I’ve written a fair bit about the Steam Deck lately, but that’s just because there’s so much to say about this interesting device. In this article, I think it’s important that we address one of the biggest elephants in the room. Whether or not the Steam Deck is going after the Switch’s audience. As you’ll have seen from the title of this article, I don’t believe that to be the case. The appearance of both devices would make it seem like they’re in direct competition with one another, but you have to think about what they’re offering to really see where their audiences lie.
The Switch is a Nintendo console for Nintendo fans. It’s got Nintendo exclusives, and that’s what makes it sell well. It’s a console that Nintendo has put a lot of work into, it’s accessible, handheld, and can be played in a variety of ways. It’s made for parties, co-op, cozy home gaming sessions, and everything in-between. The core of that console is the Nintendo exclusive lineup though. Zelda, Mario, and more sell these consoles, not the design of the device itself.
The Steam Deck is a device that you play your favourite games on. You can play these games on any PC or laptop, but Steam Deck makes them portable and puts them in a comfortable handheld form factor. There are no Nintendo exclusives on this thing, nor will there ever be. This is a machine for the best high-end games on the market as well as the tiny indies that blow up and become insanely popular. It’s not a device that a Nintendo fan wants, it’s a device that a PC gamer wants.
To be clear, the audiences here are extremely different. If we look at the price, that’s also very obvious. A Switch costs between £200 and £310 depending on the version you buy. A Steam Deck is £350 at the cheapest, and £550 for the best version possible. It’s not for those who want a cheaper handheld console over a PS5 or Xbox Series X/S. Valve knows its target audience, and so does Nintendo. These consoles aren’t competing, they’re on the same level as each other in different spaces.