A few days after the previous interview of Valve representatives in Japan from Nikkei that we covered, here’s another interview from the Japanese publication Automaton-Media this time with Ricky Uy, President of KOMODO, the distributor in Japan, Lawrence Yang, UX designer at Valve, and Erik Peterson, Steam business manager. If you use the below translation please link to Boiling Steam.
This time the interview revolves around various topics:
- When the Steam Deck will ship to Japan
- Why Valve decided to target Japan as a market
- The pricing in Japan
- The repair policy in Japan
- The Steam Deck vs other Gaming UMPC
- The future of SteamOS and not just on the Deck
- Dual Booting with Windows
- What it takes for developers to support the Steam Deck
- Games that work great and those who may not be a good fit
There’s quite a few gems in this interview, so enjoy!
Interviewer: Finally, the Japanese release of Steam Deck is approaching. By the way, if I pre-order now, when do you expect it to ship?
Ricky Uy: We are planning to ship the product gradually to those who pre-ordered around the end of this year.
Interviewer: What is the status of reservations in Japan?
Ricky Uy: I can’t give you specific numbers, but so far it is going well. It is better than our initial forecast.
Interviewer: In terms of models, do you have any recommendations?
Yang: I would recommend any of the models. We recommend all models. For example, the top model has a special anti-glare finish on the screen, so that’s one of the points to consider. Since we have prepared three models, we hope you will choose the model that best suits your needs.
Interviewer: Do you support dual boot with Windows?
Yang: There are already several ways to boot Windows on Steam Deck, and you can also boot from microSD. We are currently working on an official installer for SteamOS, which will allow existing OS and SteamOS to coexist on any machine, not just the Deck. It may take a while yet.
Peterson: The Steam Deck is an open device, a UMPC that users can do with as they please. We don’t want to limit what people can do with the Steam Deck, but we want it to be a PC device that people can use in any way they want, with any flexibility. This is one of the core development principles of Steam Deck.
Interviewer: What was the decision behind the launch of Steam Deck in Japan?
Peterson: I think it’s a mistake to say that home consoles are dominant in Japan. There is no doubt that home consoles are dominant in Japan, but the PC game market is probably larger than you think. It is in the top 10 in the world in terms of market size and may even be the fastest growing market in the world. That is how rapidly the PC gaming scene in Japan is growing. This is the first reason. The second reason is that Japan is the home of portable gaming. Portable gaming is a concept that was born in Japan and has spread to the rest of the world. It is natural for us to want to bring Steam Deck, the pioneer of portable PC gaming devices, to the people of Japan, where portable gaming originated.
Interviewer: So Japan is a hot market for Steam right now.
Peterson: That’s right. In addition to that, there is the global popularity of games made in Japan and games from Japanese developers and publishers. Japan provides a quality gaming experience all over the world. Japanese games are also released on Steam, and people all over the world pick them up, and that’s how PC gaming grows globally. It’s no surprise that we place so much importance on Japan as a region.
Uy: Even games developed outside of Japan are often localized into Japanese these days. Market trends indicate that there is a set of languages that developers should prioritize for PC games, and Japanese is one of them.
Peterson: And Valve has been working with developers to support Japanese as well. We always encourage developers and publishers to make their games available in Japanese, and we provide tools to help them do that.
Interviewer: In countries where the Steam Deck is already available, are there many people for whom the Steam Deck is their first PC gaming device?
Yang: Of course, there are many people who were first introduced to Steam and PC gaming through the Steam Deck, and we hope that this will be the case in Japan as well. We designed Steam Deck to be the easiest PC gaming device. We developed the intuitive SteamOS for this purpose, and we hope that many people will pick up the Steam Deck as if it were a regular handheld gaming device.
Interviewer: Why is the price in Japan relatively high compared to other regions?
Uy: The price is the result of a multifaceted decision based on a number of factors. In particular, the Steam Deck is an unprecedented product in the world because it is an ultra-compact, high-powered PC device that can replace a laptop, but at the same time it is a portable game console that can be easily picked up and played. Therefore, pricing is something we are still exploring, but we are always doing our utmost to offer the best price possible. The price in Japan is a little higher than in other countries where you don’t have to worry about taxes and shipping fees.
