Dbrand's 'million-dollar' Steam Deck mistake is hilarious and fascinating

Steam Deck Trackpad
(Image credit: Future)

Steam Deck owners were supposed to be able to have a new case from dbrand this week. Unfortunately, an issue with Project Killswitch stopped the launch of the case. dbrand made a sudden announcement on Twitter and then followed up with a longer Reddit post breaking down the "million-dollar mistake."

If you're only interested in what will happen if you ordered a case from dbrand, you can skip to the bullet points below, which were shared in the company's Reddit post on the situation. We'll dive into the nitty gritty of what caused the problems after the list. The long-in-short is that people who placed an order for a Killswitch can either get a refund or a replacement.

dbrand's plans for Project Killswitch

  • All orders currently placed are still shipping.
  • We're pivoting from a magnetic mount to a mechanical interlock system for the kickstand (and all future accessories). This will require re-tooling of our existing production lines and is expected to take some time.
  • Once the re-tooling is complete, every single customer who purchased a magnetic Killswitch is getting a free replacement of both their case and kickstand. We expect to have these shipped out in January. These replacements will be fully compatible with the existing Travel Cover, Skin, Stick Grips & Tempered Glass. When you receive your replacement, you are under no obligation to ship back the magnetic version.
    • Now, you might be wondering why we’re replacing every single one, rather than just those affecting Delta fan owners.
    • While this issue only seems to affect units with a Delta fan, self-diagnosing which fan you possess isn't easy. Even if you’re certain that you have a Delta fan, you genuinely might not notice the issue: during a low-RPM scenario, the fan motor has a lot of headroom to make up for the kickstand’s magnetic interference.
    • This is what we suspect was happening with the original findings from The Verge. That particular editor may have had a Delta fan and, when the kickstand was attached, there was a momentary loss in fan speed, which then caused the fan to kick higher into the programmed curve and overcompensate with the available motor overhead.
    • Ultimately, any self-diagnosis may lead to the incorrect conclusion that you have a Huaying fan. To be safe and to take full ownership of the uncertainty in this issue, we'd rather just replace every unit out there.
  • As a result of the above, whether or not you have a Huaying fan, we do not recommend using the magnetic kickstand. Instead, feel free to keep it on your fridge as a memento of our failure.
  • To clarify once more, everything BUT the kickstand is safe to use.

The root cause of the problems with Project Killswitch are related to the magnets used to attach a kickstand to the case. The Verge noticed that the magnetic kickstand of the case was slowing down the Steam Deck's fan. The outlet spoke reached out to dbrand, and the two worked together to determine the cause of the peculiar problem, along with some help from well-known YouTuber Dave2D.

The Verge shared a video of the Delta fan being affected by the Killswitch kickstand.

It seems that the magnetic kickstand only affects Steam Deck units with a Delta fan. The problem is that people cannot tell if their device has a Huaying fan (which is seemingly unaffected by the magnets) or a Delta fan without cracking their Steam Deck open. That's not a reasonable action for dbrand to ask of people, so instead, the company is handling all orders the same way.

Project Killswitch consists of a case, grips, and other components that protect the Steam Deck. Even if your Steam Deck has a Delta fan, it shouldn't be affected by any part of a Killswitch case except the magnetic mount for the kickstand.

dbrand will shift away from a magnetic mount in the future, opting instead for a mechanical interlock system. Anyone that ordered a case from dbrand will receive a new Killswitch, regardless of if their Steam Deck is affected by the magnetic mount.

Those that made orders before the private launch on Sunday can either get a replacement case and kickstand or a refund. 

Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com.