Asus’ ROG Ally, a Steam Deck-like handheld gaming PC, is actually real. But because of the messy and ill-informed communications about the device that, of course, involved April Fools’ Day, you’d be forgiven for not knowing that. Companies, take note: please don’t follow Asus’ lead next year.
The confusion started with an announcement at midnight on April 1st “revealing” the handheld. The video felt somewhat tongue-in-cheek, especially during one moment when someone is locked out of their house and happily remembers they have the Ally in their jacket pocket. The tagline felt April Fools’-y — “you’ll never have to stop gaming again” — and the video concluded with somebody using the Ally on a roller coaster and a go-kart.
That all felt like standard April Fools’ fare, but it stung because the Ally actually seemed like a cool product. Perhaps the most intriguing tidbit was that Asus said that it had teamed up with AMD to “custom-make the fastest AMD APU yet” for the device, which theoretically would mean that it might be more powerful than the Steam Deck. But since we couldn’t really tell if this was an April Fools’ gag, the Ally was just something to dream about.
But then, two entire days later, Asus confirmed the device was, in fact, not an April Fools’ joke, and the YouTube channels Dave2D and Linus Tech Tips posted hands-on videos with the device. From those YouTube channels, we can glean a few specs, like a 1080p display, support for 120Hz refresh rates, and Asus’ claim that the device offers double the performance of the Steam Deck. While the company still hasn’t shared a price, it seems like it could be a really good product.
Whatever the final specs are, the rollout of the Ally (A-lie, get it?) is just the latest example of companies forgetting what April Fools’ Day is supposed to be for. As a kid, I remember it more as a day for lighthearted pranks and, for a little while, even tech companies (particularly Google) were having a respectable level of fun or announcing things like Gmail.
But now, it can be so hard to tell when the jokes are actually jokes that it’s just become exhausting. Remember when Volkswagen lied about changing its name to Voltswagen? Asus’ ROG Ally isn’t nearly as egregious, but it’s still frustrating that the company teased a seemingly cool product as a gag for days instead of just revealing that it was a real thing from the jump. It’s time for companies to think about avoiding April Fools’ Day entirely — even Google has stepped back from its April Fools’ Day gags, pulling a “mic drop” joke from Gmail and canceling any plans for April Fools’ jokes in 2020 and 2021.
But, since the ROG Ally is real, the pressure is on for Asus to deliver at the same level as last year’s best “announced on April Fools’ Day” prank: Return to Monkey Island.