Interviewer: What is the repair policy for the Steam Deck? What is the compensation and repair process for a depleted battery, damaged buttons or sticks, etc.?
Yang: In other regions, we have partnered with iFixit to provide part sales and repair services. We have not yet decided how this will work in Japan, so please wait a little longer.
Interviewer: By the way, are there any titles that you guys are into playing on Steam Deck right now?
Yang: I used to play Elden Ring a lot at first, and then Marvel’s Spider-Man. With two kids, I don’t have a lot of time to play games these days, but in my free time, I play Cult of the Lamb and No Man’s Sky.
Peterson: Slay the Spire is my favorite game right now. I think this title works especially well with Steam Deck because it syncs your saves in the cloud. I can start playing on my PC at home and continue playing on the plane coming to Japan.
Uy: Right now I am playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge. I’m also the type of person who likes to play a game over and over again, so recently I’ve been playing Nier Automata again from the beginning.
Interviewer: Are there any demanding titles that prove the performance of Steam Deck?
Peterson: I would have to say Elden Ring. I was personally surprised by Tales of Arise which runs very well on Steam Deck, and the beautiful graphics were stunning right from the start.
Interviewer: What do you think are the advantages of the Steam Deck over other gaming UMPCs?
Yang: We are happy to see the gaming UMPC category continue to be developed, and we would like to see it become a major option for playing PC games. Currently, the strength of the Steam Deck lies in SteamOS, which was designed specifically for the Steam Deck and should be the best choice for playing Steam games. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, you can run Windows on Steam Deck, but Windows is not an OS optimized for games. SteamOS is an open OS that can be deployed on any device, and we are prepared to provide maximum support for any future gaming UMPC that wants to deploy or support SteamOS. SteamOS is a strength for the Steam Deck, but we do not intend to hold onto this technology - instead we hope that it will contribute to the development of the gaming UMPC product category.
Peterson: We welcome the growth of the PC gaming market in all its shapes. The larger the market, the more users we can reach, the better it is for developers and publishers, and the better it is for users to have access to quality games.
Interviewer: How are you helping developers get their games ready for the Steam Deck?
Yang: We are working on a compatibility layer called Proton, developed by Valve, that allows games for Windows to be played on the Linux-based SteamOS. This should basically allow games to run on SteamOS without any special work from the developer’s end. And Steam Deck has a compatibility review system by Valve, and games that have been confirmed to work perfectly with Steam Deck have a Deck Verified category. We have set a very high bar for this compatibility check, and only games that have been confirmed to play perfectly all the way through without any special settings on the user’s part are eligible for this category. This is confirmed by a human actually playing the game. And even if a game does not have Deck Verified status and is in the Playable category, it can still be played without any problems if the user plays around with the controller settings or uses the touch screen controls.
Interviewer: What are some of the games that are considered difficult to play on Steam Deck?
Yang: If a game does not support controller operation in the first place, it will be difficult to at least give it a Deck Verified status. However, it should still be possible to play with touchpad control or mouse/keyboard connection. The other thing is that Proton itself is still under development, so minor problems may occur. One problem is when the video playback format is not supported […] then it is not verified on the Steam Deck. We are aware that this is a problem on Valve’s side, and we intend to address it in future development.
Interviewer: Now that the Steam Deck is complete and shipping, what is next for the Deck team?
Yang: We will still be working on Steam Deck for a while. We have a lot of work to do on the software side, especially on the SteamOS, so we will need to improve that. We are slowly working on the next Steam Deck project, but it will be a long time coming.
Peterson: We also have to deal with developers and publishers. We’re providing them with the information and development kits they need to get Deck up and running smoothly, and we’re seeing more and more titles being Deck-confirmed before launch.
Interviewer: Did you hear anything unique or interesting about the sales of Steam Deck so far?
Yang: First, the best-selling model is actually the top-of-the-line 512GB model. This was a surprise for us. Second, sales have been slowly increasing since the release. People are actually holding them in their hands, and word of mouth is spreading, and the number of people who pre-order them seems to be increasing.
Peterson: “These devices have to be experienced hands-on. You can’t really understand the performance and feel of a device like this until you try it. We are very grateful that the Steam Deck has reached so many people and that its popularity seems to be slowly growing […].