After dominating the game development and publishing platform, Valve set foot on the “Game PC”

Is it a niche toy or a new favorite in the PC market?

Plug the monitor and peripherals is the PC, but also take away becomes handheld travel devices play machine you heard of it?

In addition to the Nintendo Switch, a dual-mode game console that sells nearly 90 million units worldwide, a class of “handheld” products is quietly growing. It has a size similar to that of the Switch. It also has a built-in screen and game buttons but can run PC games. It is mainly launched by small and medium-sized device developers. It has also had concept products such as Dell Alienware Concept UFO.

After dominating the game development and publishing platform, Valve set foot on the "Game PC"

Because of the use of Intel and AMD’s x86 architecture processors, these products are also called x86 handhelds. At the same time, they have almost the same software and hardware capabilities as ordinary PCs, and are gradually accepted by users who like small devices and pursue handheld gaming experience.

Just today, this market welcomes real heavyweight players-Valve, who has rich experience in game development and the ability to integrate game content, released the Steam Deck.

Refresh the high cost performance of handheld

The Steam Deck uses a very classic handheld design style. In the middle is a 7-inch 1280*800 resolution screen, with joysticks and various buttons on both sides, and Typc-C and a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top. The layout of the buttons on the front is a bit special. The left and right arrow keys and the joystick are placed almost on the same horizontal line. After the release, it caused countless netizens to complain about whether it would affect the operation.

After dominating the game development and publishing platform, Valve set foot on the "Game PC"

The two touchpads that are hard to see with ordinary gamepads can be regarded as the “traditional art” of Valve hardware products. From the Steam controller nearly ten years ago to the Index VR headset, which is still in short supply, touchpads can be found. Figure. Users can slide their fingers to achieve pixel-level precise input, and more easily play those games that require mouse operation, which is also born for the PC environment.

The hardware specifications are not too outstanding among similar products: equipped with an AMD APU, the CPU part is a Zen 2 with four cores and eight threads, and the GPU part is eight RDNA 2 units. The design power consumption is in the range of 4~15W; standard 16GB LPDDR5 Memory, built-in storage has 64GB eMMC, 256GB NVMe solid state, faster 512GB NVMe solid state, supports UHS-I rate microSD expansion; built-in battery capacity is 40Whr, can provide 2-8 hours of battery life.

After dominating the game development and publishing platform, Valve set foot on the "Game PC"

Peripheral parts include linear motors, six-axis gyroscopes, dual-band Wi-Fi, built-in audio DSP and other leading specifications, support 45W PD charging and 8K@60Hz/4K@120Hz video output. The overall performance of this configuration is roughly the same as that of the original PS4. If Sony and Microsoft have plans to launch handhelds in this generation, this is a benchmark or a feasible route, and the development cost is lower and the existing game lineup can be fully utilized. .

The minimum storage space is visible to the naked eye. In order to prevent it from becoming unable to hold an entire large game, only local streaming equipment can be used. The development team even tried to specifically optimize the microSD access speed to ensure the expansion of external storage. After the game experience. Besides, even if the transmission speed of the external storage is lost, it still performs better than the mechanical hard disk.

After dominating the game development and publishing platform, Valve set foot on the "Game PC"

Battery performance may also be the key to the experience of the whole machine. Many similar products often only have about 2 to 3 hours of game life in order to maintain high power output, which is not a small gap with traditional handhelds. It is not yet clear how much work Steam Deck has done for performance scheduling and battery life optimization. According to the development team, “Portal 2” can be played for five or six hours at 30 frames.

This product reveals a trend, the handheld may be difficult to get smaller.

When the Switch debuted, there were early signs: the new generation of handhelds needs a large enough heat dissipation structure to fully release the performance, and the more refined the screen also needs a large enough screen to carry, and the small-sized game experience can use mobile phone + cloud game. Fully satisfied. It’s just that under this trend, players’ hands will feel a little uncomfortable…

After dominating the game development and publishing platform, Valve set foot on the "Game PC"

The weight of 669g is the largest ” black spot ” of the fuselage , which is nearly half heavier than the much criticized Switch in handheld mode. Playing games with it, your hand strength is likely to be zero before the battery life. But we can’t criticize it simply and rudely that it has no ergonomic design. From the product information, Valve has already made a lot of optimizations based on the experience of other handheld products.

For example, the trigger button on the top of the fuselage, many palms have sacrificed the size of the button due to the volume control of the whole machine, and the feel is much worse than the host handle. The Steam Deck is directly equipped with a trigger with linear input, which looks similar in size. Close to the Xbox controller. In addition, it is equipped with a grip shape that fits the palm of a general handheld device that requires accessories, and four programmable grip buttons.

