Valve officially launched its PC gaming-focused portable handheld this week, and the flexible machine has garnered a lot of praise for its performance on local gaming. However, if you were hoping to play cloud games from Google Stadia and similar services on the Steam Deck, it looks like you’re in for a nasty surprise.
First, yes you can run Stadia on the Steam Deck, and you can do it right out of the box. Accessing Stadia through the Steam Deck browser works according to early testing, but it doesn’t quite work as expected.
The Steam Deck has a gamepad built into the hardware, much like the Nintendo Switch Lite. This is great for the portability aspect, but cloud gaming services apparently can’t recognize the gamepad properly. Mashable points out in a Steam Deck review that while Stadia works, it doesn’t work with gamepad controls.
If you install Chrome (or a Chromium browser) you can even launch cloud gaming services like Stadia – although Steam Deck’s gamepad controls won’t work, so you’ll need some sort of controller external.
The edge managed to get Stadia working on the Steam Deck by also installing Chrome, but using the Steam Deck’s touchpad controls instead of gamepads.
But I managed to get Destiny 2 running on Stadia this way and was surprised how well it can adapt to the Steam Deck screen and emulated keyboard/mouse controls.
Tom’s gear found similar results, with Stadia working with mouse controls, but Xbox Game Pass not working at all due to its cloud streaming not supporting keyboard/mouse input. Bluetooth controllers apparently didn’t work either.
One area I thought the desktop would be useful for is game streaming. Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, it doesn’t quite work. I signed into Xbox Cloud Streaming and Google Stadia in Chrome (Stadia requires it), and neither of them recognized the commands built into the Steam Deck. On Stadia, you can use an external keyboard and mouse, which work quite well. But I also had issues with using a bluetooth controller through the browser.
So, as it stands, cloud gaming doesn’t run entirely on the Steam Deck, with Stadia being the only option that currently works with the included software without any massive tweaks or additional hardware.
Update 3/1: As some readers point out, Ars-Technica also experienced the same issue and was informed by Valve that future Deck browser updates will allow Stadia and other cloud gaming services to work on the handheld. An excerpt from the publication’s review reads:
Thirty-six hours before this review went live, Valve directed reviews to a “flatpak” version of Google Chrome that’s compatible with the SteamOS version of Arch Linux. But there was a catch: no support for the Steam Deck to act as a connected gamepad. Valve insists the problem will be fixed through driver updates, but until those go live, Xbox Game Streaming, Google Stadia, and other game streaming options won’t work on the Deck Navigator.
The Steam Deck is essentially another path to one of the same destinations that Stadia and other cloud gaming services aim for – making games more readily available across form factors and locations.
The Deck’s hardware, at least in my opinion, makes a lot of sense for cloud gaming. Not only would it be a great device for lounging on the couch or in bed for streaming games, but cloud gaming also opens the door to more titles. As powerful as the Steam Deck is, it can’t work all game, and cloud gaming could help fill the few gaps that this device currently has, especially with the help of GeForce Now more than Stadia. So it’s a real shame that the hardware doesn’t currently fully work with cloud gaming services. Hopefully Valve can fix this issue in future updates.
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