Valve claims the Steam Deck can handle any game you throw at it, including AAAs

Steam Deck on background with sparkles
(Image credit: Valve / Future)

If you assumed that the Steam Deck's hardware was going to restrict it to less demanding games like older releases and indie titles, Valve has some news that might surprise you. In a new video breakdown of the console with IGN, Valve states that it's focusing on making the entire Steam library playable on the handheld gaming PC, including demanded recent releases and big AAA games.

The Steam Deck announcement last week certainly stirred up some interest for the upcoming console, with social media comments across Twitter indicating that many gamers plan to use the device as a dedicated handheld machine for indies owing to its low power specifications when stacked against full-fat gaming PCs. 

While the Steam deck spec list has since been updated to reflect the machines quad-channel memory (which is much speedier than the previously stated dual-channel memory), it's understandable that prospective buyers are skeptical about the handheld's capabilities.

More accessible PC gaming

Valve developer Pierre-Loup Griffais mentions in the IGN video that ensuring the Steam Deck meets the high standards that have been set has been a challenge, but it would appear that hard work pays off as the main architectural issues for the console's prototypes have been ironed out.

“We’ve been looking at various games the past few years in the back catalog, but the real test for us was games that were coming out last year,” Griffais said. “They just couldn’t really run very well on the previous types of prototypes and architectures we were testing."

In fact, Valve claims that the console has now reached a point in development where it's been able to play every game they've tested on it at a satisfactory level.

"This is the first time we’ve achieved the level of performance that is required to really run the latest generation of games without problems. All the games we wanted to be playable is – really – the entire Steam library. We haven’t really found something we could throw at this device that it couldn’t handle.”

Valve engineer Yazan Aldehayyat also gave additional insight into the hardware that will be powering the Steam Deck, reiterating that the console will be utilizing a new AMD APU (Team Red's term for a GPU/CPU combination) that should allegedly see similar performance to Ryzen 3000-series desktop processors and powerful Radeon RX 6000-series graphics, as well as LPDDR5 RAM, a speedy memory type typically used in high-end smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S20 series.

Alderhayyat says: "It wasn't until now that we felt the entire Steam catalog is available to people who have this device, that's when we knew we had a product that is going to deliver the experience we're looking for."

Opinion: The Steam Deck isn't a full-fat gaming PC, and nor should it be

The news that Valve's highly anticipated handheld has been able to run any game thrown it's way is certainly reassuring, but expectations should still be kept low to avoid disappointment. 

This isn't to say that the console itself won't live up to standards, but many new AAA games are best experienced in a higher resolution and on much larger screens. Yes, you'll be able to dock the Steam Deck in a similar fashion to the Switch to play much like an actual desktop PC, but the hardware will still cap your output at 720p and 30fps for many of the most demanding titles.

This isn't an attempt to rain on Valve's parade. We're really excited to get our hands on the device, and that its affordability could make PC gaming an affordable reality for folk who simply don't have the cash to drop on a gaming desktop. We do however, want people to be realistic with their expectations for the hardware and the quality of the games it will run.

If you're content to play upcoming titles like Far Cry 6 or Forza Horizon 5 on a lower resolution and framerate then we could have reason to celebrate, but don't expect desktop gaming quality from the Steam Deck. For now, it's good to know that playing beefier titles is a possibility, but just because you can play them doesn't mean you should, especially if you have access to more capable hardware.

Jess Weatherbed

Jess is a former TechRadar Computing writer, where she covered all aspects of Mac and PC hardware, including PC gaming and peripherals. She has been interviewed as an industry expert for the BBC, and while her educational background was in prosthetics and model-making, her true love is in tech and she has built numerous desktop computers over the last 10 years for gaming and content creation. Jess is now a journalist at The Verge.