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Phil Spencer confirms Xbox Game Pass cloud gaming working well on Steam Deck

Steam Deck
Steam Deck (Image credit: Valve)

What you need to know

  • Xbox chief, Phil Spencer, has himself an early Steam Deck unit.
  • Says Microsoft titles and Xbox Game Pass streaming works well on the handheld.
  • Cue speculation.

The Steam Deck is going to be the hottest piece of hardware this holiday season and the latest juicy piece of news comes not from Valve nor from the media outlets with early access to the device.

No, it comes from Xbox head honcho, Phil Spencer. Who, as it seems, has a Steam Deck.

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That Xbox Game Pass cloud gaming works well on the Steam Deck isn't entirely surprising, given that beneath its handheld exterior lies the beating heart of a regular PC. As it's based on Linux, we're going to assume that the web client has been used in a browser, but the fact it has no troubles with the Steam Deck controls already is a positive sign.

Spencer also makes mention of some of Microsoft's already available Steam games, namely Age of Empires and Halo. I've played Halo MCC on Linux myself and have to agree. Even though it's running through Proton, the campaign gameplay works exceptionally well, with the only hiccups being multiplayer, as is often the case on Linux games right now.

Age of Empires is a more curious namedrop, though. It only takes a quick glance at ProtonDB to see that the Age titles are all highly rated for playing on Linux through Proton. But that's on a PC, with a mouse and keyboard. Either the Steam Deck controls can interpret mouse and keyboard pretty damn well, or controller support has taken a turn for the better.

Either way, Valve engaging with the main man at Xbox this early on can't possibly be a bad thing. Does it hint at something bigger between Xbox and Steam as the Steam Deck approaches? Engage the rampant internet speculation machine.

