Feature image by: Miguel Lagoa / Shutterstock.com
If you have even the slightest interest in gaming, you’re likely to be well-aware of how frustrating sourcing gaming-grade hardware has been in recent times. The unrelenting world-wide shortages have hit gaming hard… really hard. It’s been a rough ride these past couple of years, with overwhelmed factories, crypto-currency mining operations and import tariffs rocketing up the price tag of PC components and crashing stock counts.
2021 is wrapping up soon and despite people’s best efforts to secure a shiny graphics card – now a prized commodity in today’s climate – many have gone the entire year without upgrading their rig. From automated accounts continuously checking and sending out stock alerts via social media to invite-only Discord groups for sharing updates on stock in brick-and-mortar stores, for many, it wasn’t enough.
Ordinary gamers, work-from-home professionals, filthy scalpers – everyone has got their finger primed over the F5 key to refresh a store’s inventory when a re-stock is announced, only exacerbating the issue. Never mind bots sneakily bypassing Google’s supposed ‘prove you’re not a robot’ filter, CAPTCHA. As soon as stock is made available – even for a split-second – it’s already gone!
We’re not able to predict the future. But based on many regurgitated statements from the leading manufacturers, a radical change to the situation doesn’t appear to be happening any time soon, unfortunately. Intel, AMD and more have repeatedly warned that the hardware shortages won’t ease up until late 2022, perhaps even stretching into 2023. 2022’s impending arrival won’t flick a switch to miraculously ‘fix’ the situation.
So, how is a gamer supposed to game in 2022? With a bit of persistence – and a healthy dose of luck – you may be able to find PC components in-stock and at a reasonable price, but we’ve got a couple of other suggestions.
Pre-built gaming PC
Building your own gaming PC from scratch is an exciting and rewarding part of the hobby, but the world-wide hardware shortages have made it prohibitively expensive. That’s if you’ve managed to get your hands on hardware in the first place! For aspiring PC gamers, now is one of the roughest patches PC gaming has faced in recent memory. Sourcing all the parts – GPU, CPU and more – will prove an insurmountable barrier to entry for many.
Rather than gluing your eyes to a social media bot’s stock updater and joining the rat-race, we’d seriously consider a pre-built gaming PC. As the cumulative price tag of all a pre-built gaming PC’s components may be more cost-effective than buying them separately – and it’s shipped straight to your door! To demonstrate, let’s look at an AlphaSync pre-built gaming PC – the AlphaSync Luna Diamond. Here are the specs:
- AMD Ryzen 7 3700X Processor. Eight cores and sixteen threads running up to a blisteringly fast 4.4GHz.
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 Ti Graphics Card
- Corsair Vengeance LPX 3200MHz DDR4 Memory
- ASUS PRIME B550M-K Motherboard
- Seagate FireCuda 510 500GB M.2 NVMe Solid State Drive
- Seagate BarraCude 2TB Hard Drive
- Corsair CV650 650W Power Supply Unit
- ID Cooling SE-214 CPU Cooler
- EG Diamond Gaming Case
- AC Dual Band 1200Mbps Add-On Wi-Fi Card
- Windows 11 Home Operating System
We’ve run the numbers. Even being extremely conservative with pricing – choosing the MSRP for the GPU – you’re looking at slightly over £1,200 for the lot when each is purchased separately. However, that’s not an accurate reflection of the on-going situation. Accounting for the over-inflated but real-world prices of GPUs, the figure is bumped up to over a whopping £1,600.
How much for the AlphaSync Luna Diamond? Under £1,400 (it has dropped under £1,150 in Ebuyer’s Black Friday Sale – and no doubt there’ll be comparable savings around Christmas time!)
To re-iterate – this is a pre-built gaming PC. You won’t have to waste a frustrating amount of time that could’ve been spent gaming sourcing scarcely available parts, or worrying about compatibility. Let the dedicated AlphaSync team of highly experienced PC builders handle it all. Available with next day delivery, it’ll arrive on your doorstep pre-configured with a fine-tuned BIOS and an up-to-date suite of software packages for the optimal gaming experience, right out of the box. Pay less money, have it built for you and it comes with warranties – a pre-built gaming PC is mightily tempting offer for gaming in 2022.
