Valve president Gabe Newell described Steam Deck as a “stepping stone” to high performance standalone VR, but noted “we’re not really there yet”.
Newell was interviewed about Steam Deck for the latest edition of Edge Magazine. When asked about Deck’s significance for VR, he said the following:
“One of the things [Deck] represents is battery-capable, high-performance horsepower that eventually you could use in VR applications as well. You can take the PC and build something that is much more transportable. We’re not really there yet, but this is a stepping stone.”
This seems to echo comments made by Valve product designer Greg Coomer back in August. When asked directly by The Verge whether Steam Deck’s chip could be used in a standalone VR headset, Coomer said it would “run well in that environment” and “it’s very relevant to us and our future plans”.
Deck uses a custom AMD-made chip Valve helped design. The performance is similar to what you’d find in a mid-range gaming laptop. Deck is able to play the latest AAA non-VR games because the display has a resolution only slightly above 720p, but VR headsets have significantly higher resolution.
When Deck was first announced and Valve was asked about VR support, the company warned “that’s not really what we’re optimizing the performance for.” Last week, ahead of the device’s launch, Valve marked all VR titles on Steam as ‘Incompatible’ with Deck.
Despite being less powerful than Steam Deck, Meta’s Quest 2 runs many of the most popular VR titles available on Steam. But this is achieved by requiring each developer to heavily optimize and simplify graphics. To deliver its own standalone VR system, Valve may need to ask developers to do the same. That could risk fracturing the SteamVR content ecosystem between high end PCs and standalone, and causing confusion for buyers. That said, Valve could launch a separate store or a specific subsection of Steam.
In September, YouTuber Bradley Lynch found evidence of a Valve standalone headset codenamed ‘Deckard’ in SteamVR driver files. Ars Technica said its sources confirm Deckard’s existence, though noted that Valve’s manufacturing capacity is currently dedicated to Steam Deck. Newell’s comments seem to support the idea that a standalone headset is in Valve’s future, though it may be further away than expected by those hoping for competition in the VR market.