What an absolutely exceptional first year Valve had with the Steam Deck, and it continues to be my main way to play games now. From playing lots of indie games, to plenty of AA / AAA that work surprisingly well on it even right at release, the Steam Deck has opened up PC gaming to many new ways to play.
How far it has come since the original release huh? Valve's original release date in December last year was clearly overly optimistic, and in a lot of ways the February release this year was too. Supplies were constantly an issue and people were waiting months for a possible purchase email to come from Valve for their reservation, whereas now you can get it in 1-2 weeks with no reservation needed. There's even the official Steam Deck Docking Station to use it on your big TV (and many other cheaper docks too). We also found out it shipped over a million back in October.
Currently, at time of writing, Deck Verified is doing pretty great on the numbers too. Looking at the stats on SteamDB, which also includes unlisted games (but you still have access to them) there's now:
- Verified - 2651
- Playable - 4286
- Unsupported - 2431
Let's not forget though, the vast majority of games on Steam Deck weren't even designed for it. Most still don't have even a single change done to make it work on it, or work any better. Valve clearly had a plan when they released Proton, the Windows translation layer based on Wine, back in 2018. Without Proton, the Steam Deck would have been pretty much dead on arrival like the original Steam Machines were. You don't pull people in without the games they want to play, and for the most part, Proton has solved that problem. Whoever at Valve actually made the decision to push forward with Proton is clearly a genius.
Thanks to the Steam Deck using Linux, it has successfully continued to push up the Linux user statistics on Steam too overall. It's hit multiple all-time new-highs of Linux users, and while the majority pushing those numbers up are from SteamOS Linux on the Steam Deck, the numbers of desktop Linux users on it are going up too.
It's hard to think of a gaming hardware release that's felt this fresh and exciting, and I've been through quite a lot of launches myself over the years including being an early adopter of the PS3, PS4, Switch, XBX and many other earlier systems. The Steam Deck is just different.
The inclusion of the KDE Plasma desktop mode was a fantastic touch too of course, ensuring that out of the box the Steam Deck could function as a full PC. This also enables tons of extras to be installed and allows you to work around all sorts of things you can't do in the Steam Deck Gaming Mode UI, like my second article at the original release that went along with my main review talking about the likes of Discord and the Epic Games Store (although I would recommend the Heroic Games Launcher for Epic / GOG now). It has limits due to the locked down file-system (that you can unlock at your own peril) but for the most part, it works great. So great in fact, that the likes of Kotaku forgot the original Steam Machines ever had a desktop mode (it used GNOME instead of KDE).
With a vibrant community building up around it, there's clearly no stopping it at this point. People are creating all sorts of things for it, like the excellent Deckmate attachment system. There's also multiple software plugin systems like Decky Loader, and remember all the hype over boot videos? Not many vendors allow such wild customisation and even end up making it easier for you. Love emulation? There's now dedicated launchers for that too like EmuDeck that brings them all under one roof.
While there's a lot of positives, it's not perfection and I do have a wishlist of items I hope Valve look into that I put up in October. I also won't sugarcoat that there's numerous other issues. There's constant problems with game launchers like the EA App breaking completely, then Valve fixed it loading and then it needed another fix because updates were breaking it. Some popular games stop working completely with new updates too. Anti-cheat is another ongoing issue, although largely out of Valve's hands as developers need to support it directly (Hi Bungie). Deck Verified is also a weird one too, with games sneaking into Verified that actually don't work well, which brings up constant questions on how they're testing them, and Unsupported games that actually are flawless. Valve ended up putting in a feedback system to hopefully point them towards titles with problems.
Overall though: I can't wait to see what Valve are cooking up in 2023 for Steam Deck. I plan to keep putting a ton of hours into it, including streaming games from my PC it can't handle (now Remote Play is finally fixed for Linux hosts) while comfortably curled up on my sofa to get away from the chains of my desk.
The Steam Deck is the most accessible and affordable all-rounder handheld gaming PC, and I sure do hope there's a lot more to come from it. Now I just need a Steam Controller 2 (please Valve), and eventually a Steam Deck 2 that's a little lighter and has a better battery along with the next-generation AMD APU and it'll be another guaranteed home run. I'm not asking for much right? We still have Asia to go for the Steam Deck yet, so plenty more to come.
Be sure to follow GamingOnLinux on YouTube where I do lots of Steam Deck content.
What do you think of the first year of the Steam Deck?