A gaming laptop is another option in a similar vein to a pre-built gaming PC. We’ve witnessed some amazing Black Friday deals on gaming laptops and Christmas is the next big-name event coming up for even bigger sales.
As a niche product category, a gaming laptop tends to be more readily available and in-stock than the separate parts of an equivalent-spec gaming desktop. Their locked-down form factor turns out to be advantageous in turning away the prying eyes of cryptocurrency miners. Minimising cost and maximising return is the miner’s ultimate goal, and a gaming laptop is too feature-rich to facilitate this.
GPUs perform all the laborious work associated with cryptocurrency mining – all the other components aren’t nearly as important. For instance, most rigs configured solely for mining won’t need more than 4GB of RAM, whereas 16GB of RAM is highly recommended for a modern gaming-grade rig. They’ll forgo today’s high core count CPUs and even an output display, as professional miners will remotely control their armies of mining PCs from one centralised host machine. As alluring as the all-important GPU lying within a gaming laptop is, they’re not a cost-effective solution for miners – increasing their availability for actual PC gamers!
A gaming laptop is a truly all-in-one unit, making it a great entry point for newcomers to PC gaming. Monitor, keyboard and more – everything that’s needed to get up-and-running quickly – are all conveniently packaged together. Flip open the laptop’s lid, hit the power button and you’re off. The only extra peripheral you’ll want – or, rather, need – for PC gaming if we’re being completely honest is a gaming mouse. Make sure to check out our Gaming Mouse Guide to learn what is best to look for when browsing Ebuyer’s broad range of gaming mice.
The graphics card rumour mill never stops churning out leaked specs. Some are obviously plucked out of thin air by a fervent forum troll, but there are others with a suspicious grain of truth to them. Never mind the inevitable RTX 40 Series or even an RTX 30 ‘Super’ Series re-fresh. Allegedly, NVIDIA is first going to reach into their extensive back catalogue and dredge up an updated revision the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060, a last-gen graphics card.
NVIDIA RTX 2060
With months’ worth of speculation – corroborated from many sources – they’re suggesting it won’t be an exact rehash of the 2019 card. While the underlying technologies will be based on the same 1st generation RTX architecture – codenamed Turing – it’ll be bumped up from 6GB of video memory to 12GB. This should make it more of a reasonable performer in the latest releases with memory and bandwidth-hungry textures. The concept of serving up last-gen’s scraps and posturing it as a ‘new’ product may leave a bad taste in your mouth, but under these conditions, it’s quite a smart play.
Reasons for shortages
A semiconductor – what is in such short supply at the moment – is manufactured on a particular ‘process node’. 14nm, 7nm, 5nm and so on. The smaller the process node, the more power-efficient and consequently faster it can be. Here lies the root cause of the hardware shortages – everyone is wanting to make their products on the latest process node for peak performance.
The manufacturing process of computer chips is extremely specialised. There is only a very select handful of factories world-wide able which produce them and they’re deeply swamped with demand from the massive influx of lockdown past times, working from home and cryptocurrency miners.
Importantly, while the likes of AMD, NVIDIA and Apple may design their hardware, the manufacturing is outsourced to external partners. A lot of the biggest players – like the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) and Samsung – are based out of Asia, a further restriction on world-wide distribution that’s already heavily congested.
With sky-high demand and limited factories, designers must place an ‘order’ for chips years in advance, but there is no way they could’ve predicted a pandemic. There are no favours or asking nicely – manufacturers must oblige and fulfil their extensive back orders, before opening requests for new ones.
Why the NVIDIA RTX 2060 is a smart move
Circling back to the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060, it’s made on TSMC’s 12nm processor node. An older, larger process node that’s not as utilised or sought after as the latest, heavily demanded nodes. The production line for last-gen’s process node may be relatively calm, with free space for NVIDIA to resume production on NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 and – finally – get some affordably priced graphics cards into the consumer’s possession. They may already have an inventory of cards ready to go.
