Valve's Steam Deck could double as a portable Xbox

Shawn Knight

Posts: 13,498   +132
Staff member
Editor's take: Microsoft's Phil Spencer has been a champion of the video game industry for years now, publicly rejecting the notion of a console war and willing to give credit to "competitors" when it is due. His latest message suggests that Valve's upcoming Steam Deck could double as a portable Xbox, and there's little reason to doubt it could actually happen.

The Xbox boss said on Twitter that he recently spent some time at Valve discussing the Steam Deck with Gabe Newell and company. The Microsoft executive noted that he has had his Steam Deck for “most of the week,” adding that it’s a “really nice device.”

“Playing Halo and Age feels good, xCloud works well,” Spencer continued.

In an interview with GamesRadar last week, Spencer said they had no plans to bring Game Pass to any closed platforms right now.

Valve announced the Steam Deck just over a month ago. It’ll ship running SteamOS 3.0, which is based on Linux, but Valve insists that it’s an open platform that is capable of running other operating systems. The company has even said that it should meet Windows 11 requirements.

It’s not a stretch, then, to envision running Xbox Game Pass on the handheld PC. In last week’s interview, Spencer said their focus is on open platforms like the web, PC and mobile.

Valve’s Steam Deck is slated to arrive this December. The first wave of units was quickly spoken for, and ship times for new orders have since slipped to “after Q2 2022.” Pricing starts at $399 for 64GB of onboard storage and scales up to $649 if you want a model with a faster NVMe drive (512GB) and an anti-glare etched display.

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NeoMorpheus

Posts: 883   +1,678
So only xCloud is running, but not the local client?

Under SteamOS?

I wish there was a built in way to play all games from either store without resorting to third party software like Playnite or scripts that moves Xbos games to Steam.
 

Dimitriid

Posts: 1,088   +2,064
While he probably means this should run just fine inside an instance of Chrome or Chromium in Linux, I'd be nice if they released a native Linux client for their streaming whatchamacallit
 

tomas42

Posts: 11   +9
"Spencer said they had no plans to bring Game Pass to any closed platforms right now."

This article is confusing. Neither the Deck nor SteamOS is "a closed platform".
 

Shadowboxer

Posts: 1,717   +1,322
No way are MS going to allow game pass on anything but Windows. Phil Spencer, as usual tries to tell people what they want to hear but just falls short of doing so leaving confusion. But mark my words you will need Windows on the deck for game pass.

At this point, if I were buying a steam deck I would rather have Windows and would prefer steam shipped it with Windows and supported it too. Currently it seems it will ship with Valves OS and if you want Windows you have to install it yourself and you’re on your own. But I use all different games launchers, I use Epic, GOG, Xbox, Uplay, EA Desktop, Steam. And then I have the launchers for specific games like Minecraft etc. Steam is actually not used that often so for me only being able to play some steam games is massively limiting.

Valve keep mentioning how their OS isn’t locked down. Sure it’s not technically but as long as the other games companies don’t support your platform users are still effectively prevented from accessing their games.
 

Shadowboxer

Posts: 1,717   +1,322
I guess my EA Play on Steam won't work on the Deck then.
It will but you have to purchase a windows key and install windows yourself on the device. Then just download EA Play as you normally would. But currently EA has no Linux clients or any plans to make one.
 

tomas42

Posts: 11   +9
It will but you have to purchase a windows key and install windows yourself on the device. Then just download EA Play as you normally would. But currently EA has no Linux clients or any plans to make one.
I would suggest that you install Windows in a dualboot setup to begin with at least. That way you can evaluate the pros and cons of running Windows vs SteamOS on the Deck. The thing is, SteamOS has at least one feature that is custom developed for the Deck that will not work in Windows and that is "quick suspend/resume" of games similar to a feature found on Xbox S. Search for it to get more info. I'm apparently not allowed to link to the site with the article describing this feature.
 
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yukka

Posts: 991   +154
No way are MS going to allow game pass on anything but Windows. Phil Spencer, as usual tries to tell people what they want to hear but just falls short of doing so leaving confusion. But mark my words you will need Windows on the deck for game pass.

At this point, if I were buying a steam deck I would rather have Windows and would prefer steam shipped it with Windows and supported it too. Currently it seems it will ship with Valves OS and if you want Windows you have to install it yourself and you’re on your own. But I use all different games launchers, I use Epic, GOG, Xbox, Uplay, EA Desktop, Steam. And then I have the launchers for specific games like Minecraft etc. Steam is actually not used that often so for me only being able to play some steam games is massively limiting.

