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Clearing up what games will and won't run on the Steam Deck

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There seems to be some confusion brewing on what games will actually run on the Steam Deck, so let this serve as a reminder on keeping expectations in check. Here's a quick refresher of how things are right now.

Some of the confusion seems to appear from an IGN interview, where Valve developer Pierre-Loup Griffais mentioned how "we haven't really found something that we could throw at this device that it couldn't handle" that we covered before. Here's the thing though: even though the Steam Deck will ship by default with the Arch Linux based SteamOS 3, they have also been testing Windows 10 and they've been working with AMD to get it supported on Windows 11 too. So speaking from a hardware standpoint, yes it probably will work with the vast majority of games on a performance level.

For regular readers and regular Linux gamers, knowing that the Steam Deck won't run everything is a given and this won't be news but there's plenty of people out there seemingly expecting a bit too much from it. Part of the problem though is Valve's marketing too, with it repeatedly mentioning your entire Steam library. They obviously want every game to work but that's simply not going to be the reality - at least not for a while.

For people who stick with SteamOS 3 this is where it doesn't quite match up. There's a good number of native Linux games (those actually built for Linux) and for everything else there's Steam Play Proton to run Windows games. A big majority of games work on Linux already between native and Proton but there's caveats.

Currently, Proton does not work with games that have the likes of Easy Anti-Cheat and BattlEye which is used in some of the most popular online titles. When it comes to EAC and BattlEye, we do know that Valve are working on it as they said in the developer documentation FAQ that they're "working with BattlEye and EAC to get support for Proton ahead of launch".

Another issue is Microsoft Media Foundation for videos, it's something of a nuisance and they don't play in Proton either. Currently Valve appear to be re-encoding the videos into a playable format which downloads with your game when run through Proton. That's a lot of work though too, there's a lot of games on Steam.

Then there's certain DRM too. Valve's older CEG (custom executable-generation) DRM also doesn't work in Proton, and there's no doubt a few other DRM/anti-tamper solutions that also don't work with Proton. Launchers can be a problem too, with some developers using .NET / Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF). For launchers Valve recommends that developers use something cross-platform and standalone like Qt or just skip launchers completely, which would be vastly better for gamepad/controller support too.

Compatibility will improve over time though as more developers hopefully look to support it directly and as Proton continues maturing. So even if your favourite or the latest AAA doesn't work right away, it might do later. There's still plenty of time until the Steam Deck releases and Valve has opened up requests for developer kits too. Valve also stated in their Steamworks video how "our goal is for every game to work by the time we ship Steam Deck" and that "there is a lot of work that has been done that doesn't yet affect the public version of Proton" so we are expecting the situation to improve. Until we see this special Proton release though, this article sums up the current situation.

If you're looking to try out Linux gaming and you're confused with Proton, be sure to check out our guide.

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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I am the owner of GamingOnLinux. After discovering Linux back in the days of Mandrake in 2003, I constantly came back to check on the progress of Linux until Ubuntu appeared on the scene and it helped me to really love it. You can reach me easily by emailing GamingOnLinux directly. Find me on Mastodon.
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whizse Sep 8, 2021
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Quoting: WorMzyhttps://www.steamdeck.com/en/hardware
QuoteYou can also install and use PC software, of course. Browse the web, watch streaming video, do your normal productivity stuff, install some other game stores, whatever.
Ah, right, as an open platform. As long as people doesn't read into that too much and assume Valve promises to support other stores in Proton.
Philadelphus Sep 8, 2021
I interpreted that initial comment as saying 100% of games would work with Proton, and I was definitely skeptical of Valve pulling that off before December, unless they're sitting on a ton of improvements they haven't released yet. This interpretation makes a lot more sense. Thankfully it doesn't make a difference to me, but I can see this being a turn-off for Windows gamers. Hopefully Valves pulls off enough Proton improvements by December to get enough of the popular games working that Windows gamers are willing to wait for further improvements.
whizse Sep 8, 2021
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Quoting: PhiladelphusI interpreted that initial comment as saying 100% of games would work with Proton, and I was definitely skeptical of Valve pulling that off before December, unless they're sitting on a ton of improvements they haven't released yet. This interpretation makes a lot more sense. Thankfully it doesn't make a difference to me, but I can see this being a turn-off for Windows gamers. Hopefully Valves pulls off enough Proton improvements by December to get enough of the popular games working that Windows gamers are willing to wait for further improvements.
I'm not sure if this is an unpopular opinion, but I think it's smart of Valve to hedge their bets and support Windows too.

