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The Steam Deck has ruined console gaming for me

The Steam Deck OLED on a pink background.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

When the Steam Deck first launched, I was a skeptic. I loved the idea of Valve’s handheld PC, but thought that its low battery life and frequent bugs would limit how much I used it. Since then, the device has only gotten better (especially thanks to a significantly improved OLED model) and it has eaten a bigger chunk of my gaming time since then.

But I didn’t realize just how much it was outright replacing my consoles.

That revelation began last week when I powered on my PlayStation 5 to download The First Descendant. It’s a beefy looter shooter built with online play in mind, so it’s not the kind of thing I’d want to run on a portable machine. When I turned my PS5 on, I was momentarily confused. It said that the most recent game I had played was Stellar Blade. That couldn’t have been right. The last time I touched that was in the first week of May. Surely I must have played something on the console in the past two months?

I hadn’t, and I started to realize that the same was true of some of my other devices. I hadn’t actually used my Xbox Series X to play a game since Hauntii in May (I’d also played Still Wakes the Deep, but entirely via cloud streaming through my Samsung TV’s Game Pass app). Even my PC was taking a hit, I realized. Aside from playing a preview builds of Dustborn and Cygni: All Guns Blazing last month, I hadn’t played a game at my computer since Cryptmaster in early May. According to my own personal record keeping, I’ve played around 100 games in 2024 (not including previews). Only around 23 of those have been played on PS5, Xbox Series X, or PC combined.

The only device that’s holding strong is my Nintendo Switch, which still gets consistent use thanks to the steady stream of exclusives that Sony and Microsoft lack. Even then, no single device is getting nearly the play time that my Steam Deck is. I’ve played 15 games on Nintendo Switch this year, my second most played platform. By comparison, I’ve played 52 on my Steam Deck OLED. Nothing even comes close.

A chart shows how many games its creator has played on specific platforms.
Digital Trends

So, why is the Steam Deck winning out even when my other pricey consoles could run the games on it better? There are two main factors. The first is portability, which has changed the way I game entirely. Before the Nintendo Switch released in 2017, I was big on the traditional console experience. I wanted to hunker down in one place and play everything from home. My habits have changed significantly since games have become more flexible. Now I’d rather have the option to take something I’m playing anywhere I go, whether that’s on a work trip or just a casual commute. Even if I plan to play something entirely at home, I usually end up starting it on Steam Deck just in case.

The Steam Deck isn’t the only device that has benefitted from that. I tend to spend a fair amount of time with other portable devices, from my Razer Edge for mobile games and even my PlayStation Portal occasionally. If there’s a way I can play something more flexibly, I’m taking that option more and more. And I could take that even further, too. I’ve yet to install Xbox Game Pass on my Steam Deck simply because I don’t like dealing with Linux, but games like Hauntii have tempted me more and more. I wouldn’t be surprised if I make that jump by this time next year.

That’s only half the equation. My move to Steam Deck more broadly shows just how much Valve’s handheld has improved since launch. I was incredibly frustrated with my Steam Deck in my first year with it. Its battery died in an instant, the screen was too washed out, not enough games were optimized for it, and the hardware had tons of bugs. Almost all of that has changed for the better. The OLED model totally fixes those first two problems, even if its still unpredictable when it comes to bugs.

Ghost of Tsushima running on the Steam Deck.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

More crucially, developers have completely embraced it. The fact that I could even play 52 new releases on it without a hitch speaks to how ingrained it is in the hardware scene now. Naturally, I’m still playing the bulk of my big-budget AAA games on other platforms, but that makes up a surprisingly small slice of the games I play, it turns out. For someone who plays a lot of small-scale games and indies, the Steam Deck has blossomed into a very reliable companion compared to where it was at launch.

That’s not to say that I’m ready to throw my consoles away. I still love using both my PS5 and Xbox Series X to play first-party exclusives. I expect both to get more play in the back half of the year thanks to Concord, Astro Bot, Avowed, and more. The reality is just that I’m less likely to play much between those tentpole games. The bulk of my playtime now belongs to the Steam Deck and I don’t think it’ll be unseated until Valve releases a new model.

Giovanni Colantonio
Giovanni is a writer and video producer focusing on happenings in the video game industry. He has contributed stories to…
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