The steam deck wasn't ready nine months ago. The handheld gaming PC has been the top-selling item on steam for 30 weeks in a row.

Being a game console didn't keep this computer down. Thanks to the 90-plus updates that Valve has shipped since its debut, it is my gadget of the year. Valve has occasionally introduced nasty new bugs and game publishers have occasionally broken compatibility with their own updates as a result of the rapid pace of updates.

I wanted to know what Valve was planning for its future before I looked at the steam deck. The designers of Steam Deck gave me a wide-ranging interview, revealing that they plan to update the software indefinitely, as well as experimenting with hardware.

We have learned what we know.

The Steam Deck may never be “stable” like a traditional console

"I don't think you should expect that." It's important to have a great experience for people. Absolutely. As long as people are playing, we will always push updates.

The team is mostly working on two big lists for updates.

The bug list grows as more people get Steam Deck and we get more feedback about things, and the feature list stays the same size because we get more features we want to add based on our own experience.

I don't think we'd consider it done.

One of the most exciting parts of owning a steam deck is trying out the new features, like the horizontal performance overlay, which lets you keep tabs on frame rate, temperature, battery life, and more using the portion of the screen that goes wasted in any game.

It has been getting a little more cautious about what it pushes out since it knows that it has shipped some embarrassing bugs to its Stable ring. The team has been moving to a monthly cadence for Stable updates and is suggesting that things will improve as more steam decks roll out.

Downloads in the background help with that. The goal is to make the update process painless and easy to use.

The Steam Deck, opened to show its fan and L-shaped battery.
The Steam Deck, opened to show its fan and L-shaped battery.
Photo by Sean Hollister / The Verge

Valve is making the battery easier to replace

iFixit said battery replacements are the steam deck's greatest weakness. When you consider that batteries are the most obvious wear component of any portable computer, it's unfortunate that it isn't easy to remove.

I wanted to know why all the glue. The L-shaped battery has a nice L-shaped pocket to keep it safe.

I believe you always need some extra room around the battery to account for possible battery expansion in any design, right? Because of that, you can’t really have the battery-shaped hole where it goes into the case be exactly the same size as the battery, and so for that reason there’s always a risk that if it’s not fastened properly, it will be rattling around or shifting. And because it’s a very heavy component with respect to the rest of the Deck, it would be a very bad experience to have a battery that’s loose in there. In some of our early prototypes we had that issue, and I’ll tell you, it doesn’t feel good at all, when you’re just moving around and trying to use your Deck.

"You don't want a steam deck maraca, and you don't want a battery potentially touching other important components and messing with them."

The glue isn't ideal but the team is already making it easier with new hardware revisions. The geometry of the glue has been changed to make it easier to loosen the battery. It should be easier to pry now that it's a new shape.

The Steam Deck now ships with a Band-Aid for its noisy fan

Are you talking about Delta or hiaing? When we found out that some Steam Decks were shipping with a whinier fan, there was a question on the minds of many owners.

Valve stopped shipping systems with the Delta fan for a while. There was a time when the only thing we did was build a steam deck. If you want to attempt a repair of your own, iFixit has the Huaying fan. IFixit's fan does not exhibit that characteristic.

The Delta fan has been shipped by Valve again because it now has an engineered foam solution to reduce fan noise. We haven't tested it yet, but there's good reason to believe it would help: early on, the community discovered that a few layers of carefully applied electrical tape offered some improvement The software update changed the fan curve, but I still preferred the whoosh of the Delta's whine.

Under the system settings, owners can check which fan they have.

My Steam Deck, ready to be opened.
My Steam Deck, ready to be opened.
Photo by Sean Hollister / The Verge

There may be other hardware tweaks, too

Most of our efforts are on the software side now, but there are other behind-the-scenes hardware changes. The result of looking at improving the feel of the Steam and Quick Access button is already rolling out to new units.

Valve hopes the Steam Deck will inspire new Steam Boxes, too — but it probably won’t build them itself

Valve tried to bring your gaming PC into the living room by offering gaming PC manufacturers a controller and early Linux support. Will the initiative be revived now that the steam deck is a hit? It might be possible! Valve hopes that it will be able to make the Deck's SteamOS 3 available for other manufacturers' PCs once that is done.

Once it's widely available, we're excited to see other manufacturers make their own handheld PC gaming devices, and we're excited to see people make their own SteamOS machines which could include small PCs that they put next to their TV.

You couldn’t really buy the original Steam Machine.
You couldn’t really buy the original Steam Machine.
Image: Valve

Valve is testing more concepts in the living room, but cautions that they can't be everywhere at the same time.

He wants to work with third parties to see what they can bring to the table. The missing link for those looking for a living room game console may be the Steam Deck dock. He points out that the work that Valve put intoUI scaling and third-party game controller support should be put to use by anyone who uses the Steam Box.

Those rival AMD 6800U handhelds aren’t real competition

The most powerful graphics card ever in a handheld PC won't stay that way for long, as several companies are putting it into their machines for more performance. The team thinks its custom Aerith chip is more power efficient than others.

The sweet spot for efficiency is between 8 and 12 watt. I don't think you'll see off-the-shelf offerings based on mainline notebook product lines that are much better than that in a few generations.

The upcoming Aya Neo 2, which has a 6800U, is more powerful in an apples-to-apples test than the previous one. It easily drew 40 watt of total system power compared to the steam deck. That would drain the Steam Deck's battery in a single hour.

One of the reasons Valve doesn't see them as competition is because they could be partners. If they want to offer a SteamOS based alternative, we want to work with them to make that happen.

A second-gen Steam Deck is coming — but maybe not a “Pro”

New versions of the steam deck are on the way. What will be included in the package? When I asked if there were any pain points they wanted to address in a sequel, they both had the same answer.

