Big Picture mode swaps the web browser-style layout of the default Steam client for a cleaner user interface emphasising larger tiles for games. It’s designed to emulate the user interface console gamers are used to, usable with a controller, and with everything visible when sat on a couch, half a room away from the screen.
Currently, PC gamers can use the optional UI when outputting to a TV screen either by directly connecting a desktop or laptop to it, when streaming over a home network, or if using one of the short-lived Steam Machine console-style gaming PCs.
However, when the Steam Deck launches at the end of 2021, it will have its own custom UI which will replace Big Picture mode. The Steam Deck will continue to have more of a focus on game tiles and be optimised for navigation around players’ Steam libraries, but have a more modern flair than Big Picture.
The change was confirmed on the company’s forums (as spotted by PC Gamer). Asked if Steam Deck’s operating system is “the next step for Big Picture”, a Valve spokesperson replied “Yes, we are replacing Big Picture with the new UI from Deck. We don’t have an ETA to share yet though.”
While the rollout may not have a fixed date yet, it will mark the first time Big Picture mode has been updated since 2015. It also means players who may be more interested in a Steam Deck for its TV output capabilities won’t need to risk going through scalpers to pick up one of the highly-sought handhelds, as the Steam client itself should be able to replicate the Steam Deck UI whenever connected to a TV.
The shift in UI may not be the last players see of Steam Deck’s influence on PC gaming. Valve has said it “sees long-term benefits” to more PC handhelds – even if it does need to first iron out the wrinkle that half of Steam’s most popular games may not run on the hardware.