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Phil Spencer hints that Steam Deck could be the portable Xbox of our dreams

Published Aug 17th, 2021 6:05PM EDT
Steam Deck Xbox
Image: Valve

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Valve unveiled its ambitious portable PC a few weeks ago, and the Steam Deck has turned plenty of heads. The Steam Deck’s appeal is certainly understandable, considering the massive success of the Switch. Valve’s handheld might not be able to run Nintendo games, but it will do something the Switch can’t. It will offer gamers access to the kind of performance the Switch can only dream of. The console will run every game on Steam and virtually every game that can run on a Windows PC. The Steam Deck sounds like the portable gaming PC we’ve always wanted. And Microsoft’s Phil Spencer just confirmed the handheld can run Xbox games through xCloud as well.

The Xbox boss got his hands on a Steam Deck early, tweeting that he had already tried various games on it. “After having mine most of the week, I can say it’s a really nice device,” Spencer said. “Games with me on the go, screen size, controls [are] all great. Playing Halo and Age feels good, xCloud works well. Congrats, SD team.”

Spencer would probably prefer to sell gamers one of the new Xbox consoles rather than praising the Steam Deck, but Microsoft has made it clear that they want gamers to play their games on as many devices as possible. Starting at $399.99, the cheapest Steam Deck is still more expensive than the $299.99 Xbox Series S. The two Steam Deck versions with faster storage ($529 and $649) are more expensive than the $499.99 Xbox Series X. But the Steam handheld can be used anywhere, which is quite a selling point.

Steam Deck’s Xbox support shouldn’t be a surprise

Microsoft’s endgame isn’t necessarily outselling the Switch or the PS5. The company has ambitious cloud gaming plans. In other words, it can benefit from any device that can run an internet browser. And xCloud will run pretty much on any device, even Apple’s iPhone and iPad.

The Steam Deck is a handheld PC that runs either Linux or Windows 10 — Valve is already testing Windows 11 as well. It’s up to the gamer to decide what operating system to install. In either case, the Steam Deck should have no problem running xCloud games.

Spencer’s comments aside, installing Windows 11 on the device will get you access to the Microsoft Store and the Xbox app. As IGN points out, you also get access to Ubisoft’s Uplay and EA’s Origin. With all of that in mind, the Steam Deck could easily become the portable Xbox that Microsoft never got around to making. And that’s on top of all the PC games that it can run.

Preorder registrations started right after the surprise launch announcement, and Valve immediately sold out of Steam Deck units for 2021. Late buyers will have to wait until the second half of 2022 to get their hands on a Steam Deck, assuming they keep their preorders.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.