Steam’s ‘Big Picture’ mode isn’t long for this world.
Long-time users of Valve’s Steam app on PC are likely familiar with Big Picture, a mode that turns the PC app interface into a more console-like experience better designed for use with controllers rather than keyboards and mice. However, Valve plans to replace Big Picture mode with the new user interface (UI) from its recently announced Steam Deck handheld.
“Yes, we are replacing Big Picture with the new UI from Deck. We don’t have an RTA to share yet though.”
The change shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, however. Valve added Big Picture to Steam in 2012 and it was the foundation for the UI of SteamOS, a version of Linux that shipped on Valve’s console-like Steam Machine hardware.
For the unfamiliar, Steam Machines were part of a push to move PC gaming away from its reliance on Windows as well as an attempt to make PC gaming simpler. One of the main benefits of console gaming is that it’s simple — you buy a PlayStation, an Xbox or a Switch, you plug it into your TV, and you play a game. Unfortunately, the Steam Machine project didn’t really take off and in 2018, Valve stopped linking to the Steam Machine section on its Steam storefront and many of the Steam Machine models were no longer available.
While Steam Machines may not have succeeded, that doesn’t mean Steam Decks are equally doomed. In fact, Valve has done some pretty incredible work to make gaming on Linux much better, both for its Linux-based SteamOS and for other Linux distributions. Mainly, that work involves ‘Proton,’ a compatibility layer that helps translate Windows games into something that Linux can play. It’s not perfect, however — WindowsCentral has an excellent overview of Proton and other software on the Steam Deck that enables gaming.
Getting back to SteamOS and Big Picture mode, the Steam Deck will run SteamOS 3.0, which includes the redesigned UI. Since Big Picture mode was a part of past versions of the SteamOS UI, it makes sense that version 3.0 would also bring the change to the Steam desktop client.
That said, Valve hasn’t offered a timeline for when it will replace Big Picture mode on Steam. If I had to guess, I’d say it’ll happen around the time the Steam Deck starts shipping, if not shortly after. Currently, the Steam Deck is set to ship in December, but high demand has pushed orders out to midway through next year.