As I write this, we’re only 30 hours away from the Steam Deck embargo lifting and roughly 100 outlets sharing their reviews. As you’re reading this, reviews are live and my 5500-word review is a click away.
But even now, Valve continues to add major functionality to the console! Most of us are polishing up our final impressions, or starting the process of editing video. This means some of these late additions may not get covered as completely as they deserve to be. That’s why I’ll be cranking out separate articles on features that get me ridiculously excited. And one-click app installs on a Linux-powered game console? Yea, that gets me very excited indeed!
What Are Steam Deck One-Click Installs?
There’s a recently-added tab in the Deck’s Library UI called “Non-Steam.” You’re probably familiar with adding non-Steam games or software to Steam via a shortcut dialog, right? Well, this Non-Steam tab collects all the apps you’ve added in “Desktop Mode” (the full-fat desktop Linux experience with Arch and KDE Plasma).
But eventually, most users who want to enjoy Steam Deck primarily as a console won’t even need to touch Desktop Mode.
If the video above isn’t displaying properly, please click here to watch it on YouTube.
What has me so pumped up is the existence of one-click installs in this “Non-Steam” tab. The first available app is what appears to be a customized Flatpak version of Google Chrome. As you’d expect, it offers the full desktop browsing experience within the Deck UI.
Chrome is also your gateway to cloud gaming on Deck. Valve worked with Google and Microsoft to ensure that the Steam Deck controller inputs are recognized by Chrome, presumably for use with Stadia and Xbox Cloud Gaming. (Valve didn’t explicitly mention the services.)
Modern consoles should provide software beyond games, and it should be easy to switch between running apps. I’m thrilled to report that it’s super easy on Deck. Just press the Steam button, and you’ll see your currently active software and games at the top. (And yes, you could play an idle game while playing a real game.)
This is really convenient because I can fire up Chrome, browse over to YouTube, start up a music playlist or listen to a podcast like On Deck, and then go back to playing my game.
Heroic, Plex, Spotify, Discord? So Many Possibilities!
These one-click installs have so much potential. They remove any complexity for the average user; especially those not familiar with a traditional Linux desktop. And they open the door to better multitasking, more functionality, and easily accessible game libraries.
Imagine Heroic (an open-source alternative to the Epic Games launcher) being available as a one-click, especially with its new controller-based browsing capability and Wine/Proton manager. Boom! There’s your entire Epic Games library available without leaving the Steam Deck’s UI.
What about Spotify or Lollypop? How about Discord for chatting with friends during game sessions?
Plex already has a native Linux app, but a one-click version for Steam Deck would be absolutely brilliant. The possibilities are endless.
How Can App Developers Take Advantage Of This?
The best way to prepare for this is to ensure your app is packaged up and distributed as a Flatpak. Once that’s accomplished, the majority of your work is probably done.
I did reach out to Valve asking specifically what developers can do to get their apps on Steam Deck as a one-click install. Valve surely has a procedure, but they’re not sharing it just yet. The answer I received was “we’ll have more info on this soon.”
Rest assured I’ll be writing that up when the answer does come.
Tell me which non-Steam apps you think would be perfect on Deck as one-click installs down there in the comments.