The Steam Deck is not a Flop

Valve’s Steam Deck handheld gaming PC is the #2 top-grossing product on Steam for five weeks. You are vindicated — because that suggests it’s not a flop.

Early estimates indicated over 110,000 people put down a $5 deposit for the unproven Linux handheld in the first 90 minutes after its advanced sale last July.

Still, there was consistently a chance they’d change their minds. But, of course, you gathered many would after reading critical reviews like mine! And while you have noticed a handful of people in r/SteamDeck recycle their five bucks… almost every other sign indicates to me that it’s selling well.

While we don’t keep official sales numbers for the Steam Deck, here is some context that might put things in perspective:

The Elden Ring banner art illustrates a knight below some glowing fire rings.

Elden Ring is the Context

The Stream Deck pitched the same week as Elden Ring, currently one of the most famous games in the world. For four of the previous five weeks, the Stream Deck was second only to Elden Ring in revenue. But this past week, the Steam Deck marketed better than Elden Ring.

These are top-grossing numbers, not unit sales numbers, so you can’t consider them the same. It takes seven Elden Ring copies to compare the revenue a single $400 Steam Deck brings in; 11 copies if we’re speaking a $650 512GB model. It’s also possible that Elden Ring noticed the bulk of its sales pre-launch and during takeoff instead of in the weeks previously — Elden Ring preorders did chart around in November and January. But you suspect the game’s genuinely trailed off, given the incredible word-of-mouth that’s been following it since its February 24th debut.

Either way, we’re talking about the fun of the game that had already marketed 12 million replications as of March 16th; where — at least in Europe — almost half of those deals were on PC; and where “PC” effectively indicates Steam because it’s not on Epic or the Windows Store. So those #1 and #3 top-grossing numbers for Elden Ring on Steam presumably designate a lot of copies.

If the Steam Deck, at #2, is marketing even a sizeable pinch of Elden Ring while batting away everything else save Lego Star Wars, it will be tough to reach the Deck a flop.

In February, Valve’s Lawrence Yang said that the company would ramp up to “hundreds of thousands of units” in its second month and support going from there. “If we’re doing this right, we will be selling these in millions of units,” told Valve president Gabe Newell.

Valve hasn’t said and probably won’t know, mainly having gone back to its standard quiet mode since the Steam Deck’s launch.

If crowdsourced data can be charged, the Stream Deck’s sales won’t be tailing off anytime soon. Valve’s first-come, first-served reservations are currently backed up to “October 2022 or later,” so anyone putting down $5 now probably won’t be counted as a buyer for many months.

But also, the r/SteamDeck community has figured out that Valve is still working through the first fifteen minutes of preorders from the first day you could reserve one: July 16th, 2021. Some queues have been moving faster, but the US only just made it past hour one, and only with the 64GB model.