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Why Steam Deck's Latest Goal Is Easier Said Than Done

Valve's Steam Deck, the handheld and portable PC, will begin shipping in December, but Valve has some big plans before the launch. While Valve has boldly claimed that every game it has tested so far works on the Steam Deck, the company actually intends on testing every single game on Steam. Steam now has a compatibility page for the Steam Deck, which lists the four tags that every Steam game will receive. Games can be labeled Verified, which means it requires no configuration for all players to enjoy, or Playable, which means the game works but might require special controller settings by the user to run it. Games can also be labeled unsupported if they don't work with Valve's Proton, which can't run some of the biggest Steam games. The page also described an Unknow label for games that haven't been tested yet.

In an interview with Rock Paper Shotgun, Steam Deck designers Greg Coomer and Lawerence Yang talked about the process of attempting to review the compatibility of the entirety of Steam's library. They said that Valve has hired and is continuing to hire more staff to specifically test the compatibility of Steam games on the Steam Deck, but the task is daunting, and larger than any gamer expected.

Over 50,000 games to review for the Steam Deck

According to PCGamesN, there are over 50,000 games listed on Steam, which means that the review process for the Steam Deck is a massive undertaking. Because Valve isn't going to restrict what games can and cannot be installed on the Steam Deck, since it functions as a regular PC, Valve doesn't need to review every game before launch. However, Valve told Rock Paper Shotgun that it hopes to review as many games as possible before launch and that it wants to get as close to 100% verified as possible.

One of the biggest hurdles is Valve's Proton system, which helps games developed for Windows run on Linux, according to TheTerk's YouTube breakdown. Proton does not work for every game and while Valve said that it was working to expand the library, it's unknown how many games will be included when the Steam Deck launches. Valve also said that it plans to continue reviewing games for the Steam Deck for the foreseeable future, so some PC games might be labeled for the Steam Deck at launch in 2022.

All three versions of Valve's Steam Deck will begin shipping in December, although the majority of units will probably ship in the first half of 2022. Valve is still offering reservations for the Steam Deck through the Steam store.