You can see Steam Deck iterations leading up to the version that Valve eventually settled on. Some models similar to the Nintendo Switch and its detachable Joy-Con controllers are among them, roughly in the middle of the photo.
“There were things like hinged handles with loops on both sides,” Greg Coomer, Valve designer, told PC Gamer last summer. “A lot of different explorations of the physical shape you’re holding and what shape it should take, the placement of the controls moved around during development, the screen size changed as we tried different game prototypes.”
There are even models with alternative colors. Even though the Steam Deck currently only comes in black, Valve hasn’t given up on the idea of selling it later in multiple colors. One thing that stays the same in every version is the screen size and the Steam deck itself. Although Valve settled on a design without detachable trackpads like the Joycon, you can still see the evolution of trackpads and controller layouts in later models.
Jay Shaw, another Steam Deck designer, said that Valve “had working devices with different shaped trackpads and varying degrees of ‘play'” to feel the right controls. “These are not just quick and simple prototypes, but working devices with many variations,” he said.
Considering the time it took to develop, it makes sense that Valve’s development department developed so many different control schemes before making a final decision. There is one thing I still need to know: which one of them was the one who was affectionately called “The Ugly Kid”.