The newly announced Steam Deck is the culmination of every hardware built by Valve in the past, which includes the Steam Machine.
Speaking with IGN in a recent interview, product designer Greg Coomer stated that Steam Link proved “really valuable in establishing what it means to stream games on PC.” He also mentioned the Steam Controller as another “really valuable” product which more or less paved the way for the Steam Deck to become a reality.
Coomer further added that the Steam Machine “was a really good idea” but as such, its operating system and the number of games owners could play on the system “were not quite there” at the time. He noted that Valve was against introducing the Steam Deck without ascertaining first if the new handheld device would address all concerns and issues which were left behind by the Steam Machine.
“We did not really want to bring this device to customers until we felt it was ready,” concluded Coomer. “I do not think we would have made as much progress on Steam Deck if we had not had that experience.”
Steam Machines were pre-built console-size PC systems that ran on the SteamOS with a Steam Controller in hand. They were never meant to replace consoles but Valve did envision a new way for players to play their games on their couches.
Steam Machines were highly expensive and were sold through third-party PC companies like Alienware, Origin, and Zotac; each boasting a unique design and varying hardware specifications. Unfortunately, they never achieved popularity.
Steam Machines were announced in late 2013 and were discontinued by most of the third-party vendors in late 2016. The number of lifetime units sold were never officially shared but reportedly, Valve managed to sell less than half a million units in total. Valve itself removed Steam Machines from Steam in early 2018, marking an end to a product which many believed was ahead of its time.
Steam Decks are not supposed to be a reiteration of Steam Machines. The product is instead designed to be a portal PC of sorts which can play any game from a Steam library, including modern-day triple-a games. Just like a PC, owners can also do much more with Steam Decks. They can, for example, choose to install Windows over SteamOS, install other applications as well, and even install other game clients such as Epic Games Store.
Steam Deck will be launching near the 2021 holiday season. The cheapest model retails at $350 which goes up to $550 for an upgraded model with a NVMe solid-state drive, a premium glass, and some exclusive goodies like a unique carrying case and a virtual keyboard theme.