That steam deck has given Valve’s storefront a unique advantage over the competition, making buying PC games through Steam a more attractive option than using GOG or the Epic Store. Prior to the release of the Steam Deck, a subset of PC gaming fans may have viewed Steam as a problematic choice for game ownership, as the games sold on GOG are all DRM-free, making playing independent of a storefront and the Epic Store routinely allows offers totally free games. Steam’s added features make it the most appealing choice for many more, but a good sale on another platform might still have been reason enough for many to buy a game elsewhere. The Steam Deck has the potential to change that dynamic.
That Steam Deck will play games other than games purchased from Steam Titles, but Steam games work right out of the box with the least amount of hassle. The Deck Verified list makes it easy to find games that are ideal for portable devices, and Steam Storefront games often come with deck-optimized control configurations that reduce setup time. There are Nintendo Switch owners who, due to the Switch’s portability factor, prioritize buying multi-platform games for the Switch rather than buying more powerful dedicated home consoles or PCs, and many Steam Deck owners have made the same adjustment and focused on the Purchasing games through Steam focused to take full advantage of the deck.
Some deck owners have replaced the default Linux-based operating system with Windows, which certainly opens the door to many more gaming options. However, the Steam Deck’s built-in operating system is much slimmer than Windows and optimized specifically for gaming. Replacing the Steam Deck OS with the relatively bloated Windows OS generally results in worse game performance, and that Windows-based Steam Deck competitors that cost less offer better alternatives for those looking for a portable Windows OS than overriding the efficient Steam OS.
The novelty of portable gameplay gave Switch & Now Steam Deck an edge
The vast majority of high-quality games of the current generation are multi-platform titles, and the prices of the games are usually almost identical, regardless of the platform in question. Console gaming fans have recognized this as the Xbox and PlayStation storefronts are largely identical. Retail prices are the same in all stores, and selling prices are also usually very close. The timing of specific sales may differ, as GOG or Epic may have sales at a different time than Xbox or PlayStation, but broadly speaking, choosing where to buy a game isn’t about the titles available or the prices in today’s gaming landscape.
The Switch is the only outlier, because despite having the weakest specs of any current platform, its hybrid docking and portable options give it a unique novelty, often causing Switch games to be priced higher than alternative storefronts. Steam Deck’s ideal games prove the relevance of the Switch, as many of the games that require minimal tweaking before getting into gameplay are shared between the Steam and Switch libraries. For most who own both a Switch and Steam deck, the deck has largely replaced Nintendo’s hybrid, which in turn makes Steam purchases more appealing.
Thanks to Steam’s largely hassle-free cloud storage, Steam games are already functionally hybrid titles for Steam deck owners. Those who own a deck and a dedicated gaming PC can switch their game from the deck’s portable format to resuming play on their PC, with much the same ease as a Switch owner docking their device. GOG’s DRM-free games may still remain a more attractive option for those with unreliable internet access, as Steam play relies on validation via an online connection.
Steam Deck makes Valve’s storefront the obvious choice
The build quality of the Steam Deck, along with the value of its specs relative to its price, make it an attractive product. Steam Deck purchases no longer require a waitlist, but before that, consumers waited months for their pre-orders for the coveted wearable to be fulfilled. For Valve, the most important thing the deck has done has nothing to do with selling the hardware itself. Steam Deck offers an added incentive to make purchases through the Steam storefront rather than the competition. Those who question Valve’s ethics as a company may still have reason to look elsewhere, but outside of those concerns, the steam deck has reversed the script and moved Steam from the worst PC gaming storefront option to the obvious choice.