After dominating the game development and publishing platform, Valve set foot on the "Game PC"

The top price of 512GB storage is US$649, which is also in the price range of RMB 5,000 to RMB 6,000 as x86 handhelds in the same period, and the approximate performance is also at the same level. The mid-range and low-end models seem to be quite cost-effective-the screen has no anti-glare etching treatment and there is a lot of discount for the built-in storage space, but the price is as low as 399 US dollars (approximately RMB 2576).

Valve’s CEO and founder Gabe Newell said that this is a very competitive price based on long-termism. In recent years, he has been very low-key for most of the time, and rarely is his own product platform, which shows the importance of Steam Deck to this company that has emerged as a game and publishing platform.

After trying a series of unsuccessful hardware products, Valve will finally “come hard”.

After dominating the game development and publishing platform, Valve set foot on the "Game PC"

Unlike many people’s first-sighted perceptions, Steam Deck is not a similar product to Switch.

Even if it looks like a large handheld game console at first glance, even if it has many features that Switch players think about day and night , such as light sensor, Bluetooth headset support, and so on. But they are always two completely different devices, but they just happen to be able to play games in a handheld state.

In fact, Valve is very clear about its product positioning. The designer said in an interview that Steam Deck is more like a small PC with integrated gamepad, rather than a pure game console. The built-in system is SteamOS 3.0 based on Arch Linux, but it provides a desktop environment that resembles Windows 10. The biggest difference is that the logo key has been replaced with the Steam Deck Logo.

Software and ecology are barrier-free

In the game industry, the completion of game hardware itself is only the beginning. Manufacturers need to provide products with a rich enough game content ecology to be successful at the commercial level. This is not difficult for Steam Deck. After all, the name of this handheld is derived from Valve’s Steam. It is the largest online publishing platform for PC games with nearly 30,000 titles on the shelves.

Steam Deck wants to create an image that can run all Steam platform games. The official information demonstrates several games: There is only the Windows version of “Death Stranding”, rendering the normal frame rate looks smoother; after connecting the mouse and keyboard, you can play A game like “Kingdom 3” that has a Linux version but does not adapt to handle operation is no different from an ordinary PC.

After dominating the game development and publishing platform, Valve set foot on the "Game PC"

As of now, only about 15% of the games on the Steam platform provide a native Linux system version. In order to expand the scope of compatibility, Vavle launched Proton based on Wind technology, which basically realized the normal operation of most Windows version games under Linux. The actual performance of Steam Deck’s game compatibility has yet to be tested one by one after listing.

ProtonDB user voting data shows that among the top ten most popular games on the Steam platform, works other than Valve’s own games have more or less compatibility issues under Proton. The official Steam Deck development document lists four main problems, which are related to Windows-related development components, anti-cheating and anti-piracy programs. If you want to win over more developers to join, you must solve them.

After dominating the game development and publishing platform, Valve set foot on the "Game PC"

After several years of silence, Steam OS, which came out of the rivers and lakes, has undergone a refactoring of its interface. It has an interactive logic similar to most consoles, and it also has a modern-looking touch operation. This system rightly inherits almost all the advantages of Linux, individual users can define every detail in the system, and other manufacturers can use the system based on free commercial licenses.

The openness of the software does not stop there, allowing users to freely change the system, and can completely install Windows 10/11 by themselves. Whether it’s the classic console emulator that many people are obsessed with, the Epic Store, which gives you free games every week and thank you, or the Xbox Game Pass, which has a cost-effective and line-up, and an online cloud game, you can find it in this game named Steam. Played on the machine.

For more than Dolly profit, Valve wants more current players happy, so Steam Deck has one million potential sales.

After dominating the game development and publishing platform, Valve set foot on the "Game PC"

In general, Steam Deck will be a gaming device worth looking forward to in 2021. Valve is trying to provide a handheld game console with a better balance of price, performance and gaming experience, so that its own games and publishing platforms are rooted in a clearer way. On the hardware. Compared to handhelds that focus on niche markets, Steam Deck with more comprehensive functionality is also more attractive.

Even if there is no demand for handheld games, in this environment where the price of the computer accessories market has risen sharply under the influence of virtual currency, it is not a bad idea to use it as a substitute for PC. After all, desktops and notebooks with the same performance cannot be cheaper. Install the Windows system, plug in the official docking station (which actually has a DP interface), and then connect to the monitor. Steam Deck is an ordinary computer.

The emergence of ecological leaders?

In addition to the identity of Valve’s first handheld, Steam Deck is also beneficial to the entire handheld ecology, promoting various games to improve the experience and providing new standards for hardware specifications. There is such a product that has a large shipment volume and is closely related to the distribution platform, which will inevitably affect a certain range of developers to make adjustments to the game.

At this stage, there are a considerable number of console games and PC games. In the development process, only high-definition monitors and TV display effects are considered. Few, like games specially designed for handheld devices, take care of the performance under small size and low resolution. Therefore, there will be problems such as small visual elements and text, blurry display, and unclear main body of the screen, which can affect the handheld game experience.

