The Steam Deck appears right now to boast many advantages over the, in my opinion, undercooked Nintendo Switch OLED – but there is one clutch secret feature that hardly anybody is talking about. And it is a feature that has the potential to be an absolute game-changer for the handheld console market, too.
That secret feature? Only the fact that the Steam Deck is capable of having a full-fat copy of Windows installed on it and, therefore, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.
This ability to have Windows installed on Steam Deck was officially confirmed (opens in new tab) by both Valve itself, who has stated that "Steam Deck is a PC so you can install third-party software and operating systems", as well as by its designer Lawrence Yang, who has gone on record to say that:
"We don't think people should be locked into a certain direction or a certain set of software that they can install. If you buy a Steam Deck, it's a PC. You can install whatever you want on it, you can attach any peripherals you want to it. Maybe a better way to think about it is that it's a small PC with a controller attached as opposed to a gaming console."
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So while the Steam Deck will come running a custom UI built on Linux, as it is "a small PC" gamers will be able to "install whatever you want on it", including "third-party software and operating systems". And if you install whatever you want on it including operating systems, then that means Windows, and Windows supports Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.
And, with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate installed on their Steam Deck, not only will gamers have the best-in-the-world games library through Steam to enjoy, but also they will have the potential to access the awesome library of games delivered by Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which also includes access to EA Play titles, too, such as FIFA 21.
Oh, and as Steam Deck gamers would be playing on Windows, they'd also be able utilised Xbox Cloud Gaming on the handheld console, meaning they'd be able to enjoy cloud streaming as well.
By the time most gamers receive their Steam Deck pre-order Windows 11 will be out, too, and as I've written about, the new OS looks tailor made for gamers in mind. A Steam Deck installed with Windows 11 would be the ultimate hand-held gaming experience therefore in my mind and, thanks to the Steam Deck having a dock (sold separately), with Windows 11 installed it could easily also act as a gamer's computing device, too.
From a value point of view Steam Deck looks better and better with each passing week.
Remember, unlike the Nintendo Switch OLED and its raft of missing features, the Switch Deck will support accessories like wireless headphones and will be able to make proper use of things like Bluetooth peripherals such as keyboards and mice, making it very accommodating to general computing and entertainment use. For example, Steam Deck will be able to run Netflix and Disney+, while Nintendo Switch OLED (unless the BigN suddenly makes the apps available) will not.
So, on the one hand you'll have a Nintendo console powered by half-a-decade old hardware that can't be used for any sort of computing/streaming and that doesn't support wireless headphones, and on the other you'll have the Steam Deck which not only can do those things but also delivers a handheld console capable of running Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.
Now that is a hell of secret weapon and it's left me more enthused about the Steam Deck than ever before. And it's why I've locked in my Steam Deck pre-order and left the Nintendo Switch OLED pre-order firmly on the virtual shelf.