For anyone trying to buy a modern piece of gaming hardware, good news is beginning to peek through the bleak clouds of chip shortages and production delays. This week’s optimism comes from a gamer falling outside of the expected controversy over console and GPU manufacturing.
Valve, the longtime software maker responsible for the mostly brilliant handheld PC Steam Deck, announced Monday that it has caught up on that system’s “shipping estimate” schedule. According to Valve, anyone who ordered a Steam Deck system with a “Q2 2022” shipping window received an email with the option to order and pay for their own device.
The real news starts with buyers in Q3 2022 as they will be contacted from June 30th – on higher volumes.
Production Has Picked Up, Valve’s official Steam Deck social channel announced on Monday. “Starting today, we’ll be shipping more than double the number of Steam decks every week!”
A fuzzy estimate of what “more than double” means
How many systems that could be is currently difficult to quantify. Valve has kept Steam Deck shipping stats secret since that system’s launch in February 2022. At the moment we have a fuzzy path to estimating Steam Decks ownership, as the system received a patch in May that adds support for the Steam Hardware Survey, allowing PC owners to opt-in to disclosing their system specs.
Currently, the Steam Hardware Survey has exactly one line that correlates to Steam deck hardware: “AMD Custom GPU 0405”. This RDNA 2 graphics solution is part of the Steam Deck’s custom AMD System-on-Chip (SoC), which is not found on any other computing device on the market. Steam’s May Hardware Survey counts the 0405’s user base as a small portion of the service’s user base: 5.2 percent of all Linux users, which is itself 1.12 percent of all Steam users. (This AMD GPU does not appear in the operating system independent count of all GPUs on Steam.)
Steam’s last announced number of 132 million monthly active users were added in early 2022. Applying the Steam Hardware Survey percentages to this number, we can extrapolate that about 77,000 Steam deck systems were in the wild when Valve’s process automatically collected data in the last week of May. (Although Steam users are required to opt-in to the Steam Hardware Survey, this is still the best estimate we have of the Steam user base.)
Deck systems included in the Steam Hardware Survey had to arrive and be activated by the end of May, leaving us a shipping window of February 28th to May 23rd: 12 weeks. We can roughly estimate that in the early days, 6,400 Steam Decks per week were shipped off Valve’s production lines to customers. “More than doubling” production and shipping capacity can start at 13,000 weekly Steam Deck shipments. (A margin of error could mean that the May poll counted 11 or even 13 weeks of Deck PC shipments.)
Still an order of magnitude behind Nintendo Switch
At press time, Valve representatives have not answered Ars Technica’s questions about the Steam Deck’s manufacturing and shipping processes. The best insight we can glean comes from Valve designer and engineer Lawrence Yang, who told fans via his Twitter account“As you might be able to imagine, hardware is pretty tough to make right now, and the team has been kicking ass behind the scenes to keep the Steam deck production going.”
Valve’s announcement follows a noticeable increase in GPU availability over the past month, although in this case the number may have as much to do with manufacturing efficiency as it does with a massive setback in cryptocurrency mining operations. Falling prices for both new and used hardware suggest this supply and demand line is stabilizing, but it is arguably being impacted by used GPUs, which have taken a crypto mining hit before ending up on used marketplaces. We’ll have to wait for Nvidia’s long-rumoured RTX 4000-series GPUs for a closer look at whether new PC GPUs can break modern manufacturing hurdles.
Current-gen console makers are still struggling to track consumer demand, with both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S family consistently selling out at both online and major retailers. Based on their part allocations, it is estimated that these console families will remain in short supply through 2022. Many of these orders are exclusive to paid services like Walmart+, Best Buy Totaltech, and Amazon Prime; If you’d rather not pay for such services, consider following savvy online shopping trackers on social media, although their leads usually have to act within one-hour windows or less.
Perhaps the best context for both consumer demand and production speed remains the Nintendo Switch, with the three models being sold together 23.06 million units worldwide in Nintendo’s fiscal year 2022, or about 443,000 systems per week. Valve obviously needs to catch up on both manufacturer and consumer demand to get anywhere near a Switch-like shipping rate, but to Valve’s credit, Deck hardware doesn’t sit unsold on shelves. Any Steam Deck orders placed today Country in a shipping backlog “after Q3 2022” – although that estimate could tighten once Deck’s shipping speed picks up in the coming weeks.
Comparisons to other gaming hardware manufacturers aside, this week’s announcement could be good news for a different crowd of gaming fans: virtual reality users. Valve’s apparent work on a new VR system continues to be leaked
Mentions in its Source Engine
. If Valve now makes Steam deck systems more easily, the same could be true for any future VR system launches.
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