Valve’s Steam Deck announcement earlier this week has made waves, but underneath lies a second story: the company plans to replace Steam’s Big Picture UI with the Steam Deck interface.
In response to a Steam forum post calling Valve’s Big Picture UI “outdated,” a Valve employee said big things may be coming for gamers familiar with the company’s large-screen interface. The employee indicated the handheld’s UI would soon be taking Big Picture’s place, although they didn’t give a release date.
PC gamers know Big Picture as Steam’s way of bringing PC titles to the (arguably comfier) couch by casting games to a larger monitor or TV. Setup is simple and just requires an HDMI cable between the PC and screen. Once connected, Big Picture’s UI takes over and provides a TV-friendly experience—one that doesn’t punish gamers for using a controller versus a mouse and offers a unique “Daisywheel,” Steam’s D-pad alternative to a QWERTY keyboard. Designed to be viewed from 10 feet away, Big Picture’s fonts and overall interface help to make PC gaming accessible and comfortable for those who get tired of their desk setup.
But Big Picture has been around for nearly a decade, having first been introduced in late 2012. Though useful, the interface hasn’t received a major facelift since its launch. It’s time for a refresh, and Valve apparently sees the Steam Deck as an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone: release a competitor to the ever-popular Nintendo Switch and update the client’s tired big-screen UI. It’s a welcome refresh to those who prefer couch gaming but find the interface a little clunky.
Some are already finding the Steam Deck UI to be more “approachable” than Big Picture. According to our colleague Tom Marks, who received a sneak peek of the Deck, it’s “easier to both search out specific games and navigate more generally,” and he said feels more like a modern console UI than what came before it.
Valve has its work cut out for it in blending a full-fledged PC with a handheld console. But breathe easy–whether or not you’ve pledged to spend $400+ come December (or later), there are already some exciting developments on the horizon.