The launch of the Steam Deck in Japan, with a large presence at the Tokyo Games Show 2022 (TGS 2022) is yet another chance for us to discover how Valve is doing its sales pitch over here. There was hardly much advertising in other geographies so far, and Japan is a very big market when it comes to handheld gaming. Product positionning is crucial to make a dent into Nintendo’s turf.
A video displayed at Valve/Komodo’s booth during the show explains to Japanese gamers what the Steam Deck is all about. Here’s an edit we just made (based on this original video) to help you see the points they make and the visuals they attach to it.
PC Gaming is mostly for a sub-segment of otaku in Japan. Most (other) people play on consoles, and by most this is not something like 70%, rather 99%. Urban legends say that PC gamers use PCs because it gives them access to a plethora of porn games and other visual novels, but what I would I know about that, I’m just a gaijin who took their PC over when moving to Japan.
In any case, it would be extremely odd for someone to advertise PC Gaming when talking about the Steam Deck, and this is precisely what Valve did.
They could have picked just any title and they decided to focus to mention these 3 directly:
- APEX Legends
- Final Fantasy VII Remake
- Elden Ring
They added that there’s a bunch of titles in different genres available. These 3 are a good choice as it focuses on games that are typically not available on the Switch or other mobile systems, and require powerful hardware to run in the first place. This reinforces the image of the Steam Deck as a powerful device.
If time allowed, I think they should also have mentioned some powerful local properties, such as Rune Factory 5, Monster Hunter Rise, Tales of Arise, Resident Evil Village, Demon Slayer -Kimetsu no Yaiba-, all very popular and well known by Japanese gamers. Those also happen to work well on the Steam Deck.
Keyword here is 快適 which means “pleasant, comfy” to describe controls and the fact that they can be customized. On top of the usual gamepad controls they put emphasis on:
- The multi-touch display
- The dual trackpads
- The gyroscope
… all of them making it easier to play games designed for the PC. Unless you are familiar with PC Gaming, you would not really have a clue as to why they are needed, though, and the video goes thru this very quickly.
They also briefly mention that the storage can be expanded with a SD Card, and that it comes with a carry-case to be taken with you anywhere. All good.
The (Weak) Link with Steam
Rough translation of what they continued with:
“When it comes to PC Gaming, Steam is Number One, with 130 Million active players, the biggest platform on Earth.”
And they go on to mention that you can play the games that you have already on Steam.
This was probably not the best approach.
Steam is very small in Japan. Most gamers don’t even know what Steam is. I have a feeling they should have rather mentioned that you can purchase games directly from the device, and then download them when you want to play them - in effect the potential users outside of PC Gamers have a library of zero games, and that’s by far the largest public you can tap into.
30 000 titles?
I had to listen a few times just to make sure I did not make a mistake. They actually claimed that “you can bring with you 30 000 game titles”, while showing people playing on the Steam Deck.
Erm… maybe if you extrapolate to the whole catalog with a 50% success rate to run Windows games, but that’s deceptive when the number of verified and playable titles is actually at 5000+. Let’s see what they mention next.
5000 Verified Titles?
They go and talk about the “Steam Deck Verified Program” to confirm which games have the best experience on the Deck. And:
Through the Steam Deck Verified Program, we have verified more than 5000 games. There are also a ton of other titles awaiting verification. Inside those there are already thousands of titles that can be played.
What a huge mess.
First, it’s way too complicated. Too many figures thrown in your face in just 30 seconds. Too many details that we don’t need to care about. And numbers that appear conflicting: so are there 30 000 titles I can play on the Steam Deck? Wait you said 5000 now? or is it 5000 + a few thousands more? Which one is it?
If I was not writing about the Steam Deck on a daily basis, I would certainly have no clue what this all means.
Also, never talk with numbers going down from one sentence to the next, it gives an impression that you keep shrinking your claims.
Really poor, bad communication there. What the F were they thinking? While you are at that, go ahead and talk about SteamOS and Proton to add a cherry on the cake of crap.
Overall: Does the Pitch Make Sense for Japan?
For a sales pitch, it was missing a key thing. Why should you buy the device? It’s not clear at all, they jump too fast in the specs and the numbers. The way they introduced it by putting Steam in front and center makes it sound like it’s for PC Gamers who already have a Steam Library and want to play on the go. That may be the right positionning outside of Japan, but in Japan you would only tap into a very small market by doing that.
Hey, I’m not an expert at this, but I think the following might have worked better to appeal to a wider Japanese audience. Let me do it in 5 bullet points:
- PC Gaming is great, but let’s be honest, for most people it’s too complicated. OS Setup, drivers, GPUs, configuration is just a waste of time.
- At Valve, we wanted to make you play all these great games in a painless way. That’s why we created the Steam Deck. No more messing around, just press to launch your game and enjoy. We make PC Gaming look like console gaming.
- If you already use Steam, great, you can bring over many of your games on the Deck. But hey, most of you may be new to Steam. What’s Steam? It’s a online store that lets you purchase games amongst tens of thousands of titles. Just create an account for free and you are ready to go.
- It’s very easy to get started, you can buy games directly from your Steam Deck. We have sales very often so you can grab old and new games at great value.
- Most of the games you love already work beautifully on the Steam Deck: (insert list of games very popular in Japan here), and we keep adding new games every single day, be it AAA games or indie titles. With the Steam Deck, your gaming landscape knows no limits.
Well, that’s my 2 cents of advice.
But hey, maybe Valve did a lot of Market Research, decided to only target existing Steam users in Japan, and this sales pitch is what worked the best. Then again, it makes no sense to have such a big booth at the TGS if you don’t intend to expand your market.
Good luck Valve in Japan, let’s hope the press does a better job at communicating why the Steam Deck matters.