Whatever the future holds, it won’t be holding a more powerful version of the Steam Deck, at least for now. Valve is looking to prioritize improving the battery life and display quality of future Steam Decks, and isn’t looking to increase the performance, according to an interview with two Steam Deck designers.
Speaking to The Verge, Steam Deck designers Lawrence Yang and Pierre-Loup Griffais outlined Valve’s vision for future versions of the handheld device, and key for them is increasing the longevity of the device’s battery, as well as the quality of the display, rather than boosting the power of the processor and GPU.
This may come as a surprise to many, as the Steam Deck’s custom-designed system-on-chip was known to struggle with a number of games, so a performance may have seemed like the natural step up. After all, a lot of hardcore gamers -- the most likely audience for the Steam Deck -- may have appreciated having the option for a “Pro” model with more powerful hardware.
So is this a misstep from Valve? Perhaps not. Valve is keeping lockstep with the handheld gaming masters in choosing to keep performance at roughly the same level. Nintendo did that with the improved versions of the Nintendo Switch, choosing not to split developers between creating games for the new and old versions of the Switch, and this is core to Valve’s decision.
“Right now the fact that all the Steam Decks can play the same games and that we have one target for users to understand what kind of performance level to expect when you’re playing and for developers to understand what to target... there’s a lot of value in having that one spec,” Griffais said to The Verge.
There’s certainly a strong logic to keeping requirements at the same level some time after a console’s launch. Developers like having a stable hardware base to build from, and no-one wants to suddenly be having to work to a new set of specifications partway through a project. It certainly doesn’t seem as if the Steam Deck needs an upgrade to compete in the console market, either, as it’s consistently ranked as Steam’s top seller for months now.