Valve released the design files to enable custom cases for their upcoming Steak Deck device.
Steam Deck is a handheld gaming platform similar to the Nintendo Switch, a very popular device. This is one of Valve’s strategies for competing with that very platform.
Steam Deck is not yet released, but is scheduled to be sold towards the end of the month. The handheld device includes a large touchscreen, reasonably strong processor that is power-efficient, 16GB of RAM and up to 512GB of storage, with the ability to expand with external microSD cards. It is also expected to last between 2-8 hours on a single charge, depending on use.
But now we see that Valve has released some CAD files related to Steam Deck.
In a GitLab repository, Valve explains:
“This repository contains CAD files for the external shell (surface topology) of Steam Deck, under a Creative Commons license. This includes an STP model, STL model, and drawings (DWG) for reference.
We’re looking forward to seeing what the community creates! Please reach out to us at [email protected] with any questions, feedback, requests, and most importantly – interesting creations.”
In other words, they are hoping the community at large will create their own interesting and outrageous designs that can be swapped into Steam Deck devices.
The designs could be personal, fun, or perhaps themed to particular games available on Steam Deck. For example, you might want to “wear” the correct case for a given game.
This sort of thing has been done before, if I recall correctly Motorola tried this for mobile phone cases at one point. However, it didn’t really take off, perhaps because there were too few 3D printers available at the time to produce the custom cases.
That could be different now, with perhaps over a million desktop 3D printers operating across the world. It’s very likely the intersection of Steam Deck owners and 3D printer operators is a significant number.
That could ensure Valve’s strategy here succeeds.
But there’s something else that might happen.
It’s possible that the Steam Deck owners interested in customization might get involved in 3D printing where they would not have otherwise. For them it would be a big step, having to learn a 3D modeling software tool, as well as 3D printing.
My suspicion is that many will see the cost of a 3D printer as a low barrier, with many devices now priced under US$250. That alone could trigger many to enter 3D printing.
Valve’s audience is enormous, and I believe the low-cost 3D printer manufacturers might benefit if they visibly stepped forward into this specific space with products able to print these custom cases.