good enough for now —
Valve sees value in keeping “a solid [hardware] target throughout the generation.”
If you’re waiting for a more powerful version of the Steam Deck before diving in on Valve’s Linux-based portable hardware, you may find yourself waiting a little while longer. In a recent interview with Rock Paper Shotgun, Valve designer Lawrence Yang says it will be “a few years” before the company releases “a true next-gen Deck with a significant bump in horsepower.”
A look at the Steam Deck’s performance over its first year of availability helps show why Valve might not be in a hurry to release a more powerful portable. The current Steam Deck now supports over 8,000 titles that are either rated Playable or Verified by Valve’s official Compatibility program. And that list isn’t just low-end indie games, either; heavy hitters like Cyberpunk 2077, Elden Ring, and the recent Dead Space remake run great on the handheld, and the device can even handle ray tracing on slightly older games like Doom Eternal.
That said, the Steam Deck hardware is already beginning to show its age on some recent releases. Games like Wild Hearts and Returnal will technically run on the Deck but reportedly show some significant frame rate and performance issues on the portable. While future software or OS patches could help a bit for these bleeding-edge games, the Steam Deck’s unchanging hardware may start to look increasingly dated as PC gamers continue to upgrade their rigs with plentiful graphics cards (and PC game makers continue to target those high-end desktop users with their newest titles).
Still, Valve designers see value in developers sticking with the Steam Deck’s current specs for a little while longer, at least. “I believe the Deck has the potential to be a solid target throughout the generation,” Valve engineer Pierre-Loup Griffais told Rock Paper Shotgun, “but the work involved is trickier than the typical Deck UX tweaks that developers have had to do for games that already perform well.”
Developers who can design top-end PC games that can scale down to work on the Steam Deck will also “enable smoother performance on a wider variety of PCs, and improve the experience for the whole playerbase,” Griffais pointed out.
Of course, Valve could still release a slightly upgraded Steam Deck with the same basic internal specs (a la Nintendo’s history of “Lite” portables). Yang and Griffais said back in December that they’d like a Steam Deck 2.0 to address “pain points” like battery life and screen quality while keeping “one target for users to understand what kind of performance level to expect.”
And Valve will obviously continue to update the Steam Deck OS and Proton compatibility layer as time goes on as well. Griffais told RPS the team is focusing on “value-add features” like HDR support for compatible external monitors. That means the Steam Deck you play a year from now won’t be exactly the same as the one you can play today, even if the internal hardware remains exactly the same.