Valve's Steam Deck is the Real Deal and Has Room to Grow

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Intro: Valve's Steam Deck Launches to Good-ish Reviews

It took a while, but Valve finally began shipping its PC handheld device, the Steam Deck, since February 25. When tech YouTuber channels like Linus Tech Tips, Gamers Nexus, and The Phawx reviewed the hardware, they gave very positive feedback. However, the software embargo did not lift until Valve basically began shipping the Steam Deck. How good will the SteamOS 3.0 UI feel? Will more games become compatible with Proton? Will more multiplayer games enable anti-cheat support for Linux?

While feedback on the hardware was largely effusive, the reviews on the software were more on the mixed side. Gamers Nexus and Linus Tech Tips criticized the Deck's library navigation as clunky and not that comprehensive. They concluded that the product is unfinished and hoped that in time, Valve sorts out the kinks. Despite that, the overall sentiment was positive with some big tech channels like Dave2D giving the device lots of praise.

Anti-Cheat Support: To Give a Fuck or to Not Give a Fuck

There was also the issue with a few developers refusing to enable anti-cheat support for the Deck and Linux. When I first wrote about Epic Games enabling EAC support for Linux, I warned that "it is still contingent on the developers actually caring". Epic CEO Tim Sweeney confirmed that Fortnite's EAC support for Linux will not come for reasons such as Linux gaming's small userbase compared to Windows and custom kernels. Bungie also said no to bringing Destiny 2's BattlEye support to Linux.

This is not to say any hopes for huge multiplayer games to support Linux are dashed. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Apex Legends can now be played on either the Steam Deck or Linux desktop. Right when the Deck launched, Respawn made the "Steam Deck Testing" branch public and when gamers tried it out, it worked rather well. This is a huge win as Apex Legends easily hits over 100K concurrent players and provides a big selling point to potential customers who are interested in gaming-on-the-go. It may also encourage other developers to follow suit.

While it's not primarily a multi-player game, the recently released and acclaimed Elden Ring also utilizes anti-cheat. Surprisingly, it became a Steam Deck verified game from Day 1 and it runs decently on the handheld. Don't expect the Deck to run the game at high settings, but when you use Gamescope to lock it to 30fps, the performance is overall stable. To be able to perfectly run a game that has over 500K concurrent players from Day 1 is rather significant.

A few other games such as Fall Guys enabled anti-cheat support for Linux, too. However, they are unplayable at the moment for reasons unrelated to anti-cheat software, namely shared resources. The feature is currently being worked on for WINE and DXVK, so theoretically, once it is officially implemented, Fall Guys will work.

The Steam Deck's Versatility: The Ultimate Jack-Of-All-Trades Machine?

If you haven't done so already, I highly recommend checking out's channel for some Steam Deck gameplay videos. They do a fantastic job showcasing how versatile of a system the Deck can be. You can hook it up to a monitor and play League of Legends or StarCraft 2 with a mouse and keyboard. If you're into fighting games, you can hook your fighting stick to the device and play it that way. Are you unhappy that the Nintendo Switch version of the Kingdom Hearts series runs on the cloud? Well, you can play the series on the Steam Deck natively thanks to the Heroic launcher, an open-source games launcher for the Epics Games Store and GOG.

But what excites me the most is the Steam Deck's emulation capabilities. The prospect of playing N64, Gamecube, PS2, PSP, etc. games on the go is extremely appealing and exponentially grows the library on top of Steam. For its specs, the Deck can emulate games up to the PS2/Gamecube era rather well with varying mileage with PS3 and Switch games (and the Linux version for CEMU is also in the works). The Phawx has uploaded very comprehensive guides for running PCSX2 and RPCS3 on the Deck. He also had guides for Dolphin and Yuzu/Ryujinx, but Nintendo took those videos down via DMCA claims. While the concerns of people emulating pirated ROMs are understandable, part of me feels that Nintendo is salty that the Steam Deck beat it to the punch at filling the "Switch Pro/Super Switch" niche.


As you can see, The Phawx's video grabbed a lot of attension, including Nintendo's. Source: Exputer

The Steam Deck Still Has Room to Improve

Overall, I think the Steam Deck's launch went as well as it possibly could. The consumer impressions are largely positive and about 1100 games are labeled as "verified" or "playable" with the list continuing to grow. Valve has demonstrated that it is extremely dedicated to the handheld and that it will not go the way of the Steam Machines. When consumers reported issues with stick drift, Valve quickly released a patch to resolve the issue. Proton continues to receive updates along with 3rd party versions like Glorious Eggroll implementing their own patches. The API wrappers, DXVK and VKD3D, also received updates to improve performance.

There are still a number of kinks that Valve needs to sort out such as library navigation and the continuing anti-cheat issue, particularly when it comes to the developer's willingness to provide Linux support. However, with Valve developer Lawrence Yang stating that "hundreds of thousands" of Decks will be shipped by the second month, I think more developers will begin support the Deck and Linux once they see the growing userbase.

In addition, the Steam Deck will become more performant over time thanks to updated kernels and Mesa drivers. Currently, SteamOS utilizes a custom 5.13 kernel which does not contain FUTEX2 which is present beginning in the 5.16 kernel. The upcoming 5.17 kernel contains AMD's P-state driver which will help improve power efficiency of Zen 2 CPUs, including the Steam Deck's SoC. Lastly, dynamic variable rate shading has been merged with Mesa 22.1 which will release this summer. Basically, this feature will dynamically lower shading resolutions at less important areas of the screen to improve performance and lower power consumption.

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Agnostic classical liberal & fiscal conservative who likes anime, JRPGs, and Linux. You can also follow me on,,, and

Late to the Show and Games
Late to the Show and Games

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