When Valve announced the Steam Deck on Thursday, the company said the platform “can run pretty much anything you can run on a PC”. While that’s true in most cases, qualifying “pretty much” can make a big difference. As it stands, popular games like Apex Legends, Destiny 2, and Rainbow Six Siege will not work on the platform.
This comes down to a problem with SteamOS, a compatibility layer called Proton, and anti-cheat software. SteamOS is based on Linux, which is a problem because the majority of games available on Steam are built to run on Windows. That’s where Protons come in. Proton is a compatibility layer from Valve that allows Windows games to run on Linux.
Proton is currently available as part of Steam Play, and many popular games work well with it. However, some major titles do not. Based on ProtonDB, only three of the 10 most popular Steam games have native Linux support – Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Dota 2, and Fortress Team 2 (all games developed by Valve).
Rust, meanwhile, has a “silver” rating, which means it runs with minor issues and car theft 5 has a “gold” rating, meaning it runs after tweaks. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Apex Legends, Destiny 2, and Rainbow Six Siege they all fall under the “borked” category, which means they’re extremely unplayable.
The reason is anti-cheat software. This software has some problems with Linux and the Proton compatibility layer, already a problem for many years for Linux gamers. The Steam Deck is bringing to the heart of the matter.
Most games use some kind of anti-cheat software that won’t work or will cause some serious problems. Easy Anti-Cheat, one of the most popular anti-cheat programs, maintains a list of games in which it is present. Comparing it with ProtonDB, the problem becomes clear. In addition to the games mentioned above, games like Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout, Outriders, and Dead by daylight ban won’t work.
However, there is some good news. Van said it is working with Easy Anti-Cheat and BattlEye – another popular anti-cheat program – to support the platform before launch. The problem is not with the anti-cheat software itself, but with software built to run on Windows, not Linux. If developers can include Linux support, we could see improved support.
The other option is to install Windows on the Steam Deck, which should be doable. However, Valve’s own SteamOS build will likely provide the best experience, as Windows is built to run on full PCs including more powerful hardware.
If you mainly play single player games, then you are in luck. Games like Monster Hunter: World, Cities: Skylines, and Red Dead Redemption 2 runs fine with Proton. Many multiplayer games too, including The Elder Scrolls online, among us, and Missile Federation.