Earlier today, Valve announced the Steam Deck. It's a handheld gaming device that runs Steam via SteamOS. It's also a fully-functioning PC, meaning you can get Windows on there and install whatever you want, including other game stores.
Tim Sweeney has praised the device on Twitter, calling it an "amazing move by Valve". But why would I ever buy a PC game anywhere other than Steam ever again?
Amazing move by Valve! A handheld PC/console hybrid running the SteamOS fork of Arch Linux, and it’s an open platform where users are free to install software or their choosing - including Windows and other stores. https://t.co/jf5TWUWGP5— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) July 15, 2021
I want the Steam Deck because I primarily use my Nintendo Switch to re-buy indie games I already own on PC so I can play them on the go. A device that lets me play those same games on the go without the need to buy them twice is extremely appealing.
Sweeney isn't wrong in his praise. I like the idea that I can do what I want with the Steam Deck, from using it to play games via GOG, or setting it up as a media PC plugged into my TV.
No matter how easy it is to access other game stores on the device, though, it's always going to be easier to access the native Steam client. Steam has a tweaked interface specifically for the device (Little Picture Mode?), runs on a new version of SteamOS created specifically for the device, and is an ecosystem already designed to support different controller profiles.
None of that is true of the Epic Games Store, or Humble, or GOG, or any other store. I struggle to imagine any of those stores ever suppored the Steam Deck as thoroughly as the digital store from which it gets its name.
If the Steam Deck is as successful as Valve hope it will be, it will perhaps create a new product category within PC gaming. A device designed to rival the Steam Deck might succeed because it has better native support for multiple stores - not just Steam, but the Epic Games Store, too. But until that happens, given the choice between what store to buy a game on, I'm probably going to choose the one that also lets me easily play it on a handheld device.