While hype for Valve’s handheld Steam Deck is at an all-time high, buyers are being warned to temper their expectations about what exactly the device can do. This warning comes courtesy of James B. Ramey, president of developer CodeWeavers, which is co-responsible for the Proton software which enables gameplay on the Steam Deck.
Proton operates as a ‘compatibility layer’ which bridges the gap between the Linux-based SteamOS and the Windows PC games the Steam Deck is designed to play. According to Ramey, the complex nature of this software means that not every Steam game will actually be able to play on the device right away.
“When Pierre-Loup made his announcement and stated that the Steam Deck can support any and all games, I think … he was trying to state that the device itself, the hardware specs on this device, can support any game,” Ramey recently told the Boiling Steam podcast. “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.”
The core difference, as Ramey points out, is that while the hardware has the capacity to run any game, the software may prove to be a technical challenge for some Steam titles.
Proton’s website states there’s 16,000+ Steam games which do work alongside the Proton software on Linux, but given CodeWeavers reportedly aren’t directly involved in the production of the device, we don’t know if those 16,000+ games will work one-to-one on the handheld.
Despite the challenges, it does appear the Proton team will have some say in what games work on the Steam Deck — together with Valve, the company will continue to expand game compatibility between Linux and Windows over the coming months and years.
“I do think that because Proton is a living, breathing project; it’s not something that is static in any way, shape, or form,” Ramey told Boiling Steam. “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.”
The bottom line is: the Steam Deck won’t support every game at launch, but support for a broader number of titles should be coming at some point down the track. If you are a Steam Deck owner by the end of 2021 and your favourite games don’t play on the device, there’s a chance you could see compatibility in the future.
Stay tuned to Kotaku Australia for more news on the upcoming release of the Steam Deck, including when it’ll launch in Australia.