My Steam Deck and Nintendo Switch Live in Perfect Harmony
Ever since the Steam Deck was only a small rumor, it’s been inseparable from the Nintendo Switch. It was first hailed as a “Switch killer” long before it was announced and that accolade only heated up when Valve revealed the device’s impressive specs. Now that it’s finally in the hands of more players – and with Valve promising to ramp up production – the debates between Steam Deck and Nintendo Switch are coming to a head.
There’s a lot to unpack in the heated conversations popping up on social media. It’s a war between ride-or-die Nintendo fans, who are too eager to defend the company’s honor, and PC faithful, who historically tout the PC’s power over consoles. It’s also a mutation of a long-standing frustration with Nintendo’s hardware shortcomings, which has left gamers begging for a 4K-capable Switch Pro. Mix all these combustible elements and you get a lot of heated discussions.
It’s all a bit silly. As someone who owns and uses both regularly, it’s clear that the two devices fill different niches. My Steam Deck and Nintendo Switch aren’t competing for my attention; they live together in perfect harmony.
How I use my Steam Deck
When I first received my Steam Deck, I had no idea how it would fit into my gaming rotation. At that point, my habits were pretty much set in stone. I played consoles at home and used my Switch exclusively in handheld mode. Given that my home and on-the-go niches were filled, I felt like I had acquired another big gaming device that I would hardly use.
There were a few hurdles that initially led me to keep my Steam Deck tidy. As a portable device, it is not very portable. Its battery life is particularly poor when playing demanding AAA games, its screen isn’t as nice as my Switch OLED, it has a somewhat noisy fan, and the device itself is clunky. Although not heavy, the Steam Deck has a massive form factor that makes it difficult to hold comfortably for long periods of time. When I play, I usually have to put it on my lap to avoid strain. Because of that, I couldn’t see why I threw it in my bag when I left the house on my Switch. And why would I use it at home when I have a PC, PS5 and Xbox Series X?
Over the months, I started to find my rhythm naturally, even if it wasn’t with power-hungry AAA games. Whenever a new indie game came out that was only available on PC, I would boot up my Steam Deck before my PC, checking for compatibility. I started using it to play games like Rogue Legacy 2, Patrick’s Paraboxand vampire survivors. All of these games could theoretically work on a Switch – but they don’t yet. Now I don’t have to wait for a port anymore if I want convenience. Emulation was also a big plus, as I can access as many old favorites as I want as long as I’m willing to struggle with Linux.
While it’s more of an indie, retro machine than anything else to me, it’s comforting to know that I could run more powerful games on it if I needed to. I had trouble getting Ring of Elden running on my PC, but I can boot it on my Steam Deck just fine. That’s not how I want to play this game and I’d choose console over handheld for that, but I no longer feel like I’m totally locked out of any game, even ones exclusive to the pc.
The biggest surprise was that I barely use it as a real laptop. I’ve taken it on planes and on the subway, but it’s not my favorite way to play it. Instead, it mostly taught me how much I hate playing a PC game. I’m much happier when I can lie on my couch and choose something casually than fumbling around with a keyboard. The fact that I can choose to play something like Tear down in bed is a small but important change.
My Steam Deck feels less like a reveal and more like the idea of finally digging a corner piece out of a puzzle box. It’s a fundamental part of my game rotation, which ensures that I will always have a certain level of flexibility, whatever the game. It’s not flashy, but it’s something I have want more since the launch of the Switch.
How I use my Nintendo Switch
Although I use my Steam Deck a lot these days, it hasn’t replaced my Nintendo Switch OLED. I still find that Nintendo’s hybrid console performs better as a handheld. This is largely down to its ingenious design, which doesn’t get as much credit as it deserves. When I’m home, I love that I can open its kickstand, detach the joy-cons, and lay it on a table when my wrists start to tire. It’s still an engineering marvel I’ve yet to fall in love with.
If given the choice between buying a game on Switch and Steam Deck, I’ll always run to the eShop first, even if I risk a performance hit or pay a few extra bucks. I like to hold the thing better and know I’m going to have a reliable experience, which isn’t always the case with Steam Deck. When I got sound drop for PC, I was disappointed to find that the game had not yet been properly optimized for the device. I didn’t see any of his cutscenes as they were replaced with TV color bars.
This is another reason why the Steam Deck works more like a home console for me. I’ve encountered situations where I happily downloaded a game, packed my Steam Deck for a trip, and booted it up only to find the game wasn’t working. I always need my PC nearby as a safety net.
There are also specific types of games that I would prefer to play on a Switch. If I’m planning on playing a long RPG, a game that I’ll tackle mostly handheld, I want my Switch. I’m not gonna spend 90 hours playing personas 5 on a console that starts to tire my wrists after 90 minutes. I always get excited when I see games like Deny automata come to Switch. Even though I can already play them on Steam Deck, I don’t really want to play them there.
Needless to say, the Switch’s ace in the hole is still its first-party exclusives. The main reason I haven’t ditched my Switch is that I usually have a lot of great first-party builds to dig into. Of Pokemon Legends: Arceus at Fire Emblem Warriors: Three HopesI didn’t need an excuse to start my Switch in 2022. As long as this continues, only Nintendo itself can replace it.
In today’s gaming landscape, there’s an uncanny pressure to pick favorites. This has always been the case thanks to the endless “console wars”, but it seems to be getting worse as our options expand. It makes no sense to pit Steam Deck against Nintendo Switch, as the two devices serve different purposes. They are two imperfect consoles that complement each other.
Like a dad with too many kids, I love my Switch as much as the Steam Deck. Each has its own use case that expands my game options, allowing me to play in a way that suits my ever-changing life. Can’t we all get along?