Steam Deck: 6 New Points You Need to Know

steam deck oblique top

The Steam Deck is an exciting device for numerous reasons, and we will keep giving you updates as we keep learning about some additional details as they come. In the past week, several additional details have surfaced:

1. It Will Run on Wayland

Pierre-Loup Griffais (Valve) confirmed that the Steam Deck will run on Wayland using the compositor gamescope, which is optimized for speed:

It’s getting game frames through Wayland by way of Xwayland, so there’s no copy within X itself before it gets the frame.

It can use DRM/KMS to directly flip game frames to the screen, even when stretching or when notifications are up, removing another copy.

When it does need to composite with the GPU, it does so with async Vulkan compute, meaning you get to see your frame quick even if the game already has the GPU busy with the next frame.

That’s apparently only for the games themselves so the SteamOS desktop may or may not use something else.

2. EAC is Already Working with Some Games

According to Garry Newman (developer of the game Rust), Rust already runs with EAC on the Deck and the EAC developers are apparently helping to sort out issues.

We know that EAC is one of the main blockers for numerous Windows games to run via Proton, and this is not a blindspot for Valve and their partners.

3. The Steam Deck Will Run All Steam Games Well

It’s been a question for a while but Valve employees have confirmed that the Deck can run the entire Steam games catalog at great performance (at least 30FPS as minimum) – probably benefiting from the very fast RAM paired with the AMD APU to gain some extra performance:

Of course, all games on PC can be changed to run on a wide variety of devices by playing with graphics settings, so in a way it’s not very surprising either that the Deck will be able to run all games acceptably.

One interesting tidbit, Eta Prime made a recent video about what to expect from the Steam Deck in performance following his recent tests of different AMD APUs, and he pointed out that he expected Proton to deliver solid performance “at lower watt consumption”, showing that this was indeed the case with Dark Souls 1 on Linux with Proton vs the same game on Windows on another portable device.

I am not sure how true this will be for most games, but if this is somewhat true, this could become a big reason to keep using SteamOS instead of Windows on this device for extended battery life.

4. Steam Libraries Will Become Dynamic with Removable Storage

As you know the Steam Deck will have some internal memory (eMMC or NVME) and also feature a microSD slot to add a lot more memory as well. To that effect Valve has ensured removable storage will dynamically change the contents of your library as you insert new microSD cards in the device:

This is very cool and makes the internal memory limitations a moot point as microSD storage is as cheap as it gets these days.

5. The Steam Deck Is a New Product Category

Gabe Newell talks about the origins of the Steam Deck here, saying that there were the lack of a good device to play Steam games on the go… and refers to the platform with comments such as:

“these are long term decisions that we are making about the health and the vitality of this ecosystem…”

We expect we are going to sell a ton of these, but it’s more important where everybody says and we can’t wait to see what comes next. […]

The openness of the PC is a super power that we all benefit from […]

It’s clearly going to be establishing a product category that ourselves and other pc manufacturers are going to be able to participate in, that’s going to have long term benefits for us.

As I have commented after the announcement of the Deck, this is not just the Deck but the start of mobile Steam Machines again. You can expect other manufacturers to follow in the footsteps of Valve, copy their design, and make the Mobile PC world full of alternatives – while Valve is likely to take the lion’s share as being the first entrant on this new PC market.

6. Expect the Worst from the Gaming Press Before And After It Launches

We have already seen it, but the gaming press is completely clueless about Linux in general, and even more when it comes to understanding what Proton is and what it does. They can’t even seem to be able to read official press releases from Valve saying that the current Proton version is NOT the one they are working on for the Deck, hinting at much better compatibility by the end of the year.

Incompetence is certainly going to drive such bad reports going forward. But let’s not stop there. We should expect, and not be surprised, to see smear campaigns about the device from different parties in the near future. After all, there are numerous companies in the gaming space who do not see this Deck with a good eye, be it Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft… These companies have big pockets and are well known to influence reporting in major publications and online influencers (you know, the guys with bazillions of Youtube views who don’t declare their conflicts of interest?).

So I would not be surprised at all if the following happens:

  • Disparaging rumors about the device, Linux, Proton, or even Valve as an employer (when you can’t attack the product, attack the company)
  • Complains about the battery life of the device even if it’s exactly as advertised (2 to 8 hours).
  • Complains about the performance even if it’s pretty much what Valve talked about (I imagine a few idiots will try to run the most demanding games on EXTRA HIGH details, see that the device can only render 5FPS and claim that Valve was lying all along. It’s so predictable).
  • Distortion/Exaggeration of any minor issue pre- or post-launch to make it seem like the end of the world for the device
  • An explicit invitation to install Windows Day 1 of the release of the device, no matter whether Linux/SteamOS works great or not. This platform can’t be allowed to exist. Expect your Youtube recommendations to see “Windows on the Steam Deck”, or “You Should Install Windows on the Deck” mentioned everywhere.

Nevertheless, if there is valid criticism about the Steam Deck, it needs to surface and get attention, so that they can be resolved or addressed. But bad publicity is a whole different game on its own.

Next?

2 weeks after the announcement, so far the overall feedback from gamers at large has been great. But there are many questions left:

  • Will the full Steam Library work with Proton on time by the end of the year?
  • What’s in store for SteamOS 3?
  • How is Proton changing to make all games work out of the box?
  • How fast are the devices going to ship?

We will watch carefully and let you know as we gather some additional elements of answers.


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Daniel

7. Currently the Proton support situation is murky. Steam Support currently supports the whitelisted games, but I don’t believe Steam Support is currently staffed to adequately shoulder the burden of supporting Linux usage of all games on Steam, not to mention that it really isn’t the best party to provide support for problems outside of Proton- or otherwise Steam-specific issues. Not many developers currently support the use of Proton (I actually don’t know of any at this time that support the use of Proton, but I’m not saying some aren’t out there). While I’ve seen several developers recommend Proton for… Read more »

Matthew

How can it run all Steam games well when there are games that don’t run at all on Proton as it is right now ? This is a foolish statement to make and all it will take for it to bite them in the rear is for one single game out of 10000+ to not launch.

Van

> Will the full Steam Library work with Proton on time by the end of the year?

Even though they are supposedly going to reveal a new version of Proton I still don’t believe they will make ALL Steam games playable with out of the box experience.

Katima

My guess is… just marketing; Proton for most games + Steam link for anything else is what we are more likely to see (and I don’t mind), even partnering with some cloud gaming service would be more likely than leaving everything to Wine.

Not only because it is virtually impossible for Proton to be Windows, but because there are newer gen games that won’t run well even on slightly older Windows PC’s.

Katima

Also, Wayland + Plasma! … =O