Though Valve is fiercely protective of its PC game sales data, a rare HTML hole in its Steam service revealed apparently firm order numbers for the Steam Deck, the company’s recently confirmed Switch-like portable gaming PC.
For the first 90 minutes of the system’s preorder period earlier today—as limited to shoppers in North America, the UK, and the EU—Valve’s database coughed up exact preorder numbers, thanks to “queue” metadata appearing in publicly viewable calls to the HTML version of Steam. During that time, SteamDB creator Pavel Djundik kept track of the sales tally, and by his count, the publicly reported queue for confirmed preorders exceeded 110,000 across those three sales regions.
Djundik’s count was limited to Steam Deck’s pricier SKUs, so the estimate doesn’t account for sales of the cheapest, $399 version (which comes with 64GB of onboard storage). His count, as backed up by other users’ image captures of sales data through the preorder period’s first 90 minutes, boils down as follows:
- 512GB model, $649: 71,600 (of which 55,000 came from North America)
- 256GB model, $529: 33,000 (of which 28,000 came from North America)
Other users have chimed in to count close to 10,000 64GB model preorders from North America, with other regions’ 64GB counts remaining unclear.
As of press time, all three models are still available for preorder. However, only buyers in the very beginning of the preorder period could guarantee hardware arriving as early as “December 2021.” Valve is continuing to accept preorders, with shipment estimates bumped to “Q1 2022” for the 64GB and 256GB models and “Q2 2022” for the 512GB model.
Mild scalper protections didn’t buttress the servers
Still, even after a frantic opening to the Steam Deck preorder process, the company is happily accepting as many orders as customers want to make, so long as they’re willing to get in line for more models to be produced. All preorders between now and Sunday, July 18 require a Steam account in “good standing,” which is verified by any purchase made through Steam by June 2021. Once Sunday rolls around, anyone can simply place an order via Steam.
This process differs from the endless availability song-and-dance we’ve seen from consoles by Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft, which all tend to revolve around variable amounts of stock opening up at third-party retailers. Sony and Microsoft’s own direct-sales options are similarly scattershot, though Xbox All Access is among the most scalper-proof options on the market. It requires attaching a buyer’s Xbox account credentials, and its layaway price model includes a Game Pass Ultimate subscription.
That count of over 110,000 preorders came amid an apparent server maelstrom, as the earliest Steam Deck shoppers ran into error messages and emotional cartoon mascots. Worse, some would-be buyers were met by the insulting claim that they had “been attempting a lot of purchases in the last few hours“—likely due to the site itself telling users to refresh its error-filled pages. That end point punted a user’s queue spot to the back of the line.
Anonymized purchase information appearing as public metadata isn’t a particularly nefarious HTML hole, but it’s not the first one we’ve encountered within Valve’s Steam service. A 2013 report from Ars’ Kyle Orland led the company to patch an issue that left a lot of potentially identifying user information out in public view, especially for users who had marked their information as private or friends-only. Orland has since followed that report with a number of examinations of Steam’s sales figures and user numbers based on various data leaks and interpretations.
Listing image by Valve