Valve made a bite-sized new Portal game for the Steam Deck

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I just put up a 4,000-word review of Valve’s Steam Deck portable gaming PC, which just went on sale to the first batch of early adopters today. But the company had a surprise announcement too — Aperture Desk Job, a new bite-size experience set in the Portal universe that’ll be a free download March 1st. It’s designed to introduce new Steam Deck buyers to the handheld’s incredible array of controls, and it involves… toilets and chairs.

Assuming you’re not already halfway through the video teaser atop this post, here’s how Valve tries to thread the needle between our rampant desire for Valve to remember how to count to three and the potential disappointment that Valve has not yet managed it:

Aperture Desk Job reimagines the been-there-done-that genre of walking simulators and puts them in the lightning-spanked, endorphin-gorged world of sitting still behind things.

You play as an entry-level nobody on their first day at work — your heart full of hope and your legs full of dreams, eager to climb that corporate ladder. But life’s got other plans, and they all involve chairs.

Designed as a free playable short for Valve’s new Steam Deck, Desk Job walks you through the handheld’s controls and features, while not being nearly as boring as that sounds.

Not Portal 3!

Lower your expectations: This is not a sequel to Portal. Now get ready to raise them slightly, because it is in the expanded universe of those games.

It looks fun! But it surprised me for two reasons:

  1. Valve never said a word to me about it.
  2. Valve explicitly said to journalists it wasn’t going to do anything like this.

In an exclusive interview, Edge Magazine asked Valve founder Gabe Newell if his company ever considered developing a “bespoke” game to “demonstrate hardware capabilities” that would launch alongside the Deck, like Valve did with The Lab or other experiences in VR.

Gaben reportedly said:

Yeah. I mean, we looked at it — it’s just a question of resources and time. We decided to spend more of our resources on our existing games like Dota and Counter-Strike and thinking of ways to make them better on this device. We just felt like that was more bang for our buck than building a sort of gamelet.

Valve also suggested me in August that they wouldn’t make any games exclusive to portables the way they made Half-Life: Alyx exclusive to VR, and wrote in an FAQ that the idea of Steam Deck exclusives “doesn’t make much sense to us.”

But perhaps it’s not exclusive. And either way, I’m definitely not going to look a gift Portal experience in the mouth.

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