On a technical level, we’d categorise the RTX 2060 as a 1080p-tier card. It may not be the uber-powerful graphics card you’ve been salivating over to drive a 4K and high refresh rate gaming monitor. But you could use it as a ‘stop-gap’ to tide you over until the stock of a high-end graphics card returns to a reasonable level. It’s smarter than forking out an exorbitant amount to a greedy scalper taking advantage of the situation.
Use DLSS to enhance performance
We’re very much in a ‘cross-generational’ period, so the RTX 2060 holds up surprisingly well in the latest releases when used in conjunction with NVIDIA’s ‘Deep Learning Super Sampling‘ (DLSS). Powered by AI co-processors exclusive to RTX GPUs – Tensor cores – DLSS can smartly reconstruct a frame from a lower internal resolution up to a higher output resolution, with a result that’s shocking convincing. For instance, it can transform a relatively low-res 720P input up to near-indistinguishable 1080P or even 1440P depending on the technique used.
Plus, you get the increased performance from running at a lower resolution – DLSS is an extremely rare win/win for both image quality and performance. These AI-powered reconstruction techniques are undeniably the future of game rendering, making the rumoured RTX 2060 revision a compelling argument in today’s GPU landscape.
Intel for gaming in 2022
No doubt you’ve heard of Intel and their storied history of CPUs. In recent years they’ve stumbled a bit, finding their feet in an industry fiercely shaken up by the ground-breaking AMD Ryzen CPUs. The chart-topping sales of Ryzen posed a serious thread to their market share, but after a few years’ worth of uninspired and one-note releases, Intel is making a bold comeback with their latest 12th generation Intel Core CPUs for gaming in 2022.
Intel 12th Gen – 10nm on the desktop
Based on a brand-new architecture – codenamed Alder Lake – it’s the first time in quite a while we’ve witnessed some genuinely exciting advancements from Intel in the consumer-grade desktop CPU space. For a long and frustrating amount of time, they seemingly couldn’t figure out how to progress off an outdated 14nm process node.
While the competition was ploughing ahead with 10nm and 7nm-based CPUs, Intel was stuck back-porting their 11th Gen desktops CPUs designed for 10nm to 14nm – they were supposed to transition to 14nm way back in 2016! With Alder Lake, they’re back on track at last with a 10nm process node and their sight is set firmly on their aggressive Angstrom-era roadmap.
Intel 12th Gen – P & E cores
It’s also a far departure from what we’ve come to expect from a CPU’s design and paves the way for the future. Rather than being comprised solely of big, power-hungry cores, Alder Lake is a ‘hybrid architecture’, offering up an interesting mix of Performance Cores and Efficient Cores – simply referenced as P-cores and E-cores.
P-cores are Intel’s highest performing CPU cores and – as the name implies – they’re highly adept at performance intensive, single-threaded applications such as games. Whereas the E-cores can operate silently in the background, handling all a gaming PC’s extra processes – peripheral management, voice-comms, launchers, anti-virus and many more – that would otherwise interrupt and get in the way of the P-cores. Intel 12th Gen are the first to support DDR5 memory, here’s what you need to know about DDR5.
Intel Arc graphics cards
But Intel’s timely resurgence hasn’t stopped at CPUs. In early 2022, they’re venturing forth to tackle head-on the likes of AMD and NVIDIA with ‘Intel Arc’, their own line-up of discrete, high-performance graphics cards.
Graphics aren’t a completely uncharted territory for Intel – their integrated graphics are in low-powered devices the world over – so we’re curious how their limited experience scales up to meet the demands of a gaming PC.
XeSS image reconstruction – DLSS competitor?
Not a whole lot is known about Intel Arc. They’ve slowly trickled out tid-bits of information to tide us over us over until the inevitable media blow-out early next year. Most interestingly, they’ve tantalisingly teased their AI-powered reconstruction technique ‘Xe Super Sampling’ (XeSS).
AMD had been in the GPU business for well over a decade now, and even they haven’t got anything analogous to Intel’s XeSS or NVIDIA’s DLSS. Instead, AMD relies on ‘FidelityFX Super Resolution’, a post-process spatial upscaler that’s a underwhelming substitute for AI-driven enhancements. XeSS showcases Intel’s confidence entering the GPU market. They mean serious business, and we’re excited to see what they’re so proud about soon.
