Valve is really going after the PC audience with the Steam Deck, and not the Switch audience.
Since the moment of its reveal, comparisons between the Steam Deck and the Nintendo Switch immediately began. And how could you stop them? They're both handhelds that play mostly the same games, and sell at roughly the same price points.
But Valve said it didn't design the Steam Deck to compete against Nintendo's Switch.
"We tried to make all the decisions really in Steam Deck that targeted [the PC gaming] audience and that served the customers that were already having a good time interacting with the games that are on that platform, on our platform," Valve designer Greg Coomer told IGN.
Although the Steam Deck obviously shares some aesthetic similarities with Switch, Coomer said that's "an artifact of how we've proceeded down the design direction" and not much else.
Gabe Newell also shares this outlook, noting, quite accurately, that this isn't the first handheld PC, it's just that no one was able to crack that nut quite yet. Though he praised Nintendo's work with the Switch, Newell reiterated that Valve is speaking to the PC gaming audience with the Steam Deck.
"When you pick this up, it feels much more like the ergonomics for somebody who's used to playing with an expensive game controller, right? Because it's bigger and it's bulkier than a Switch," Newell explained.
"And if we're right, that's the right trade-off to be making for the audience that we're going after."
"Let me put it this way, if you're a gamer, and you pick up a Switch, and you pick up one of these, you're going to know which one is right for you, right? And you're going to know it within 10 seconds," he concluded, noting that the two devices' different trade-offs are ultimately what will decide.