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Valve says Steam Deck and Switch are targeting different audiences despite similar form factor

Steam Deck
(Image credit: Valve)

Steam Deck looks more than a little like a heavy duty take on a Nintendo Switch, but Valve isn't concerned about the comparison.

Valve's new handheld gaming PC takes the form of a long rectangle with control options including analog sticks, a D-pad, face buttons, and miniature trackpads on either side of its 1280x800 screen. While the control options vary some and the internal hardware is quite different, Steam Deck still bears a conceptual resemblance to Nintendo Switch (especially with its dock, which can be used to play games on bigger screens). However, Valve co-founder Gabe Newell told IGN that Steam Deck is built to satisfy very different customer expectations.

"So I think Nintendo does a great job targeting the audience they do with the content that they have," Newell said. "And that's going to be different. Like when you pick this up, it feels much more like the ergonomics for somebody who's used to playing with an expensive game controller, right? Because it's bigger and it's bulkier than a Switch. And if we're right, that's the right trade-off to be making for the audience that we're going after."

Even if they appear similar in product shots, Newell said the difference could ultimately be summed up just by holding the two systems: "If you're a gamer, and you pick up a Switch, and you pick up one of these, you're going to know which one is right for you, right? And you're going to know it within 10 seconds."

Valve designer Greg Coomer added that Steam Deck's visual similarities to Switch were "kind of an artifact of how we've proceeded down the design direction" rather than trying to make a PC gaming system that appealed to a different audience. One of the first things we did after Valve announced its new system was to run down how Steam Deck compares to Switch, PS5, and Xbox Series X - if you check out our comparison, you can see how Steam Deck a good deal larger and heavier than the standard model of Switch, which goes right along with Newell's idea of feeling which one's right for you.

Valve says it's targeting a minimum of 30 FPS as it tests games on Steam Deck.

Connor Sheridan

I got a BA in journalism from Central Michigan University - though the best education I received there was from CM Life, its student-run newspaper. Long before that, I started pursuing my degree in video games by bugging my older brother to let me play Zelda on the Super Nintendo. I've previously been a news intern for GameSpot, a news writer for CVG, and now I'm a staff writer here at GamesRadar.