Unlike previous generations, console manufacturers haven’t gone out of their way to employ some exotic hardware config. Nowadays, there’s no obtuse or specialised functions game developers must painstakingly work around. This makes a game’s porting process considerably easier – a delightful godsend for game developers.
PlayStation 5 & Xbox Series X
Under the hood, modern game consoles like the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S are – for all intents and purposes – gaming PCs, and as such aren’t immune to world-wide hardware shortages. They use an AMD Ryzen-based CPU and an AMD RDNA 2-based GPU that’s near-identical to an off-the-shelf part a PC gamer would pick up, placing strain on already over-encumbered supply chain. Check out our blogs on the Sapphire Pulse AMD Radeon RX 6600 and a water-cooled 6900 XT from ASUS ROG Strix!
While Sony and Microsoft may be scrambling to expedite a shipment of consoles to fulfil the heightened demands of the festive season, don’t conflate this as a strict improvement to the situation. We’ve got our fingers crossed you’ll manage to source a next-gen console just in time for Christmas – they’re undoubtedly one of the most sought after presents – but going into 2022, they’ll be as difficult as ever to source.
This is particularly true for the highest-end consoles, just like discrete graphics cards. The immensely popular PlayStation 5 is a predominant feature in headlines regarding the hardware shortages, but the Xbox Series X hasn’t managed to escape its grasp either. Both leverage AMD’s latest cutting-edge technologies – the RDNA 2-based GPU surpassing many a PC gamer’s GPU – making them costly and tough to produce, even ignoring the supply chain issues.
So much so, well-known console manufacturers operate at a loss in the early stages of a console’s life cycle, as detailed in our guide on games you can play on any device. Getting these complicated high-end consoles out of the burdened production lines and through distribution channels that are congested world-wide at a reasonable price and pace is a logistical nightmare.
Xbox Series S
Right now is the perfect storm of complications, but there’s one console you may be able to cling onto for gaming in 2022 – the Xbox Series S. When the Xbox Series S was first unveiled as a lowered-powered version of the Xbox Series X – with effectively only a third of the GPU’s raw horsepower – it garnered a less than savoury reaction among gamers.
After nearly a decades’ worth of contention with the previous generation’s tablet-tier processors and middling graphics power – despite the miracles seasoned developers managed to pull off – they were justifiably worried the Xbox Series S was going to rein in next-generation’s potential before it even started. With a drastic reduction to GPU power, reduced memory capacity and bandwidth among other slight cuts to the console’s performance, would developers have to overly comprise on their vision and design around the lowest powered console?
However, the Xbox Series S turned out to be a stroke of genius – or luck – on Microsoft’s part given the current circumstances, and ended up becoming the best-selling games consoles this Black Friday. Yes, beating out its bigger brother the Xbox Series X, the PlayStation 5 and even the reigning champion the Nintendo Switch. What’s so good about the Xbox Series S? It’s mainly boils down to two key reasons – availability and price.
Xbox Series S availability
All the factories are pre-occupied and struggling to churn out chips for high-end graphics cards and games consoles. The physical dimensions of these chips are large – particularly the GPU portion – as they’re comprised of many multi-processors. As we’ve established, chips are incredibly complex to manufacture.
More multi-processors can be crammed into a bigger chip for better performance, but this increases the chances of failure during production. While a high-end console may need thirty-six multi-processor to pass a production line’s minimum requirements, a lower-powered chip used in the Xbox Series S would only need twenty, for example. As such, their yields – chips passing the requirements – are much higher.
And another important note – chips that don’t meet the requirement aren’t deemed defective and chucked in the bin. For example, if only twenty-four of the thirty-six multi-processors are functional, the manufacture can go back in, disable four of the cores and re-purposes it as an Xbox Series S-class chip to maximise availability.
Although this may not be directly applicable the Xbox Series S and X since there’s such a huge discrepancy in performance, it’s worth mentioning as it happens with all computer chips. At their physical core, the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060, 3060 Ti, 3070, their gaming laptop equivalents and more all share the same ‘GA104’ chip, only with a varying number of cores disabled.
