Buying multiplatform games used to be an easy decision for me: I almost always bought them on the Nintendo Switch because it’s so easy to play games on both a TV and in portable mode. The Steam Deck thwarted this decision-making process. The handheld gaming PC might be heavier, has worse battery life, and doesn’t have a basic Switch-like dock to throw my games onto a bigger screen, but because I feel like I can trust Steam -Games are available much longer In the future, I will have to make difficult decisions about buying games from Valve instead of Nintendo.
There’s one important thing to say upfront: I had never owned a gaming PC until I got Steam Deck in April. I’ve mostly played video games on Nintendo platforms for a long time, and it wasn’t until the pandemic started that I got serious about the PlayStation and Xbox libraries. (I have a PS4 just to play Final Fantasy VII Remakeand things escalated from there.)
While I’ve bought many Steam games on sale or in Humble Bundles, I’ve only played a handful of them and only on old work laptops or my personal MacBook Airs. The Steam Deck, on the other hand, is a much more powerful gaming device than any laptop I’ve ever owned. Once I set it up, I suddenly had access to almost 200 PC games that I had previously purchased or claimed and I could play them on my couch or hooked up to an external display. I knew that would be the case when I made my Steam Deck reservation last year, but actually seeing the games on my own device was eye-opening.
With Switch games, however, there’s no guarantee they’ll work on Nintendo’s next big console. For now, I just have to keep my fingers crossed that Nintendo decides to make this console backwards compatible with my Switch purchases. I personally don’t count on it – Nintendo loves finding new ways to resell old games.
I would have liked to have brought it with me Mario Kart 8 from my Wii U to the Switch, but in order to be able to play it with my colleagues during the pandemic, I had to shell out full price for it Mario Kart 8 deluxe. Access to retro games is one of the main perks of the Nintendo Switch Online subscription, but all the virtual console purchases I made years ago aren’t available on my Switch. And Nintendo isn’t afraid to close stores.
With Steam, on the other hand, I can be pretty confident that just about anything I buy on the Steam Deck now will work flawlessly on any potential next Steam Deck or gaming-capable computer I buy in the future (as long as there the game of course supports every operating system I work on). I’m assuming Valve won’t be acquired or suddenly disappear from the face of the earth – anything can happen in the video game industry, so maybe I shouldn’t tempt fate – but Valve seems to have a good thing going.
I should also say that on my Steam deck I generally lean towards smaller and indie titles like e.g Hotline Miami, Insideand The Parable of Stanley: Ultra Deluxe. I suspect these are the types of games I personally want to return to at some point in the future, and it will be a lot easier to just re-download them onto PC rather than digging up my Switch once it inevitably loses its place on mine TV stand.
While I love the Steam deck very much and the potential that the Steam platform will give me easy access to games for years to come, I haven’t fully committed to Valve’s ecosystem yet because of the tedium of steam deck games to play on my TV. Part of the Switch’s magic is how effortlessly it switches from handheld to TV mode when you put the device in its dock, and while the Steam Deck can connect to external displays, there’s still no option , which is as simple as the Switch experience.
I was looking forward to the official Steam Deck Dock to see if that might come close, but since it was delayed I’ll have to keep waiting. But while I don’t expect the Steam Deck to ever be as easy to play on a TV as it is on a Switch, being able to play decades-old PC games on the big screen at home might be a bit awkward and knowing that anything I buy now will probably work on other PCs later.
At the moment I still choose the Switch for a lot of games. (And of course there are the big games like zelda and Metroid which are only available on the Switch.) But what used to be a no-brainer is now something I need to give some serious thought to, and with Valve constantly improving the Steam deck, future decisions could become even more difficult.