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TL;DR: As the launch of Valve's Steam Deck draws near, developers are starting to get their hands on working units. Valve began shipping dev kits out on Tuesday. It is looking to allow developers to see how well their games function on the handheld and get some last-minute feedback in the process.
On Tuesday, Valve announced that it has begun shipping Steam Deck dev kits out to developers. Valve says the "engineering verification test builds" are functionally identical to the commercial versions coming at the end of the year.
The dev kits will give developers working units to test their game. It will also provide Valve with additional feedback as it exits the final stage of development.
"Since we are still in the final stages of development, the dev-kit program gives us the chance to guide game developers through the process of getting their games on Steam Deck while also continuing to gather their feedback as we prepare for the official launch at the end of the year. "
Valve announced the Steam Deck back in July. The portable handheld is somewhat bulkier than a Nintendo Switch, which would probably be considered its biggest competitor even though Microsoft's Phil Spencer said it could double as a portable Xbox.
Pre-orders for the Steam Deck were snatched up in minutes, with scalper quickly listing them on eBay for more than triple the retail price. The first units are accounted for and will start shipping when the console officially launches in December. However, the delivery date is somewhat vague for those ordering one now. The next allotments reportedly won't go out until some time after Q2 2022.