Steam Deck is now available... for game developers

The handheld PC from Valve is now being sent to developers ahead of the product's release.

A look at the Steam Deck dev-kit

Earlier this summer Valve announced the release of Steam Deck, its first gaming console that brings the power of a PC into the mobility of a handheld. The devices are supposed to start shipping out to buyers at the end of the year and, currently, are only available for pre-order. As of this week, though, developer kits for the Steam Deck are being shipped to game developers, in order to allow for some product testing ahead of the console’s official release.

Although the developer kits aren’t official Steam Decks that will hit the market, they are “functionally identical,” according to this announcement from Steam. The dev-kit will allow game developers to begin the process of getting their games onto the portable console and provide feedback to improve the overall experience.

Since its announcement earlier this month, the dev-kit has undergone a fairly expedient preparation process. Game developers were asked to submit requests for the test model at the same time as the announcement, so it’s safe to assume all of those requests have already been processed.

Steam Deck will be available in three different storage options: 64GB, 256GB, and 512GB at price points of $399, $529, and $649 respectively. Given the machine’s power — Valve partnered with AMD to create an in-house, custom APU capable of running AAA games — the cost is pretty reasonable, especially considering what a gaming PC costs by comparison.

Is this the future of handheld? — Maybe, given that Valve has an opportunity to succeed where other companies have failed: Creating a PC handheld that has powerful specs, at a price that won’t turn the average customer off. According to Input’s Alejandro Medellin, the Steam Deck could change PC gaming by creating a bridge for console gamers that want the PC experience without the hassle that comes with building a rig. As someone who slots perfectly into that category, I admit I’m pretty interested myself.

It will be fascinating to see how the release of the Steam Deck affects Nintendo Switch popularity, if at all. The two systems provide different gaming experiences, and there’s no other way to play Nintendo’s exclusive titles, but it looks like the Japanese game company’s near stranglehold on the handheld market might soon loosen a little.