August 27, 2018 Steam’s new Linux compatibility tools work with over a thousand games, according to community testing.
A major Steam update currently in beta has added built-in compatibility tools to get Windows games running on Linux. In theory, it should allow nearly every game on Steam to run on the open source OS, though in practice, it’s going to take some time getting there. But we might already be closer than you’d think. Valve has only officially whitelisted a handful of games as compatible, but the community has found plenty more – over a thousand more, in fact.
According to the biggest collection of data, over 1,000 games are “completely stable,” meaning no significant issues. A further 700 titles are noted as “stable,” meaning they have minor issues but remain playable. Your results may (and likely will) vary depending on your exact hardware and driver configurations, and there are some conflicts even in these reports. But Valve’s custom compatibility tool has already had wide ranging success.
The tracker comes courtesy of migelius on Reddit, and you can peruse it both via an extensive Google Docs spreadsheet and a more user-friendly web version with a proper search engine. The latter also provides links if you want to do some testing and contribute to further reports.
The new tools run on Proton, which is custom distribution of the widely-used Wine compatibility tool. In the most practical terms, this means you can now download and install Windows games directly from the Steam client without any further fuss. Valve is currently checking “the entire Steam catalog” and whitelisting games that run without issue, but you can turn off those guidelines and install whatever you want, too.
Proton should provide enhanced performance over Wine in many cases, according to Valve. DirectX 11 and 12 implementations are now based on Vulkan, and performance in multi-threaded games “has been greatly improved compared to vanilla Wine.” You’ll also see better fullscreen and controller support with Proton. It’s also fully open source, and available on GitHub.
You can opt-in to the beta under the account tab in your Steam settings menu. Hit ‘change’ and jump into the Steam Beta Update, then restart the client and you’re golden. If you want to go beyond the official list of supported games – visible in the full announcement – you can do so via your Steam Play options. This is a Linux-only option for the foreseeable future, as Valve says there are no current plans to support the feature on Mac.
In theory, this should eventually allow nearly the entire Steam catalogue to run on Linux, though it’s possible certain types of DRM and anti-cheat measures could keep that compatibility from happening. To that end, Valve says it’s “a good idea to avoid any invasive third-party DRM middleware.” For developers wanting to make extra certain they’re Steam Play compliant, Valve recommends targeting the Vulkan API natively in those games.
Valve’s own SteamOS is built on Linux, and as we speculated when hints of this update surface last week, this could be part of a renewed push for the platform. There are rumblings around the internet about SteamOS 3.0 being on the way, even after Valve removed Steam Machines from the Steam store. At the same time, Valve reiterated its support of Linux and Vulkan for PC gaming – and this update marks a major confirmation of that support.