Analyst: Steam Deck will sell 3 million units by 2023's end

Omdia's James McWhirter believes the Steam Deck can hit 3 million units by year's end, and that Valve is using the handheld to break off from Windows.

The Steam Deck has been popular over the past year, and an analyst from Omdia (a sibling company under Informa Tech) believes it's about to crack 3.5 million global sales. In a report focused on Valve's handheld, James McWhirter predicted it can crack that milestone by the end of 2023. 

For reference, McWhirter found that the Steam Deck sold 1.6 million worldwide units in 2022, so that 3.5 million would be a 14 percent increase. That number may not be too surprising, since Valve outright said multiple times that it was producing and shipping Decks at a fast rate and easily getting through reservation queues.

He further speculated that SteamOS will be made available to the public sometime this year. If true, Valve would be able to use the Steam Deck and other portable PCs to "open the door to a new PC gaming product category."

Even so, he acknowledged that the device itself is "a niche portion" of the PC games space, especially since it lacks a proper retail presence. The only way to buy a Steam Deck is through Valve, whereas a PlayStation 5 or Nintendo Switch could be bought through Amazon or Best Buy.

That said, McWhirter remarked that it was "unlikely to be an area of concern in the short term." 

Steam Deck may be how Valve gets out of Windows' shadow

McWhirter was certain that Valve "has plans beyond just selling hardware units." 

Part of that may be distancing itself from Windows as much as possible, since SteamOS lets the company translate "a large portion" of Steam's games away from Microsoft's operating system. 

Last year, Valve made Steam playable on Chromebooks and some Tesla cars, supporting the idea of making Steam as standalone as possible. 

The Deck can be for PC what the Nintendo Switch was for consoles, continued McWhirter, though it'll take some time. As he noted, the Deck is currently meant to appeal to the most dedicated of Steam users, rather than the average person in the way that the Switch does. 

It also needs a way to support extremely popular titles like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II and FIFA 23. Both of those games have anti-cheat solutions that are out of Valve's hands and as such, leave them currently unsupported on the handheld. 

Even so, it seems likely that it can reach that 3 million sales number before 2023 ends, thanks to factors like word of mouth and the promise of playing one's entire Steam library on the go.

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