Xbox Series S price
The smaller, lower-powered chip of the Xbox Series S is also reflected in its price at only £250. This is an astonishingly good deal and lowers the entry to a true next-gen experience considerably, as opposed to the £400 or more price tag of the highest-end consoles. Sure, it may not be a super-high-end gaming 4K gaming machine – it’s more suitable for a humble 1080P – but try sourcing any discrete graphics card for under £250. You’ll have immense trouble finding one that’s appropriate for a home theatre set-up, never mind one with equivalent performance.
Once you’ve factored in the Xbox Series S’s specs also consist of an 8-core AMD Ryzen-based CPU, a 512GB PCIe 4.0 M.2 NVMe SSD for super-fast loading times and more – plus the £50 value-add of the Xbox Wireless Controller bundled in the box – it becomes clear why everyone’s shifting their attention to it.
It may not have the strongest appeal for die-hard PC gamers, but like the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 re-fresh, we’d seriously consider it an enjoyable stop-gap solution for gaming in 2022 until GPUs are more readily available.
Due to the sustained length of the shortages, game developers haven’t entirely transitioned to the next-gen consoles. What is the advantage of abandoning a well-established player base on last-gen consoles, when a comparatively tiny fraction of them have been able to pick up one of the next-gen consoles? The PlayStation 4 is the 2nd best-selling PlayStation console with over 115 million units sold alone. Whether you’re for or against it, we’re very much in a ‘cross-generational’ period in which many games are designed to be played on both last-gen and current-gen consoles – and this fortunately works out in the lower-powered Xbox Series S’s favour.
Xbox Game Pass
The Xbox Series S is frequently bundled together with a few months’ worth of Xbox Game Pass, adding to its already impressive value. What is Xbox Game Pass? It’s Microsoft’s ace up their sleeve this console generation, effectively the ‘Netflix of games’.
Unlike other gaming-related subscription services like PlayStation Plus or Nintendo Online which only dull out a conservative selection of games each month as part of the subscription, Xbox Game Pass gives you unrestrained access to an entire library of games. Right now, that’s well over one-hundred games with constant updates each month. Not only from Xbox’s own first-party developers, but big-name third-party publishers too. From independently made, short-form experimental experiences to dabble your feet in from time-to-time, right up to the year’s biggest releases. A one-year subscription somehow costs less than two full-priced, triple-A games.
To reiterate, it isn’t a rental service in which you’re limited to a select number of games each month. Xbox Game Pass affords you unlimited downloads to any game that’s available on the service. No hidden caps to curtail your experience – you could theoretically download and play through the entire library, as long as your subscription remains active.
Day one releases
Most importantly, Xbox Game Pass isn’t a dumping ground for year-old releases after they’ve past their time in the spotlight. Many of 2021’s top hits – Age of Empires 4, Forza Horizon 5, Halo Infinite – were available day-in-date on Xbox Game Pass at no extra charge, and the trend is set to continue for gaming in 2022.
It’s extremely hard not to come across as an outright shill on Microsoft’s payroll, but when the newest releases cost upwards of an eye-watering £70, Xbox Game Pass is easily the best deal in gaming. It’ll have a transformative influence on the ways people perceive, obtain and play games in 2022, and may change the way the industry operates at a fundamental level.
When one game costs an extortionate amount, players may feel compelled to gravitate towards the same safe, predictable and familiar games. Whereas with Xbox Game Pass, you can hop freely from game-to-game – ones you might’ve never given a chance before – and see if any pique your interest.
Forza Horizon 5
Forza Horizon 5 – a racing game – demonstrates this perfectly. In today’s market dominated by first-person shooters, multi-player battle royals and yearly re-cycled sports games, Forza Horizon 5 wouldn’t have stood a chance as a full-price release. But since it released day-one on Xbox Game Pass, it saw immense success. In less than 24 hours, it amassed more than 4.5 million players – three times the peak concurrent player count of the series’ previous game in its entire lifetime – and steadily grew to 10 million players by the end of the week, marking the biggest first week in Xbox and Xbox Game Pass history ever.
