Valve's Steam Deck May Not Support Games With Anti-Cheat Services

Image of the Valve Steam Deck
(Image credit: Valve)

Valve's Steam Deck handheld gaming device may not be able to play all titles from the Steam library like Valve promised, due to compatibility issues with anti-cheat services. The ProtonDB compatibility layer SteamOS 3.0 uses, which is the Steam Deck's operating system (OS), is currently not compatible with any games supporting anti-cheat services.

ProtonDB is a compatibility layer for Linux that is designed to make Windows games in the Steam library fully compatible with Linux in a seamless matter. Because SteamOS uses the Linux kernel, it also works with ProtonDB to get Windows games to function within the OS. 

However, ProtonDB is still in its infancy, and Valve is constantly growing the number of games it supports and features required to support specific games.

So if Valve can't get anti-cheat services to work, this could turn into a major problem for owners of the new Steam Deck, as nearly half of Steam's most popular games, including Apex Legends, Destiny and PUBG, feature anti-cheat services to keep hackers at bay.

On the bright side, Valve has stated they it is accelerating ProtonDB's game compatibility for Steam Deck specifically and working on supporting anti-cheat solutions. However, there is no guarantee Steam Deck will support all anti-cheat services on all games from the Steam library.

There is always the option to install Windows 10 (or Windows 11) on your Steam Deck if the issue becomes unbearable, but that would be an annoying workaround at best.

Hopefully, Valve will get around this problem once the Steam Deck goes on sale in December.

Aaron Klotz
Contributing Writer

Aaron Klotz is a contributing writer for Tom’s Hardware, covering news related to computer hardware such as CPUs, and graphics cards.

  • mitch074
    Shoddy article by someone who hasn't looked into the matter at ALL !
    Point 1 : ProtonDB is a website where Valve centralizes user reports on games that run on Proton. Proton is a Wine-based compatibility layer developed by Valve (it's technically a fork) and as such it's not new - Proton itself is a couple years old now, and Wine is getting on 30 years old.
    So, it really is NOT in its infancy. Moreover, if a game is noted as running on ProtonDB, it also means that its attached anticheat system works too - so, the article is wrong here, several anticheat systems already work on Proton, but not all.

    Point 2 : most anti-cheat software work by plugging themselves into Windows' kernel space and monitoring whatever the system is doing to make sure that nothing but themselves are tampering with a given game - they behave like the worst kind of rootkit, the spying one. Proton is user-space only and Linux is a secure kernel, so whenever an anticheat system can't load, it gets pissed off and prevents the game from loading. There are 3 things that can be done to solve this:
    allow Linux to be hacked as easily as the Windows NT kernel (not on my machine, thank you)
    make anti-cheat software behave in a less-hacky way (that requires the author of the anti-cheat software to be a good programmer)
    make anti-cheat software think it subverted the kernel for the currently running user (it's pretty much already the case, but it requires emulating the inner workings of the Windows kernel in user space, warts, bugs and all, which is a bit of a pain)1 is a no-go, 2 is already somewhat under way (see : Doom Eternal), 3 is a moving target. Note that an anticheat system may stop working after a Windows update, for the same reason it won't run on Proton.
  • hushnecampus
    I checked my library in ProtonDB; everything on the first two pages, sorted by hours played, was silver and above (most of it gold and platinum). Probably reflects my anti-social nature :D
  • mitch074
    hushnecampus said:
    I checked my library in ProtonDB; everything on the first two pages, sorted by hours played, was silver and above (most of it gold and platinum). Probably reflects my anti-social nature :D
    or simply that you play games that many people are buying, including Proton users, and thus got some form of support on Proton/Wine. Looking closely, games that don't work can often be games that won't run properly on Windows anymore either - Wine (and Proton) do not deprecate support for this or that feature if the cost of keeping it running is low.
    As examples :
    the GOG release of Soul Reaver. Great game, extremely old (20+ years), the GOG wrapper allows it to run on Windows with software rendering. On Wine, it runs with DirectX 6 hardware acceleration, smooth as silk.
    Max Payne, music is gone in Windows because a codec was deprecated; on Wine, it still works fully.These are extreme examples, but one may try and imagine a bunch of Windows XP games that stopped working with Windows 10; they're still available on Steam, but they're unsupported and no one cares. On ProtonDB, they may be flagged as "not working", and that goes towards the "you can't play on Linux" myth.
    One would have to take into account only the games the developers are actively supporting, and substract those that have a native Linux build to REALLY say if Proton still needs work for modern Steam gamers; for retro gamers, Windows is already beaten.

    And that's before getting into Lutris - one (free) launcher to run them all, one launcher to script them, one launcher to download them all and in the GNU system link them in the land of Linux where the Penguin lies.