Valve keep mentioning how their OS isn’t locked down. Sure it’s not technically but as long as the other games companies don’t support your platform users are still effectively prevented from accessing their games.

You can already play game pass on iOS (browser) and Android through XCloud. I assumed he was talking about XCloud
 

tomas42

Posts: 11   +9
You can already play game pass on iOS (browser) and Android through XCloud. I assumed he was talking about XCloud
Yes, I think so too. He was probably running XCloud games through the web browser on SteamOS.
BTW, regarding running Epic games on SteamOs, search the net for "heroic game launcher". Another alternative is Lutris. Again, seems like I'm not allowed to link to these sites directly.
 
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Shadowboxer

Posts: 1,717   +1,322
You can already play game pass on iOS (browser) and Android through XCloud. I assumed he was talking about XCloud
Yes I think he was. MS are never going to allow the Xbox app (game pass) to run natively on an operating system that isn’t windows, actually it doesn’t even run on windows 7. Xcloud streams at 1080p so you’re much better off using your mobile phone and using a controller with a bracket (which would be much smaller and lighter to carry around) than a steam deck if you’re planning on using streaming services.

I would suggest that you install Windows in a dualboot setup to begin with at least. That way you can evaluate the pros and cons of running Windows vs SteamOS on the Deck. The thing is, SteamOS has at least one feature that is custom developed for the Deck that will not work in Windows and that is "quick suspend/resume" of games similar to a feature found on Xbox S. Search for it to get more info. I'm apparently not allowed to link to the site with the article describing this feature.
As far as I’m aware Steam OS also gets more performance out of the hardware than windows (I may be wrong) so a dual boot scenario would certainly be preferable as we will want the best performance when possible. Implementing that might be easy for you or me most but to the average Joe who usually buys a console it might not be something straightforward enough to realistically expect them to do, especially with no support from the OEM. I do have concerns about windows compatibility after steam mentioned they won’t support that. We need to have drivers for everything on the deck for example. I think it should be fine but it wouldn’t surprise me if users found a piece of hardware in the package like e.g. Bluetooth or motion controls don’t work with windows.
 

tomas42

Posts: 11   +9
Yes I think he was. MS are never going to allow the Xbox app (game pass) to run natively on an operating system that isn’t windows,
I don't understand this position by MS frankly. Why do they care whether the Deck runs Windows or not if they can sell more games? It's money in the bank anyway. It's not like it is a technical barrier that prevents them from getting it to work on SteamOS (ie Linux), since they can just leverage the Proton middleware that Valve developed to get Windows games to run on Linux.
As far as I’m aware Steam OS also gets more performance out of the hardware than windows (I may be wrong) so a dual boot scenario would certainly be preferable as we will want the best performance when possible. Implementing that might be easy for you or me most but to the average Joe who usually buys a console it might not be something straightforward enough to realistically expect them to do, especially with no support from the OEM. I do have concerns about windows compatibility after steam mentioned they won’t support that. We need to have drivers for everything on the deck for example. I think it should be fine but it wouldn’t surprise me if users found a piece of hardware in the package like e.g. Bluetooth or motion controls don’t work with windows.
When did Valve say it does not support installing Windows on the Deck? I read articles stating the exact opposite. That they have tested it on Windows 10 and are working with AMD to ensure that it can also run Windows 11. But as you say, although it can run Windows does not guarantee that it will be a 100% smooth gaming experience. I'm positive that the driver support will be there (eventually), but the customization and tweaking that Valve has put into SteamOS will not. The question is how much those matters in the end.
 

Shadowboxer

Posts: 1,717   +1,322
I don't understand this position by MS frankly. Why do they care whether the Deck runs Windows or not if they can sell more games? It's money in the bank anyway. It's not like it is a technical barrier that prevents them from getting it to work on SteamOS (ie Linux), since they can just leverage the Proton middleware that Valve developed to get Windows games to run on Linux.