For many it will make the purchase a much safer choice. SteamOS sucks for your particular game? Install Windows and go about your business. The hardware is still great, so you recommend it to a friend. When they purchase the Deck Proton have progressed somewhat and they are happy with the OOTB SteamOS experience.

A key to the success of the Deck is to get game developers on board, and the best way to get their attention is to push units. By hook or by crook.
Mohandevir Sep 8, 2021
So, the major breakthrough will be EAC and BattlEye support, if it ever comes out ahead of launch...

Valve's curated list better be up to date and populated with all the compatible games available because this is what's going to make it or break it. Protondb is not the way forward for Windows users that are just waiting on a misstep to strip SteamOS out of the device.


Last edited by Mohandevir on 8 September 2021 at 1:46 pm UTC
PublicNuisance Sep 8, 2021
Valve over promised here or used terrible wording. This is going to explode in their faces. As I have said before, all it will take for them to be wrong is for one single game out of 10000+ to not work and then they become liars and have to talk about how they were misunderstood and then they look like con men.
Mohandevir Sep 8, 2021
Quoting: PublicNuisanceValve over promised here or used terrible wording. This is going to explode in their faces. As I have said before, all it will take for them to be wrong is for one single game out of 10000+ to not work and then they become liars and have to talk about how they were misunderstood and then they look like con men.

It should have been clearer, from the start, that it requires a Windows installation to run all games. What I want to know, when I buy a new product, is what to expect from an ootb experience. So, it seems that we haven't heard about that yet, which is pretty weird to me.


Last edited by Mohandevir on 8 September 2021 at 1:09 pm UTC
einherjar Sep 8, 2021
Bad expectation management can kill the success of a product.
Here is a serious problem, that may kill SteamOS as a product. People will be disappointed about this shit Linux that does not run game <xyz> and install windows
einherjar Sep 8, 2021
Quoting: whizse
Quoting: PhiladelphusI interpreted that initial comment as saying 100% of games would work with Proton, and I was definitely skeptical of Valve pulling that off before December, unless they're sitting on a ton of improvements they haven't released yet. This interpretation makes a lot more sense. Thankfully it doesn't make a difference to me, but I can see this being a turn-off for Windows gamers. Hopefully Valves pulls off enough Proton improvements by December to get enough of the popular games working that Windows gamers are willing to wait for further improvements.
I'm not sure if this is an unpopular opinion, but I think it's smart of Valve to hedge their bets and support Windows too.

For many it will make the purchase a much safer choice. SteamOS sucks for your particular game? Install Windows and go about your business. The hardware is still great, so you recommend it to a friend. When they purchase the Deck Proton have progressed somewhat and they are happy with the OOTB SteamOS experience.

A key to the success of the Deck is to get game developers on board, and the best way to get their attention is to push units. By hook or by crook.

The easiest way for game devs is to wait untils the majority of the Deck owners installed windows....
san Sep 8, 2021
Liam, I think you should look at this SteamWorks video in which Valve states the following themselves: "Our goal is for every game to work by the time we ship Steam Deck.". That is a pretty bold statement but very clean on their expectations from the Proton compatibility layer.

There have been recent discussion, mainly fueled by the CodeWeavers interview on BoilingSteam. Let's stick to the facts as Valve presented them. We can be skeptical but Valve themselves set this goal and went public with it. We can judge them for not reaching it when the time is there but we simply lack the visibility/transparancy to see if they will make this.
Liam Dawe Sep 8, 2021
Quoting: sanLiam, I think you should look at this SteamWorks video in which Valve states the following themselves: "Our goal is for every game to work by the time we ship Steam Deck.". That is a pretty bold statement but very clean on their expectations from the Proton compatibility layer.
I'm aware of it, we did cover that video in the original announcement article.
Quoting: sanLet's stick to the facts as Valve presented them.
Well, the facts are we know exactly what Proton doesn't work with already, as said in the article, which Valve themselves state in the FAQ which is also linked.
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