Valve took the initiative for its Steam Deck by taking ownership of the manufacturing process, but that doesn't mean there won't ever be room for established hardware manufactures to get in on the Steam-branded gaming-PC-on-the-go business.
According to IGN, a successful launch of the Steam Deck could open the door for more manufactures to create their own spin on the hardware. The publication sat down with several members of the Steam Deck team at Valve to talk about the device's future and talk about what the Steam Deck 1.0 will bring to the table. That full chat can be found here.
In regards to future versions of the device, Valve developers say the device is fairly future-proof in its current state but the company both plans to work on new iterations itself and hopes that other manufacturers will take a stab at it as well.
“We look at [the Steam Deck] as just a new category of device in the PC space,” Steam Deck designer Greg Coomer tells IGN. “And assuming that customers agree with us that this is a good idea, we expect not only to follow up in the future with more iterations ourselves, but also for other manufacturers to want to participate in the space.”
Another Steam Deck developer, designer Lawrence Yang, jumps in to add that the operating system powering the device, SteamOS 3, is freely available "for any manufacturer that wants to make a similar product."
Valve is no stranger to working with outside hardware manufacturers on the odd physical product. The company notably partnered with HTC when it made its HTC Vive VR headset, but what likely comes to mind first is Valve's quietly sunset Steam Machine program. First officially revealed in 2013, Steam Machines were announced as pre-built PCs designed for living room use that would be powered by a Linux-based operating called SteamOS.
While Valve opted to start things off with a single self-made model for its Steam Deck handheld, the initial run of Steam Machines were to be made by several different developers with a variety of price tags and hardware specifications across the entire range. The hardware never really took off in a powerful way however, likely hampered by launch delays and, later on, a just a lack of consumer interest. The hardware's listing was quietly removed from the Steam platform in 2018.
With lessons likely learned from the Steam Machine Saga, Valve is starting this latest foray into game hardware off in a much more focused way. However only time will tell if that approach will eventually make the difference and bring the success that would encourage more hardware makers to get on board.