After dominating the game development and publishing platform, Valve set foot on the "Game PC"

The official presentation did not avoid it, ” Bode ‘s Gate 3″ on Steam Deck is still optimized for the big screen UI, making text, interface, icons are all displayed in a very small size, readability is very poor. By analogy with the experience of other x86 handhelds, the eyes will become sore after playing the game for a while, which does not constitute a normal gaming experience.

The native resolution of this 7-inch screen is 800P, which is not too stressful for rendering. For 720P, it is compatible with display with black borders up and down. With the 720P resolution OLED version of the Switch also set the screen size at 7 inches, I believe that more developers will optimize the visual effects for this scene in the future, so that PC and cross-platform games will have a good experience under the handheld. .

If you mark with the size of the display device, the scene layering of video games will usher in a new situation: mobile games under 6 inches, handhelds and tablets from 7 inches to 12 inches, PCs from 13 inches to 30 inches, and 40 inches and above. TV. The goal of game development for all models will be clearer. If the above four scenarios are optimized, most game devices can be covered.

After dominating the game development and publishing platform, Valve set foot on the "Game PC"

Handheld games used to be a large-scale specialized market. In the low-performance environment caused by battery life limitations, most manufacturers developed games specifically for handhelds, instead of directly porting PC or console games to it. With the rise of mobile games, the lightness and low picture requirements of handheld games have been absorbed, and the market space has also been taken away by the shift of consumers.

Nowadays, the x86 handheld has redefined handheld games : it is no longer an independent game market, but a “youth version” of the console game with complete game content and only compromises on the screen. In fact, this is the route tried from the Game Gear and NeoGeo Pocket of the last century to the PSP and PSV at the beginning of this century. The synchronization of the technical architecture + the significant improvement in performance has made the idea finally realized.

The x86 handheld market “shows the demon mirror”

Although not pioneering the role of x86 handhelds, Valve hopes to attract more large-scale equipment manufacturers to participate in the competition through Steam Deck. In terms of the current market structure, this is likely to happen.

There are about three brands of x86 handhelds that have begun to sound in China: GPD was the first to enter and use crowdfunding at home and abroad to establish market feasibility, tried clamshell and slide forms with full keyboards, and also small-sized laptop products; One size book production product road line with GPD similar, but the positioning and customer price is relatively higher; AYA’s first handheld product has not yet officially shipped, but 7 inches 800P screen and AMD chips in combination with the Steam Deck closest to the video game store brand had been there The founder of Digital Tail experienced the acquisition by Zhang Ao.

After dominating the game development and publishing platform, Valve set foot on the "Game PC"

The sales volume of a single product of the above brands in the life cycle is about four to five orders of magnitude. Therefore, product strength will inevitably be limited by purchase volume and design capabilities. Many x86 handhelds on the market cannot be customized to the appropriate size of the horizontal display screen. They can only use the vertical display screen originally produced for mobile phones and tablets, and finally rotate to the horizontal screen output. This indirectly caused problems such as display effects, game compatibility, and poor user experience.

Some manufacturers have stated that the reason why they chose Intel mobile platform when developing x86 handhelds, rather than AMD, which has relatively more advanced performance indicators at the same time, is because Intel can provide competitive products in China, from complete development kits to engineer visits. Full support for debugging. For small and medium-sized x86 handheld manufacturers who lack R&D capabilities, this is a great help in completing product definition and final mass production and shipment.

In front of these “first movers”, relying on Valve’s back allows Steam Deck to have advantages in industrial design and engineering implementation levels. Calculating the scale of production based on the influence of the Steam platform can achieve deep customization of parts that are not available in other products to enhance the overall product strength.

After dominating the game development and publishing platform, Valve set foot on the "Game PC"

Valve hardware director Shreya Liu is not a product development background, but has many years of experience in dealing with the supply chain. She was responsible for the Surface display and touch parts procurement management at Microsoft, and may be able to make corresponding reserves for this handheld. .

However, how many resources Valve has invested in the hardware product that the founder came out of the platform, now there is still a question mark. According to previous reports and LinkedIn data, including game development and Steam platform operations, Valve’s entire company has fewer than 1,000 employees, which is less than the number of mainstream game console R&D teams.

Whether it is a controller, a link box or a VR headset, the Valve hardware team is often in the size of dozens of people. If the number of employees involved in the hardware development of Steam Deck is still at this level, it will be similar to some start-up x86 handheld teams. However, this is not the size of a product that is innovative in both software and hardware and may lead the industry.

For the time being, the geek-loved x86 handheld, how much potential its market can have, will have a clearer answer in the next year or two. If the PC market has opened up a new segment where mainstream brands have invested, Steam Deck will undoubtedly be the original explosion point.

Posted by:CoinYuppie,Reprinted with attribution to:https://coinyuppie.com/after-dominating-the-game-development-and-publishing-platform-valve-set-foot-on-the-game-pc/
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