16 Jul 2021

The Steam Deck

All the work Valve has been doing to make Linux a viable gaming OS has led to this one device: The Steam Deck, and I’m really excited.
It has a a powerful APU (zen2/rdna2), 16GB of RAM and up to 512GB of NVMe SSD. It even has a microSD slot for expanding storage. This is truly an open device running runs Arch Linux with KDE underneath, and will let you install whatever you want. You can connect it to a TV, and can even connect it to a hub/dock along with a mouse, keyboard, and monitor to use it as a regular linux desktop PC. The key reason to buy this though is that it runs Steam in a portable form factor, and you can play all your Steam games on the go.

Valve are really going all-in on Linux gaming. Valve’s investment in Proton and the Steam Deck will only help improve performance and compatibility with Steam games on Linux desktops.

It will of course run native Linux Steam games, but will also run Windows games through Proton (a Valve-modified version of WINE). That’s excellent news, and should mean you can play nearly any game ever released on Steam. This is a huge win for game preservation. I’ve always hated losing my old games as a new console comes out. It’s not practical for most people to keep 10+ consoles in their house.

Due to Windows games running on a compatibility layer, and the thousands of supported games released over the last 20+ years, this will not be as polished as a regular console, but the idea of running my entire Steam library here without having to repurchase games is the killer feature. I feel other news outlets haven’t focused on this enough. Sure it’s great hardware for the price and power envelope. It’s directly supported by Valve. It’s portable etc… But for me, the main attraction is that I don’t need to buy any new games. I have a large Steam library already. All of those games will just work. If this succeeds I may not buy another game console. Why buy a console that requires you to leave old games behind - or repurchase re-releases - when you can just periodically buy a new Steam Deck or buy/build a new PC, and take your library with you. Preorders open today.

Valve is not really talking about native Linux games here. Their focus is on running Windows games using Proton. That makes sense. While gaming on Linux has made huge strides, most AAA games still don’t offer native Linux ports. However, if this takes off, companies may want to improve performance or battery life by delivering a native port. That would be excellent.