Performance, what about it? Valve is considering whether to keep the handheld's performance consistent for now, just like Nintendo has decided not to increase the performance of the Nintendo Switch despite having the technology to make a "Switch Pro"

The fact that all the steam decks can play the same games and that we have one target for users to understand what kind of performance level to expect when you're playing and for developers to understand what to target is a lot of value.

When there is a significant gain to be had, we will probably keep the one performance level for a little bit longer.

Valve wants a Steam Controller 2

When I inquire about a successor to the cult classic gamepad Valve discontinued in 2019: "We want to make it happen." There is a question of how and when.

It is likely that we will explore that because we want that as well. It is something where we would be excited to work with a third-party or explore ourselves, so we are focused on the Deck right now.

My original Steam Controller next to an earlier prototype.
My original Steam Controller next to an earlier prototype.
Image: Sean Hollister / The Verge

Valve is working on an audio mixer for game, music, and chat

After its February launch, Valve added an app switcher so you can open two apps at the same time, but there's still no easy way to balance their audio.

The company needed to modify parts of the Linux audio stack to make it work. It will be possible to control the audio volume and duck the volume of certain applications without affecting the whole system. The rightUI is the next step.

They’re fixing the Bluetooth audio lag — but don’t count on Bluetooth mics

It isn't always a great gaming experience when you pair headphones to the steam deck Valve uses a high-quality codec that can introduce a lot of delay, and the deck doesn't support their microphones.

In the future, Valve says it will allow you to choose your profile and codec in gaming mode, as well as look into microphones and headsets.

You can currently change this setting in desktop mode and it will carry over. Due to certification, quality, and device switch issues, we still recommend using a wired microphone or built-in microphone.

Want games to transition seamlessly between Deck and desktop? Tell your developers

You should be able to pick up where you left off if you put your steam deck to sleep. You can't.

When we can expect games to embrace the Dynamic Cloud sync feature that automatically syncs your cloud save before the deck goes down for a nap is up to the developers.

He says that it is not something they are pushing for. There are no plans to change that at the moment.

Valve might let Steam Deck owners share per-game power profiles but probably not graphics settings

You can easily download entire custom control schemes that make PC games feel like they're at home on a gamepad, thanks to the Steam Deck. After Famitsu published an interview that suggested Valve was considering the idea of sharing graphical settings in games, the community was eager for Valve to do the same.

It is a huge undertaking that I don't think we're really looking into seriously right now. The first thing it might do is allow Steam Deck owners to share their per-game power profiles. He said it would be doable for us to expand that further and make it so you can share the configurations with the community.

It is possible for games to surface their own graphical preset for the handheld.

The Steam Deck added per-game performance profiles in a May update.
The Steam Deck added per-game performance profiles in a May update.
Photo by Sean Hollister / The Verge

Valve wants your busted microSD cards, just to be safe

Valve says it fixed most of the issues when it changed how it formatted flash storage in May.

We are trying to have people send microSD cards if they have the issue, but the reports we're getting are not good.

When you use an SD card to store games, Valve now runs a quick format instead of a full format, and it says the issues have mostly disappeared. The team wants to hear from people with busted cards to make sure that they can fix the problem.

If the console isn't in use, Valve says it's safe to shut it down. It's fine to swap it in if you're not doing anything like running games off of it or writing bits to it.

Valve might bring former mobile games to the Deck

Some publishers have been asking Valve if it would be willing to host touch-only games. Is this something you would be okay with having on steam? We can push that. He said that Valve would be interested if it was clear to the shoppers that they would be getting a touchscreen only experience. The store and the messaging around it would have to be worked on.

Valve may be directly responsible for making your favorite game run better

We've seen it with Elden Ring, Red Dead Redemption 2, and more. It doesn't have to farm out fixes to the game publishers because Valve spent years developing its own Vulkan graphics drivers.

"That's why you've been able to see things like the Elden Ring performance fix where the other platforms were still trying to understand it." Yesterday, Valve released a hot fix for The Witcher 3.

We are always looking at a specific game for something. He thinks that the team may be able to improve the game, possibly reducing the rubberband-like stutter that players have been complaining about.

Valve is still pushing on anti-cheat

The game's anti-cheat system stops it in its tracks if it doesn't work on the steam deck The biggest anti-cheat providers have worked out their differences with Valve, but they are still snubbing the deck.

It doesn't mean that Valve isn't making progress, but it does mean that it's still working on support for Halo: The Master Chief Collection and Fall Guys. It expects them to be able to play on the steam deck. The Master Chief Collection uses Easy Anti-Cheat, which is owned by Epic and Mediatonic.

The two games that were missing from the steam deck when it was launched are now enabled.

The Steam Deck was — and is — a distributed effort

The steam deck was built by a group of people. Valve isn't a typical company and the Steam Deck wasn't a traditional project for the company. More than 100 open-source developers are being paid by Valve to work on the Mesa compatibility layer, the company says.

To make sure that PC gaming technology thrives in a Linux-based environment that is not the target platform for all those games, there is a larger strategy effort to coordinate all these products.

Valve won’t be talking about Steam Deck sales

Is it true that Valve has shipped a million units? The cake is apparently not a lie.

Two ex-Valve developers mentioned the cake on social media, and you can see it in the picture.

I think any number would pale in comparison to the Nintendo Switch which has sold 114 million units as of September 2022. As of August, he only confirmed hundreds of thousands of sales, not including any additional $5 reservations that were still in the queue.

The system was put on general sale in October. It wouldn't include any sales in Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, where Valve has only just begun taking deposits. Nintendo sells almost as many handhelds in Japan as it does in Europe, so it will be interesting to see if Valve makes a splash there.

The steam deck is currently shipping in the us. The shipping will start on December 17th in Asia.