When Valve announced the Steam Deck yesterday, it also revealed a plan to keep resellers from earning profits on them by taking advantage of limited supply: Anyone making a reservation must have made a purchase on Steam prior to June 2021. The goal is to ensure that nobody can crank out a bunch of new Steam accounts and then use them to reserve a big pile of Steam Decks that can later be unloaded at massively inflated prices.
It's a strategy that might prevent institutional resellers from making bank, but it's not a perfect firewall. Steam Deck reservations went live today, and the online auction site eBay (opens in new tab) is already swimming in "confirmed order pre-sales" at prices far above cost. One listing for a 64GB unit, for instance, has bidding starting at $550 and a "Buy It Now" cost of $750—nearly double the regular $399 price. The lowest price I've seen on a 512GB unit is $949; at least one true optimist is asking for more than double that amount.
And they are selling: This 256GB model (opens in new tab) went for $850, while this 512GB unit (opens in new tab) was a comparative steal at $975. This one (opens in new tab), on the other hand, sold for an eye-watering $1,599.
The obvious question is: why are buyers forking over such big wads of cash for hardware that can't even be pre-ordered yet, rather than just making reservations themselves? It's possible that some folks just have too damn much money, and are willing to blow hundreds of dollars extra to ensure they're among the very first to get their hands on a Steam Deck: Actual preorders will be offered based on the order that reservations were made, and shipping dates are already being pushed back. 512GB units currently aren't expected to begin shipping until Q3 2022.
The more likely explanation, though, is that Steam Deck reservations are currently only available in the US, UK, EU, and Canada. So if you live in, say, China, Australia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, or, y'know, any place other than the US, UK, EU, or Canada, you're out of luck for the moment—unless, that is, you're willing to pony up to have someone in those regions mail one to you.
Personally, I think it's ridiculous to pay that much money for the ability to play your Steam games on a tiny screen with analog sticks and trackpads in places where you could be doing something else anyway, but Valve's restrictions have at least seemed to keep reselling to a minimum. And this kind of thing is all but inevitable anyway: In September 2020, Nvidia said it was "doing everything humanly possible" to stop RTX 3080 resales on eBay, and in January 2021 the cards were selling for an average of $1,300 on eBay—85% over their regular retail price.
We managed to place a couple of Steam Deck reservations not too long after they went live, but many have experienced server errors and other problems. Reservations are still available, though as mentioned, the ship dates keep getting pushed back.