Some prospective Steam Deck owners have apparently been getting a little too excited about how much of the Steam library will be compatible with the handheld PC when it launches. It’s actually rather unlikely that every Steam game will readily work, according to James B. Ramey, president of software dev outfit CodeWeavers.
Alongside Valve, CodeWeavers co-developed Proton, a compatibility layer that empowers the Steam Deck’s Linux-based SteamOS to run Windows games. The issue, as far as compatibility is concerned, is that not every Steam game will play nice with Proton straight out of its digital box. Nevertheless, Ramey told the Boiling Steam podcast that folks may be getting the wrong idea, and may be expecting the Steam Deck to be compatible with their entire games collection immediately.
The confusion seems to stem from an IGN interview with Valve’s Pierre-Loup Griffais. Speaking specifically about the Steam Deck’s hardware muscle, Griffais said "This is the first time we've achieved the level of performance that is required to really run the latest generation of games without problems. All the games we wanted to be playable is, really, the entire Steam library. We haven't really found something we could throw at this device that it couldn't handle."
Ramey suspects Griffais’ words have been misinterpreted, and that the claim didn’t cover any potential Proton incompatibility issues.
“I think there are two messages that have been kind of mashed together when people focus and talk on this,” he told Boiling Steam. “The first message is when Pierre-Loup made his announcement and stated that the Steam Deck can support any and all games. I think what he was referencing is — and this is my opinion, this is my perception, this is not something I have talked to him about — but I think he was trying to state that the device itself, the hardware specs on this device, can support any game.”
“I don’t necessarily think he was referencing supporting that game in Proton — I think he was referencing that the device has the horsepower, the video graphics, the RAM, the hard drive space to support any game out there.”
Proton plays nice with a big ol’ chunk of the current Steam library – over 16,000 games, according to ProtonDB – but Ramey is correct in that this doesn’t include every single game on Valve’s platform. I guess it's possible that Valve may be tweaking Proton and/or SteamOS to help with this, but while CodeWeavers aren't directly involved in Steam Deck development, it seem improbable that they wouldn't be aware of such significant advances to their co-developed software.
The good news is that the number of Steam Deck-ready games is only going to get higher; remember that when Proton first launched as part of Steam Play in 2018, it only brought Linux compatibility to 27 games. Now it supports thousands, and Ramey believes the ongoing development of Proton itself will ensure the Steam Deck has plenty to play with when it launches this December.
“I do think that because Proton is a living, breathing project; it’s not something that is static in any way, shape, or form,” he continued. “There is a lot of effort being poured into Proton to support a broader range of games even that is available then currently today. So you’re going to see that when the Steam Deck is released and Proton is put on the Steam Deck that there is going to be a greater number of titles that are supported.”
The Boiling Steam podcast episode is an interesting (and not overly techy) listen, so check it out if you’re interested in more of a software-focused perspective on the Steam Deck. It’s also available in text form.
As we know, from Katharine’s chat with Steam Deck designers Greg Coomer and Lawrence Yang, there won’t be any hidden surprises on the hardware side, but it does at least sound like major software improvements could come in the form of new and old games gaining compatibility with the portable PC.