo Switch, you will also be able to link it up to a larger screen. The specs of the handheld are certainly impressive and the huge game library will no doubt attract a lot of people. The price point is also competitive starting at $399 | £349 and you can pick it up here.
Riding the Steam Popularity Wave
The Valve Steam Deck will definitely shift a lot of units. Indeed, the customer player base for Valve is now hugely bigger than when the Steam Machine was originally released. When it was still in release in 2017, Steam had 67 million monthly active users. Therefore, with 500,000 units sold, only 0.75% of active Steam users had bought a Steam machine in 2017. Fast forward to 2020 and Steam had 120 million monthly active users. If 0.75% again pick up the latest Steam hardware, then the Steam Deck could expect sales of 895,000 units. Of course, this would be hugely disappointing and Valve will be hoping for much higher sales than this.
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Will the Valve Steam Deck Sell
Fortunately, this time around, they are entering the market with impressive technology. Additionally, they are operating in a very buoyant gaming market after the 2020 Covid stay at home sales bounce. Indeed, at this price point, they may be able to attract some console gamers who have wanted to play PC only games but haven’t had the right machine for the job. However, the issue remains that they are trying to get their main audience of PC Gamers to pick up a console.
Nevertheless, if they can crack it, the potential market is huge. The Nintendo Switch has now sold 84.5 million units since release. If they can even get to 5% of this figure it would be a huge a success vs. the dismal sales of the Steam Machine. This would represent 4.2 million units and just 3.5% of monthly active users. This seems achievable though they will never reach the heights of, established player, the Nintendo Switch. Though perhaps Valve are hoping for more, especially after another of their recent high-profile flops in Artifact that ceased further development in March 2021. Of course, we will just have to wait and see for now. The December sales rush will give a great first indication.
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