Buying cross-platform games was a simple decision for me: I almost always bought them on the Nintendo Switch because of how easy it is to play games both on a TV or in handheld mode. The Steam Deck threw a wrench into that decision-making process. The portable gaming PC might be heavier, has less battery life, and doesn’t come with a Switch-like docking station to run my games on a bigger screen, but because I feel like I can count on Steam games being available much longer into the future, I have to make tough choices about whether to buy games from Valve’s storefront rather than Nintendo’s.
There’s one important thing I should say up front: I hadn’t owned a gaming PC of any kind until I got the Steam Deck in April. For a long time, I mainly played video games on Nintendo platforms, and I didn’t really start to seriously dig into the PlayStation and Xbox libraries until the pandemic hit. (I have a PS4 just to play Final Fantasy VII Remakeand things escalated from there.)
Although I’ve purchased plenty of Steam games on sale or in Humble Bundles, I’ve only played a handful and only on old work laptops or my personal MacBook Air. The Steam Deck, on the other hand, is a far more capable gaming device than any laptop I’ve ever owned. Once set up, I suddenly had access to nearly 200 PC games that I had previously purchased or claimed, and could play them on my couch or connected to an external display. I knew this would be the case when I booked for the Steam Deck last year, but seeing the games on my own device was an eye opener.
With Switch games, however, there’s no guarantee they’ll work with Nintendo’s next major console. For now, I just have my fingers crossed that Nintendo chooses to make this console backwards compatible with my Switch purchases. Personally, I don’t count on it, Nintendo loves finding new ways to resell old games.
I would have liked to bring Mario Kart 8 from my Wii U to the Switch, but to be able to play it with my colleagues during the pandemic, I had to shell out the full price for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Access to retro games is one of the main benefits of the Nintendo Switch Online membership, but not all of the Virtual Console purchases I made years ago are available on my Switch. And Nintendo isn’t afraid to close the storefronts.
With Steam, on the other hand, I can be pretty sure that almost anything I buy that works on the Steam Deck will work just fine on any upcoming Steam Deck or gaming-capable computer I buy in the future (as long as the game supports the OS I’m on, of course). I’m making the assumption that Valve won’t be acquired or suddenly fall off the face of the earth – anything can happen in the video game industry, so maybe I shouldn’t tempt fate – but Valve seems to have a good thing Go.
I also have to say that on my Steam Deck I’ve generally leaned towards smaller, indie titles like Hotline Miami, On the insideand Stanley’s Parable: Ultra Deluxe. I suspect these are the types of games I’m personally going to want to return to at some point in the future, and it’ll be much easier to just redownload them on PC instead of having to dig up my Switch once it loses inevitably its place on my TV cabinet.
Despite how much I love the Steam Deck and the potential for the Steam platform to give me easy access to games years and years later, I haven’t yet fully committed to Valve’s ecosystem because it’s a problem to play Steam Deck games on my TV. Part of the Switch’s magic is how easily it switches from handheld mode to TV mode when you place the device in its dock, and while the Steam Deck can connect to external displays, there’s no still no option as simple as the Switch experience. .
I’ve been looking forward to the official Steam Deck dock to see if it can get any closer, but since it’s been delayed, I’ll have to keep waiting. But while I don’t expect the Steam Deck to be as easy to play on a TV as a Switch, it might be worth a little inconvenience to be able to play decades of PC games on the big screen at home. . and to know that anything I buy now will probably work on other PCs down the line.
Right now, I still choose the Switch for a lot of games. (And, of course, there are the big games like Zelda and metroid which are only available on the Switch.) But what was once a no-brainer is now something I need to seriously think about, and as Valve continues to improve the Steam Deck, the choices in the future might be even tougher.