This record-breaking achievement clearly shows the Xbox Game Pass audience is more receptive to at least giving new experiences a shot, and it’s also available on PC and also smartphones via streaming. Sync your game’s save file to the cloud and resume progress on any device. Although Xbox Game Pass understandably raises concerns over game ownership and perseveration – you don’t ‘own’ these games in a traditional sense – we strongly believe it’s going to be a huge deal for gaming in 2022.
The Xbox Holiday 2021 launch line-up of games was definitely of their strongest recent memory consisting of their ‘big three’ staple franchises – Age of Empires 4, Forza Horizon 5 and Halo Infinite. However, they’re as much 2022 games as they are 2021 games – even if their initial launch was towards the tail-end of 2021. It’s how the modern games industry operates. The clue is staring us right in the face – ‘Halo Infinite’.
Gone are the days of number entries to the Halo franchise, ‘Halo Infinite 2’ doesn’t sound quite right, does it? Going forward – as confirmed by the developers themselves – there’ll be no stand-alone sequel for at least a decade. Just like Fortnite, Call of Duty: Warzone and any number of ‘games-as-a-service’, Halo Infinite will become the premier platform for all things Halo, constantly evolving over times and mutating with post-launch bug fixes, patches, updates and downloadable content. In a controversial move, many fan-favourite features of past Halo games – co-op campaign and level-creator Forge – won’t be coming until early 2022 as part of an update. Halo Infinite isn’t a 2021 game – it’s a game for the entire decade.
Age of Empires 4
Age of Empires 4 is the first entry to the franchise in 16 years, and they’re looking to keep it alive and thriving with post-launch content for a similar length of time. These games might’ve launched in 2021, but it only marks the beginning of their long post-launch journey for gaming in 2022 and beyond.
Doubt was cast on the Xbox brand after their stumbling debut last generation. Who could forget their out-of-touch ‘TV TV TV’ pitch for an always-online Xbox One. Clearly, they’ve learnt from their mistakes, course-correcting massively with Xbox Series X/S and Xbox Game Pass – and nothing is stopping their redemption arc among gamers.
Easily the most anticipated game of 2022 is the Starfield, a space exploration role-playing game. It’s made by Bethesda Softworks developers behind Skyrim and Microsoft outright acquired them – and their entire publishing division consisting of a whopping eight studios – in 2021 for an industry-shaking $7.5 billion.
Outstanding contractual agreements had to be upheld throughout 2021, but Xbox is gaining rights to many eagerly anticipated game franchises in 2022, including Starfield. This strong-handed tactic means Starfield is now exclusive to Xbox consoles and PC. Was it worth it, will Starfield’s pull be enough to flip reluctant PlayStation fans over to the other side? We’re very curious to see how this pans out for gaming in 2022.
On the other hand, Nintendo ignores most industry conventions and plays by their own rules. Compared to the other console manufactures waging war to claim the ‘most powerful console’ crown and fighting to meet demand, Nintendo is off using half a decade-old technology envisioned for car info-tainment systems in the Nintendo Switch and it’s selling better than ever.
Everyone has been hit with the world-wide hardware shortages in some form, but since the Switch’s power-sipping chip is made on a process node that’s generations behind the curve, they’ve managed to weather the brunt of the storm. However, the Switch’s technical make-up was never considered decent by any stretch of the imagination. For gaming in 2022, with the towering PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S looming over, it’s struggling to keep up.
Earlier this year, Nintendo released the plainly named ‘Nintendo Switch OLED Model’, but it wasn’t what people were expecting. It was – as the name implies – merely a screen upgrade with no modifications to the system’s performance. Trust-worthy publications who’ve accurately predicated past Nintendo hardware revisions had indicated it was supposed to be a bigger upgrade. Perhaps the hardware shortages made Nintendo backpedal at the last minute and opt for a tamer upgrade in the meantime, and save a dramatic overhaul to the system’s system-on-a-chip for a dedicated ‘Switch 2’. Will we see it teased or announced in 2022?
Regardless, raw graphical fidelity has never been Nintendo’s strongest department, it’s their timeless art style which carries their games. Although we’ve seen some fantastic third-party releases for the Nintendo Switch in 2021, nothing has matched the first-party output from when the switch first launched. Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey and more – 2017 was a prolific year for Nintendo, but 2021 may be able to usurp it.
