Epic Games might have committed to making their Easy Anti-Cheat (EAC) system more compatible with the Steam Deck, but don’t expect to see their biggest game on the Valve handheld. Battle royale money machine Fortnite will not be updated to work on the Steam Deck – and according to Epic CEO Tim Sweeney, that’s down to a lack of “confidence that we’d be able to combat cheating” on Linux platforms.
Sweeney was responding to Twitter user Stormy178, who asked if there are any plans to make Fortnite play nicely with the Proton compatibility layer (a software interface that, in the Deck’s case, allows for Windows games to run on the Linux-based SteamOS). “Fortnite no, but there's a big effort underway to maximize Easy Anti-Cheat compatibility with Steam Deck”, he replied. And it’s hard to get more final than “Fortnite no”.
Fortnite no, but there's a big effort underway to maximize Easy Anti Cheat compatibility with Steam Deck.— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) February 7, 2022
Sweeney later elaborated why, writing that “We don’t have confidence that we’d be able to combat cheating at scale under a wide array of kernel configurations, including custom ones.”
As it’s fundamentally just a shrunken PC, the Steam Deck will be able to run Windows and all manner of Linux distros, not just SteamOS. And since Linux supports custom kernel configs, the concern seems to be that Fortnite could be overrun by Steam Deck-wielding cheaters who’ve taken advantage of a more tweakable OS to get around anti-cheat measures.
It's a bit odd that Epic are happy to encourage EAC uptake on the Steam Deck, but evidently aren’t convinced of its effectiveness at protecting one of their own games. But then, Fortnite might be a special case on account of its obscene popularity: it might just attract too many hackers to be worth the effort, while other EAC games are more manageable. “Scale” is the key word here, and one that was further alluded to once Sweeney started breaking out the all caps:
With regard to anti-cheat on the Linux platform supporting custom kernels and the threat model to a game of Fortnite's size, YES THAT'S EXACTLY RIGHT!— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) February 7, 2022
I wonder if the Steam Deck becoming some kind of breakout mega-success would make it more or less likely for Epic to reconsider? An even bigger player base would be the draw, but more players means more cheaters, which is apparently the issue to begin with. Anyway, enough conjecture – right now, the prospects of Fortnite on the Steam Deck are deader than those ten poor sods in Tomato Town.
Meanwhile, Valve are preparing the Steam Deck for its February 25th launch by working through their own compatibility review programme, which will give users at-a-glance info on whether a game in their Steam library will run properly on the handheld. Some small but helpful UI changes also recently appeared in the desktop Steam client beta, and could make their way to the Steam Deck as well.