As I was reviewing the predictions that we had made for the year 2022, one of them had become very hard to assess: the one about the number of Steam Deck units sold. We thought that it would sell at about a million units, but the lack of official figure made it very hard to confirm if that estimate was met. This got me thinking, what could be the reason why Valve is not releasing any numbers?
There’s probably many factors at play, and I don’t claim to be able to read minds, but the one that is probably the most relevant is the lack of incentive for doing so. The reality is that, no matter how well the Steam Deck did, it will just look bad compared to anything else that’s on the market.
- The Nintendo Switch has sold 3.43 million units in Q1 2023 alone
- The PS5 has been moving something like 7 million units in the past few months according to Forbes
- The Xbox is not too far behind either, while it does not disclose any official numbers either, with an estimated 9 million units shipped last year, according to VGChartz
And that’s just in the gaming space. Let’s not even talk about the shipment of phones, since they are in a totally different category.
In absolute terms, The Steam Deck would be a great success if it sold 1 million in 2022 in the middle of a challenging components shortage, with Steam as the only (online) distribution channel. It would be even more impressive if it did sold twice or three times as much. Folks in the Linux Gaming community would probably rejoice at the idea that a Linux-based device reached some kind of mainstream appeal for gaming.
But even if it did sold 3 millions in the year 2022, the headlines for Valve from the usual gaming media would likely be terrible:
- The Steam Deck sold 4x less than the Switch in 2022
- The Steam Deck is the platform with the slowest growth
- Encouraging sales for the Steam Deck, but still ways to go to compete
- Valve has failed AGAIN to gain a foothold on the hardware market
And so on. You can probably come up with a few ones on your own.
There’s no press out there (apart from the Linux Gaming sites) that would spin this into a positive light.
This may be why Valve is not sharing any numbers, no matter how great they actually are.
There’s no way to make them look good in relative terms.
They have clearly nothing to gain.