Can Every Game Run on the Steam Deck?

Reader Sketch has pointed to this developer-focused video where Valve says “Our goal is for every game to work by the time we ship Steam Deck.” I think that’s a great goal, but I am also vehemently against the “compatibility layer” emulation solution because it devalues the Linux platform.

People who play games don’t care or need to care about the distinction between native and emulated platforms until they run into the limitations of emulation and that’s OK. I just do not expect Valve to be able to emulate “every game” as well as playing it natively. To be fair, they only said that their goal is for the games “…to work” which isn’t a guarantee of perfection.

Valve has also said they’re talking with anti-cheat developers to get multiplayer games like Destiny 2 and PUBG working with their emulation layer:

For Deck, we’re vastly improving Proton’s game compatibility and support for anti-cheat solutions by working directly with the vendors.

My old colleague from Atomic Gamer, Foffers. has written up his impressions of the Steam Deck announcement and is also concerned about the compatibility:

But this also means that if you want to use any Windows-based tools to assist with your games – like Wabbajack, for example, to install a Skyrim modlist – that’s out of the question as well, and this is not to mention any games running outside of Steam. So Overwatch over in the Battle.net launcher? A game that has some timed exclusivity on Epic Games Store? Something classic from GOG? None of that is happening on the Steam Deck, not how it’s currently set up. Yes, you can link those games to launch from Steam over on a Windows-based Steam install, but that won’t be happening on the Steam Deck unless Valve partners with those companies to work with Proton via a new solution.

Foffers has a lot of experience with other handheld computers, like the GPD Win series and the One XPlayer. I highly recommend reading his impressions of the Steam Deck.

For what it’s worth, I put in a $5 deposit on the Steam Deck. It should be perfect for what I want to use it for, but I am very disappointed that Valve seems to have given up on porting games to Linux. They seemed very serious about it 7 years ago at Steam Dev Days when they gave out a free development box

Author: Jack Slater

A Philadelphian living in Hawaii. If you enjoy my writing please consider supporting me on Patreon or Ko-Fi. You can follow or contact me on Twitter where I'm @NuclearSlater, via the contact page, or via e-mail to zjs@zacharyjackslater.com. Find out more about Nuclear Monster here.

One thought on “Can Every Game Run on the Steam Deck?”

  1. It is a tricky situation for Valve, because the interest in Linux gaming has always been very low. There was a time the Humble Bundle changed that a bit, but it only effected some Indies (and it didn’t help that Humble morphed into a very generic key reseller, ignoring Linux completly!).

    The good thing is, that – if the Steam Deck gets big enough – this will be an incentive for devs to at least check how their product does on it. Will there be tears from Steam Deck owners? Certainly!

    But I see this as the most pragmatic way to do this. The alternatives would be to a) use a Windows licence, increasing cost and dependency on Microsoft or b) start with a minuscule catalog of titles developed for the Steam Deck and missing out on the vast number of existing Steam titles.

    And for all the people that depend on something very specific, that is not running in this environment: it is still possible to install Windows on this thing!

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