When did Valve say it does not support installing Windows on the Deck? I read articles stating the exact opposite. That they have tested it on Windows 10 and are working with AMD to ensure that it can also run Windows 11. But as you say, although it can run Windows does not guarantee that it will be a 100% smooth gaming experience. I'm positive that the driver support will be there (eventually), but the customization and tweaking that Valve has put into SteamOS will not. The question is how much those matters in the end.
Actually Valve have stated several times that they expect windows to work and that when tested it works but they themselves will not support it. What this means is that if you have a windows issue with your valve hardware, they will not be releasing fixes or taking responsibility to ensure it works. This is the definition of support, Google it.

Also it’s not difficult to understand MS position. It’s for the same reason that DirectX requires windows 10. They are using Xbox to get people to use windows. You are correct, they could probably easily get the Xbox app working on all sorts of systems including steam OS, Mac OS etc but that wouldn’t leverage their operating system.
 

tomas42

Posts: 11   +9
Also it’s not difficult to understand MS position. It’s for the same reason that DirectX requires windows 10. They are using Xbox to get people to use windows. You are correct, they could probably easily get the Xbox app working on all sorts of systems including steam OS, Mac OS etc but that wouldn’t leverage their operating system.
Microsoft has since long abandoned it's "Windows everywhere" strategy touted by the former CEO Ballmer. The current Microsoft with Nadella acknowledges that we now live in a multi-platform reality an instead tries to put its services and apps everywhere, regardless of platform. Office365, XCloud, Azure and Linux, Office apps on Android, Edge browser and Teams app on Linux etc etc. Refusing to make Game Pass work on SteamOS to artificially create a need for Windows does not fit in with this strategy. You may be right that it will not happen, but I don't believe it's so clear cut as you make it out to be. 10 years ago with Ballmer, I agree. Now I'm not so sure. If the Deck sells well enough it would be foolish of Microsoft to not want to sell its games on that platform. We'll see.
 

Shadowboxer

Posts: 1,717   +1,322
Microsoft has since long abandoned it's "Windows everywhere" strategy touted by the former CEO Ballmer. The current Microsoft with Nadella acknowledges that we now live in a multi-platform reality an instead tries to put its services and apps everywhere, regardless of platform. Office365, XCloud, Azure and Linux, Office apps on Android, Edge browser and Teams app on Linux etc etc. Refusing to make Game Pass work on SteamOS to artificially create a need for Windows does not fit in with this strategy. You may be right that it will not happen, but I don't believe it's so clear cut as you make it out to be. 10 years ago with Ballmer, I agree. Now I'm not so sure. If the Deck sells well enough it would be foolish of Microsoft to not want to sell its games on that platform. We'll see.
I disagree massively. Making the Xbox app windows only is a massive incentive to install windows on your device and could potentially be the reason many ditch steam OS on the deck (why buy doom eternal on steam if it’s part of game pass? etc). Also the strategy fits with DirectX 12 only being available on Windows 10. MS has made office apps universal but that’s it. They kinda had no choice to do that as competitors solutions are readily available. Game pass has no competitor and some games on it are exclusive.

As for the deck, it’s almost certainly not going to sell well enough for MS (or anyone else) to open a store/launcher on it. I think people need to wind their expectations in of the deck, it needs to sell literally tens of millions every year to even be considered (Wii U only sold about 12 million which was why many big games never made it there) and the steam deck just isn’t a mainstream enough solution to get that. Not to say the steam deck won’t be a success, it’s just not the giant some people think it’s going to be. You will need windows on it for any non Valve experience. I can’t see EA, Ubisoft or Epic bothering with it either.
 
I disagree massively. Making the Xbox app windows only is a massive incentive to install windows on your device and could potentially be the reason many ditch steam OS on the deck (why buy doom eternal on steam if it’s part of game pass? etc). Also the strategy fits with DirectX 12 only being available on Windows 10. MS has made office apps universal but that’s it. They kinda had no choice to do that as competitors solutions are readily available. Game pass has no competitor and some games on it are exclusive.

As for the deck, it’s almost certainly not going to sell well enough for MS (or anyone else) to open a store/launcher on it. I think people need to wind their expectations in of the deck, it needs to sell literally tens of millions every year to even be considered (Wii U only sold about 12 million which was why many big games never made it there) and the steam deck just isn’t a mainstream enough solution to get that. Not to say the steam deck won’t be a success, it’s just not the giant some people think it’s going to be. You will need windows on it for any non Valve experience. I can’t see EA, Ubisoft or Epic bothering with it either.
Proton heavily disagrees with this statement, literally 95% of games work on proton in the steam library. Thats way more than just valves experiences.