When Valve announced the Steam Deck on Thursday, the company said the platform “can do pretty much anything that a PC could do”. While this is true in most cases, the “pretty much” qualification could make a big difference. As it stands, popular games like Apex Legends, Destiny 2, and Rainbow Six Siege don’t work on the platform.
This is due to an issue with SteamOS, a compatibility layer known as Proton, and anti-cheat software. SteamOS is based on Linux, which is a problem as the vast majority of the games available on Steam are designed to run on Windows. This is where Proton comes in. Proton is a compatibility layer from Valve that allows Windows games to run on Linux.
Proton is now available as part of Steam Play and many popular games will work with it without any problems. However, some big titles don’t. According to ProtonDB, only three of the top 10 most popular Steam games have native Linux support – Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Dota 2, and Team Fortress 2 (all games developed by Valve).
Rust, meanwhile, has a “silver” rating, which means it runs with minor issues, and Grand Theft Auto 5 has a “gold” rating, which means it runs after tweaks. The battlefields of PlayerUnknown, Apex Legends, Destiny 2 and Rainbow Six Siege all belong to the “born” category and are therefore critically unplayable.
The reason is anti-cheat software. This software has some issues with Linux and the Proton compatibility layer that has been a problem for Linux gamers for years. The Steam Deck puts the focus on the subject.
Most games that use some form of anti-cheat software either don’t work or pose significant problems. Easy Anti-Cheat, one of the most popular anti-cheat programs, keeps a list of the games that include it. Comparing it to ProtonDB, the problem becomes clear. In addition to the above games, titles like Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout, Outriders, and Dead by Daylight won’t work.
There is some good news, however. Valve says it is partnering with Easy Anti-Cheat and BattlEye – another popular anti-cheat program – to give the platform a helping hand before it launches. The problem isn’t with the anti-cheat software itself; it’s designed to run on Windows, not Linux. If developers can include Linux support, we could see support improve.
The other option is to install Windows on the Steam Deck, which is possible. Valve’s own SteamOS build will likely provide the best experience, however, as Windows was designed to run on full-fledged PCs with more powerful hardware.
If you play mostly single player games, you’re in luck. Games like Monster Hunter: World, Cities: Skylines and Red Dead Redemption 2 run flawlessly with Proton. Many multiplayer games do this too, including The Elder Scrolls Online, Among Us, and Rocket League.