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FYI – The Steam Deck won’t be able to run your whole Steam library

More games will probably be supported as time goes on, however.

steam deck being played
Image: Valve

It seems that a statement over Valve’s Steam Deck and its ability to play your whole Steam catalog has been misconstrued. While the hardware inside the Steam Deck is probably capable, the software that enables the Linux-based Steam Deck to play Steam games might not support every single game on Steam at launch.

The magic that lets the Linux-based Steam Deck run games written for Windows is called Proton. It came out in 2018, from a joint development between Valve, the maker of Steam, and a company called CodeWeavers. It’s essentially a compatibility layer, that translates the Windows code into something that the Linux operating system that runs on the Steam Deck can use.

Anyone who’s ever used a game emulator to play retro games knows that some games need additional tweaks to function normally when played in this manner. That’s also the case with Proton. While there is a growing number of Steam titles that work perfectly with the compatibility layer, any game that isn’t on that list could face glitches or straight-up not run.

CodeWeavers’ president, James Ramey, spoke to the Boiling Point podcast recently to clear up the confusion, which seems to stem from a comment from Valve’s Pierre-Loup Griffais, who said: “We haven’t really found something we could throw at this device that it couldn’t handle yet.”

James thinks that comment was referencing the AMD hardware inside the Steam Deck, and not the Proton compatibility layer that enables the games to run. See, Proton supports 16,000 games or so, but that’s nowhere near the total of titles on Steam today.

James is also quick to point out that that it doesn’t mean that the entire library of Steam won’t be playable on the Steam Deck eventually. Proton is “a living, breathing project” and is continually being improved to support more games. Whatever the actual number of games supported at launch, we’re still excited for the Steam Deck and what it means for portable gaming.

edited to clarify that it was the Boiling Point podcast that James Ramey spoke to, not RPS as previously attributed

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