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, 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.