For Nintendo’s core audience, we’ve got the Breath of the Wild sequel (unfinalized name) with a tentative ‘2022’ target, the most popular media franchise goes open-world with Pokemon Legends: Arceus, the return of everyone’s favourite Kirby and The Forgotten Lands, Splatoon 3 and there’s a high chance we’ll finally see Bayonetta 3.
Speaking of hand-held consoles, we can’t forget the Steam Deck. It was supposed to be in player’s possession by now in December 2021, but was predictably delayed to early 2022 because of – you guessed it – the world-wide hardware shortages! It’s inescapable for even the biggest PC gaming companies like Steam.
Expectations Vs. consoles
We’ve already covered the Steam Deck extensively here, as well as the user-accessible storage upgrades. While the technical nitty-gritty is interesting, we’re more intrigued by Steam’s philosophy and intention behind the device and the impact it’ll have on gaming in 2022 and beyond.
Steam has done a commendable job in marketing the Steam Deck, treating it as an ordinary gaming PC but in a portable form-factor. Many strongly associate PC gaming with Steam – like Nintendo with console gaming – but they haven’t selfishly claimed ownership over the PC platform with the release of their own hardware, which they could’ve easily done.
Even with a re-work to Steam’s interface to better accommodate the Steam Deck, they’re not equating it to the out-of-the-box experience of a console. Steam has shown restraint with comparisons to the Nintendo Switch – it would’ve been easy given the form-factor – and set expectations for the Steam Deck accordingly.
Year of the Linux?
Despite the Steam Deck’s deceptive appearance, it’s ostensibly a gaming PC – with all the positives and negative that brings. Further yet, it’s running on a Linux-based operating system, not the gaming-standard Windows. For many gamers, it’ll be unfamiliar territory and may cause frustrations.
A minuscule percentage of games run on Linux in a native capacity. Instead, Steam’s employing an experimental compatibility layer called Proton to translate Windows games to Linux. It’s been in active development for a few years with frequent updates, but the results are mixed. Some games work without a hitch beginning-to-end like they’re running natively, while others necessitate slight tweaks or won’t boot at all. DXVK is one of these layers for translating Direct X 9/10/11 API calls to Vulkan, which we’ve covered here for improving some Windows-based games funnily enough.
Iron out the kinks
Anti-cheat detection deeply rooted at Windows’ kernel-level, anti-tamper technologies and digital rights management are all testing Proton’s effectiveness. They’ve managed to get some games using EasyAntiCheat and BattlEye working under Proton, but it required at least some involvement on the game developer’s part.
Even if it’s as simple as “few clicks” or sending an e-mail as suggested Epic Games, that’s an additional platform developers may not be wanting to test and support. Steam has openly stated they’re ironing out these kinks to achieve the highest level of compatibility ahead of launch, but it’s highly likely the Steam Deck won’t be a perfect experience in many of the thousands of games on Steam – never mind non-Steam games on competing platforms. We talked about Xbox Game Pass a lot, but in its present incarnation, it won’t work due to strict ‘Universal Windows Platform’ requirements.
Right now, your best option is to check ‘ProtonDB’ to check how well your favourite games works with Proton, and Steam will be launching the ‘Deck Verified’ program later – grading each Steam game on either a verified, playable, unsupported or unknown status. You don’t see this on a games console, and we’re hoping people aren’t misguided and are informed of what they’re signing up for. Nevertheless, the Steam Deck is one of the most intriguing hardware launches for gaming in 2022. Is a portable gaming PC an untapped market, will the Steam Deck usher in a new era of PC gamers and will 2022 finally be the year of the Linux desktop?
Gaming in 2022 at Ebuyer
2022 is shaping up to be one of the greatest years for gaming in recent memory. 2021 might’ve felt underwhelming for a lot of gamers because so many of 2021’s biggest releases were pushed back to 2022 after facing development delays resulting from the pandemic. Game development is a highly collaborative process and took some time to adapt to work-from-home culture. But it’s made 2022 more stacked than ever for game releases, so we’re in for an abundance of releases month after month. For all your gaming needs in 2022 – from hardware to software – check out Ebuyer.