Ahead of the Steam Deck's release in December, Valve has taken on the mammoth job of reviewing "the entire Steam catalog" for compatibility with their new handheld gaming PC. While no specific numbers were mentioned, this presumably includes everything from AAA titles to the smallest indie games that anyone can publish on Steam. For reference, in February, the total number of games on Steam hit 50,000.
Valve's verification process breaks games down into four categories: verified, meaning it runs as intended on the Steam Deck; playable, meaning it may require some tweaks or less-than-ideal control inputs (using the touchscreen to navigate a launcher, for example); unsupported, meaning SteamOS can't run it or it's unsupported due to other limitations of the Steam Deck (all VR titles, for example, will be unsupported); and unknown, meaning Valve just hasn't tested it yet.
In order to be considered verified, a game needs to hit four major points.
- It needs full controller support, including appropriate input icons and an in-game keyboard.
- It shouldn't display any compatibility warnings, and if it uses a launcher, users must be able to navigate with a controller.
- It must support the default resolution of the Steam Deck (1280x800 or 1280x720), have good default settings, and legible text. (Valve does not clarify its criteria for "good" default settings.)
- If running through Proton, all aspects of the game, including anti-cheat, must be supported by Proton.
The review process has already started, and will continue post-launch. The process will also be ongoing, as games will be re-evaluated as updates are released, either for individual games or for the Deck's software itself. Valve is currently working on a way to let users see the compatibility of their libraries before launch.
Valve also detailed how browsing the store and your personal library will work on the Steam Deck. When launching the store, the Deck will default to a tab showing games that are verified from Valve, though the full store will only be one tab away. When viewing the store or your personal library, games will have a small badge icon to indicate their compatibility rating. Regardless of rating, however, you're free to run (or attempt to run) whatever games you wish on your Deck. There was also no mention of limiting what games can be purchased from the Deck, though warnings about compatibility will be displayed. On each page for a game in the "playable" category, there will be a detailed breakdown of what aspects of the game may or may not meet compatibility standards.
Valve also appears to be updating their own titles to better meet compatibility with the Steam Deck, as indicated by a beta update for Half-Life 2 spotted by YouTuber Tyler McVicker. Since this is only a beta release there are no official patch notes, but it appears to fix some long-standing bugs, while also increasing the FOV to 110 and adding ultrawide support. In terms of Steam Deck compatibility, McVicker states that "the HUD is now unlocked, and scales perfectly to whatever resolution the game is being played at" which will help it fit the Steam Deck's "odd aspect ratio." It also now supports the Vulkan rendering API, which is likely being done as it works better with Linux-based operating systems like SteamOS. (Portal 2 also received Vulkan support back in February.)