Valve’s Steam Deck is so good, it doesn’t need exclusive games

Joel Loynds
a hunter chasing gordon freeman with a steam deck

The Steam Deck is not a traditional gaming console, since it manages to play pretty much everything under the sun, so why are some clamoring for exclusives?

Valve’s Steam Deck is a genius bit of kit, one that finally solidifies the idea of a ‘handheld PC’ in the form factor of a Switch, or PSP. While GPD, Ayaneo, and OneXPlayer have all succeeded in various ways, nothing has felt as cohesive as the Steam Deck itself.

We’re a few months away from the year anniversary of the Steam Deck launching, but as the internet is wont to do, there is discourse. Even our very own gaming editor contributed, after an unfortunate run-in with Valve’s ongoing issues with a functional offline mode.

Though not to create tension around the proverbial water cooler, the one that struck us as a confusing stance was the lack of ‘exclusive’ titles for the Steam Deck.

Arguments have been made for the Steam Deck needing exclusive titles. As of right now, the only true ‘exclusive’ is the title Aperture Desk Job. It is more a showing-off piece for the Steam Deck’s hardware, rather than a traditional title. It’s not Astro’s Playroom from the PS5 for example.

It can also be played on a PC with any controller. The Steam Deck is also not a console in the traditional sense, but a portable gaming PC.

The Steam Deck’s purpose isn’t to lock gaming away from people, but to unlock the potential the PC gaming space has for a much wider audience. It’s also not meant to be something that uses the hardware in unique ways as the aforementioned PS5 exclusives do.

Gabe works in mysterious ways


Valve is a curious company, one that is always aiming to make cash from the consumer – it’s how they’re valued at over $10 billion and counting. However, they’re not a company that wants to ‘lock’ people out. Half-Life: Alyx might be the only major example of the studio’s games that is locked away due to the need for VR hardware to play.

They also haven’t stopped the fans currently retooling the game to work without virtual reality, despite the game effectively being an elongated demo for the Valve Index.

Valve – despite its intentions – is a company that wants to create standards. SteamOS, a Linux-based operating system, is designed to ensure that PC gaming is much more approachable than currently achievable. It’s also vast and deep enough to be used as a full operating system if you so wished.

Proton, the translation layer between Linux and Windows-based titles, is designed to ensure that Windows doesn’t have to be the default any longer. The ill-fated Steam Controller wasn’t designed with the intention of having games created around them, but to ensure that traditional PC titles weren’t locked away from the growing number of players.

Steam Link, now just software, is pretty much one of the standards across all operating systems for remote access. It also came preinstalled on an XGIMI Projector we reviewed.

A triumphant culmination of failed tech

Steam Deck fancy image

The Steam Deck blends the ethos of Valve’s ill-fated “Steam Machines” with their equally poorly received Steam Controller. But, mash the two together into a skunkworks-like project, and a little bit of magic happens. You get the Steam Deck. This was made not just to maintain their stranglehold over the PC gaming market with the Steam Store, but to also ensure there’s a ‘standard’ of play for PC gaming.

To talk about the need for an exclusive game that shows off the hardware of the Steam Deck is to completely misunderstand what the Steam Deck – and its other handheld compatriots – are trying to do. There’s no need for an exclusive because the hardware was never meant to be for that.

It’s a place for games to be played on the go, in your own way, and with nothing to hold you back from playing whatever you want. Whether you’re playing the vast quantities of Steam games available, loading in your surprisingly large Epic Games library, or even emulating games from yesteryear.

To think the hardware needs an exclusive is to completely misunderstand what the Steam Deck is, what Valve is trying to do, and fundamentally, what that thinking means for the wider industry.

Exclusive games are dying. They should have already died, but companies refuse to give the notion some welly. The Steam Deck contributing to that is absurd. It’s better than that, and so are we.

About The Author

E-Commerce Editor. You can get in touch with him over email: He's written extensively about video games and tech for over a decade for various sites. Previously seen on Scan, WePC, PCGuide, Eurogamer, Digital Foundry and A deep love for old tech, bad games and even jankier MTG decks.