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

36 Comments
  • Hmmmm.... Are the rumors true of a partnership? This would be interesting.
  • Awww shoot Microsoft gone buy Valve
  • Maybe. After Newell kicks the bucket.
    Not soon.
  • Do you really think this will be the hottest piece of hardware this holiday season? I believe it may do well, but hottest?
  • It's completely sold out of all first batch pre-orders. So yeah.
  • Yea, but most everything is sold out right now. Scalpers are driving the demand of anything new, and they probably helped in selling these out. I think it will do well, just not as the hottest item. But I'll admit, I've been wrong before :)
  • I don't think of will be but it will be nice
  • Never need to buy an Xbox console again.
    Buy Xbox games on Steam for playing them individually (and portably).
    Use the Steam Deck for XCloud Game Pass streaming while the system is docked to a TV.
  • You forgot: Boost Microsoft's profit margin. 😁
  • Oh and that too
  • Yeah, it's almost like Microsoft actually cares about bringing games to more people, and doesn't care what gatekeeping Xbox console fanboys have to say.
  • Well, the thing is the console market suffers from baby duck syndrome and it is dominated by older folks who imprinted on Sony and Nintendo and will never accept an XBOX. If the PS3 launch edition and WiiU didn't convince them to switch brands nothing never will. They will be railing against MS daring to compete against their "precious" until they kick the bucket. 😱 More seriously, reaching out to non-console gamers is a far easier way to grow their gaming ecosystem than either trying to steal market share from other consoles (see above) or goi ng software-only which is both presentist (what have you done for me lately) and hit or miss.t The MS subscription + sales strategy lets them make money off 20 year old games.
    There are folks playing HALO CE for the first time every day. Or, as EA just discovered, tbe first MASS EFFECT. Old (successful) games can be a license to print money if handled correctly and the easiest way is by taking tbem (cheaply) to non-console games. GamePass is great but for GamePass to make business sense it needs to be paired with oldies but goodies.i
    That is the secret sauce of GamePass.
    That and ubiquity: so getting it on every platform extant is a good thing. As long as a flagship platform exists to show off tbe games at tbeir best.
    Make no mistake, the consoles are as important as the BC catalog. They give game developers a (mostly) precictable market to target that is independent of gamepass. Note that GamePass offers up the basic games only. DLC and microtransaction elements aren't included. That is why the counterintuitive "developers make more money putting games on gamepass" is true. Because most AAA games today come with DLC and some form of post-sale revenue generator. Gamepass is more akin to microtransactions than most folks realize. Bootom line: there is way more to the MS strategy than just putting game streaming everywhere. And despite their messaging, there is more to GamePass outreach than just delighting gamers: attracting and keeping developers is at least as important.
  • Yep. There is objectively no point in buying an Xbox console to solely play Xbox games.
    The future of Xbox consoles is becoming redundant as digital download, 5G and streaming becomes widespread.
  • This is no match for an Xbox Series X. Not even close.
  • Can't carry a Series X around with me and play it portably, like I can w/ the Deck. With my Steam Deck docked to a TV, with ethernet, xCloud Game Pass streaming provides a similar experience to the Series X. The service launched on browser this year, so any lag, etc, will get better over time. Based on my usage, it's been fine; haven't noticed any grainyness, or anything all that bad; it's fast and works well.
  • XPA : Alienware, Surface, Steam Deck or AyaNeo.
    xCloud : Alienware, Surface, Steam Deck, AyaNeo, Android, iPhone. My current gaming scenarios.
    Home - my office : Xbox1X (will be a SeriesX when I get it).
    Home - living room: xCloud (will be a 1X when I get a SeriesX).
    Toilet: xCloud or XPA.
    Flights : XPA.
    Bullet train or subway : XPA.
    Restaurant/Coffee with good connection: xCloud.
    Restaurant/Coffee with bad connection: XPA. Streaming 120fps? Quick Resume? High quality surround sound? Dolby techs? If you want the best goodies tech can offer (with ease) @ home, it's Xbox console.
    If you want a better-than-PC BC/FC support, it's Xbox Virtual Machine / Xbox Store.
  • No, Xcloud does not provide similar experience to Xbox Series X. Cloud streaming is 720p while Xbox manage 4K. Game Pass with free Xcloud streaming is absolutely awesome but I would not exchange my Xbox for a streaming only solution.
  • "The resolution of xCloud streaming should go up to at least 1080p, if not further than that; after all, Google Stadia has offered 4K streaming for a year now, and the upcoming Amazon Luna should support 4K resolution 'soon'."
  • selling out $5 deposit preorders is easy. only the first batch is possibly getting in December 2021. if you try to order now, they're showing Q2 or Q3 2022. I think once they get past the big Steam fans and mobile fans, sales will fall back to Earth. Mobile devices only make financial sense if there are huge margins. And the only way to get huge margins is to have easy tech to produce at large quantities. In any case, I would wipe the machine and install Windows 11. You get the full benefit of a Windows 11 machine in a small body. You can run your Steam library, your PC Xbox library, and your XCloud library. As well as all the other marketplaces that Windows offers. Why waste limited storage space on keeping the Linux partition if all of your games are Windows games? No one seriously believes that Linux can run Windows games better than Windows can unless you're a diehard Linux fan (there are some out there).
  • In any case, I would keep the SteamOS. You get the full benefit of a Arch Linux machine in a small body. You can run your Steam library, your Origin library, your Uplay library and many emulators for playing old games. As well as all the other marketplaces that Linux offers. Why waste limited storage space on installing Windows (that takes whole disk just base install - 50 GB) if all of your games are running on linux with better support? No one seriously believes that Windows can run games on steam deck better than Linux can unless you're a diehard Windows fan (there are some out there).
  • I see what you did there.
  • I have been critical of the Valve business model around this for basically begin a direct assault on MS. If the the built-in browser does Game Pass well, and if Valve can play nice with MS in its promotion, then I'll happily retract my coments.
  • Not sure if Valve believes in it, but MS does believe in coopetition, making money by helping "the enemy".
    Valve might discover that tolerating GamePass is more productive ($$$$) than trying to block it. In that respect, they're in the same boat as Sony and Nintendo. Except they would find it harder to block a native GamePass client for their system.
  • I think Valve would tolerate xbox game pass, but microsoft locked it to be windows only, so valve can do nothing with it. If microsoft want they can relase game pass for linux and you can install it on steam deck as any other app, but microsoft dont want to.
  • Windows only?
    You mean the games?
    There might be technical/patent issues involved because MS controls DirectX and that might help with the game's compatibility with their streaming system. Still, why would MS go out of their way to help non-Windows developers? Coopetition is about give-and-take, not rolling over and playing dead for competitors.
    The whole point is for both make money, not give away the market. And tbe core of the XBOX ecosystem is DirectX; it would require a big return of some ki nd for MS to undercut their own APIs. Does Valve own/control a specific Linux gaming API set they want MS to support on xCloud or does Valve want MS to actively support their competitors without getting *anything* in return? If Valve gets too...finicky...MS can easily tweak DirectX to make their life more difficult. Remember the days of "DOS ain't done until Lotus won't run?".
  • Proton handles DirectX just fine. Sure it's not native but it uses tools to translate the APIs into something Linux does understand, namely Vulkan.
  • And MS controls DirectX. If (big if) Valves wants to go to war MS doesn't have to take it lying down. It won't take more than a patch to disrupt proton emulation.
    Detente is a good policy for both.
  • Don't backtrack now. I was waiting for you to read this article and realize that bj is starting to taste sour, ain't it?
  • Its the microsoft that doesnt want to bring game pass to other platforms, not valve. If microsoft want they can relase game pass for linux and you can install it on steam deck as any other app, but they dont want to.
  • They already did.
    https://boilingsteam.com/so-i-tried-xbox-game-pass-on-linux/
    That is how Spencer did it. People are using GamePass on browser all over, not just on PCs, MACs, and iThings.
  • Don’t think you can stream properly when riding subway or airplane. I’ll install win11 on it for XPA and xCloud.
  • you can do that, its a pc. But it will be way slower than steamos. Cuz windows is just really resource heavy operating system. But if you dont care about lower performance than on linux you can do whatever want.
  • I already gave up PC (Steam to be exact) in 2016 for Xbox Virtual Machine, so, yeah, I'll be installing Win11. XPA : Alienware, Surface, Steam Deck or AyaNeo.
    xCloud : Alienware, Surface, Steam Deck, AyaNeo, Android, iPhone. My current gaming scenarios.
    Home - my office : Xbox1X (will be a SeriesX when I get it).
    Home - living room: xCloud (will be a 1X when I get a SeriesX).
    Toilet: xCloud or XPA.
    Flights : XPA.
    Bullet train or subway : XPA.
    Restaurant/Coffee with good connection: xCloud.
    Restaurant/Coffee with bad connection: XPA. Streaming 120fps? Quick Resume? High quality surround sound? Dolby techs? If you want the best goodies tech can offer (with ease) @ home, it's Xbox console.
    If you want a better-than-PC BC/FC support, it's Xbox Virtual Machine / Xbox Store. Don't think I'm missing anything. I don't need a portable machine to be SeriesX. Portable == compromise.
  • Game Pass + steam could be perfect combination to dominate the gaming market
  • Or just GamePass.😈😛
  • Any chance they could get us out of the six month beta they've been running in Australia, or is that too difficult for them?