Gabe Newell expects Steam Deck to sell 'millions of units' but the pricing was 'painful' to pick

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Valve unveiled the Steam Deck portable PC today, a sweet piece of handheld hardware with some predictably stiff price tags: $399 for the 64GB unit, $529 for the 256GB, and $649 for 512GB. Speaking to IGN (opens in new tab), Gabe Newell said Valve is actually being "very aggressive" on the pricing, because finding the right balance between price and performance "is going to be one of the critical factors in the mobile space." But he emphasized that performance was Valve's first and foremost concern.

"I want to pick this up and say, 'Oh, it all works, it's all fast'," Newell said. "And then price point was secondary, and painful. But that was pretty clearly a critical aspect to it. The first thing was the performance and the experience, [that] was the biggest and most fundamental constraint that was driving us."

And despite the high cost (which, to be fair, doesn't strike me as entirely unreasonable for what is essentially a full-on PC packaged like a Nintendo Switch), Newell has pretty great expectations for Valve, and portable PC gaming as a whole. 

"Our view is, if we're doing this right, we're going to be selling these in millions of units, and it's clearly going to be establishing a product category that ourselves and other PC manufacturers are going to be able to participate in," he said. "And that's going to have long-term benefits for us. So that's sort of the frame in which we're thinking about this.

"We don't have some tie-in ratio—we don't say, 'Oh, and then we have to sell eight games for each one of these, otherwise it doesn't make sense.' Our calculus is more, 'Is this the right product, and is it a great way to test out the assumption that there's a huge amount of value, both to game players and game developers, to extending the PC ecosystem in this direction. That's the real test, more than anything else."

Valve competitor Tim Sweeney of Epic Games likes the handheld, too: He called it an "amazing move" by Valve.

Reservations for Steam Deck purchases will open on Friday, July 16, and units are expected to begin shipping in December. You can find out more about the unit, and put your name on the list if you're interested, at steamdeck.com (opens in new tab).

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.