Now that the Steam Deck has gained Easy Anti-Cheat (EAC) and BattlEye compatibility, the way is clear for more of Steam’s most-played multiplayer games to achieve full it-just-works-ability with Valve’s handheld. In theory, anyway. Developers still need to enable their respective anti-cheat tech to work with Proton, the compatibility layer that permits Windows games to run on SteamOS. That raises the question: who will?
The Verge attempted to find out, asking the teams behind 15 of Steam’s most popular games by player count. Many of these – including Apex Legends, Fall Guys and Rainbow Six Siege - are in the “No comment” camp, though none of the 15 denied outright that they were considering Steam Deck compatibility. Conversely, it turns out Ark: Survival Evolved, Dead by Daylight, Rust, and War Thunder are all planning to go portable with the aid of an update to their anti-cheat.
Others remain up in the air. A rep for Hi-Rez Studios, developers of potential Steam Deck recruits Paladins and Smite, relayed that “We don’t currently have a timeline available but hope to provide such support in the near future”, while DayZ's Bohemia Interactive literally responded “At this stage it’s a ‘maybe’ for us.”
“We are still evaluating Proton as a whole and cannot yet commit to anything,” they added.
I wonder how much of this is down to continued development and how much is PR management – a Steam Deck ‘version’ of a AAA game might be something that publishers would want to make a formal announcement for, even if it would technically be just a slightly tweak to the existing Windows version. Then again, it also doesn’t sound like getting a multiplayer game ready for the Steam Deck is as easy as flipping a big red “Make game work” switch. Facepunch Studios founder Garry Newman, in reference to getting Rust up and running, said “Yeah we’re working on it. Hoping to be done by the time the Deck comes out, if not it’ll be really soon after.” Not a quick fix, in other words.
As various Valve staff have suggested, including in Katharine’s Steam Deck interview, the end goal is to get every game on Steam playable on the Steam Deck. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that different kinds of games face different kinds of challenges in getting there, though with a couple of months before the Steam Deck’s launch (and in all likelihood, several more before all reserved units are delivered), there’s still time.
According to some who received Steam Deck dev kits, significant additional development time may not be required at all. Valve designer Lawrence Yang’s Twitter is a good source for seeing (usually indie) games already running on the handheld, including a rather brilliant glimpse of flight sim X-Plane 12.