With the highly anticipated release of Starfield just around the corner, there's one question on the minds of eager gamers: Will it be compatible with the Steam Deck, Valve's handheld gaming device?
According to Starfield director Todd Howard, we'll just have to wait to find out - which many are taking as a sign that it will never happen.
During an appearance on the Xcast podcast, Howard dodged questions about Steam Deck compatibility, promising to tell us more "later down the road".
Starfield, the ambitious space-faring RPG from Bethesda, has been the talk of the gaming world ever since the Xbox Games Showcase where, among many other things, Microsoft revealed the game's different editions and themed accessories. Even if the preview offered was carefully curated and pre-recorded, with gameplay details and mechanics remaining a mystery, this was enough to send the gaming community into a frenzy of speculation and anticipation. However, despite all of the excitement, not everything about Starfield has been met with universal approval.
The decision to cap the game at 30 frames per second (fps) has been a particular point of contention. Responding to the backlash, Howard defended this choice, emphasizing that Bethesda sought "consistency" in gameplay, and didn't want to make players think about the game's performance. He suggested that having performance modes, as some games do, would undermine the seamless immersion that Bethesda is striving to achieve.
Despite some contentious design choices, Starfield promises a wealth of immersive features. Howard revealed the game will feature around 1,000 planets, with "about" 10% supporting life of some kind. Meanwhile, transportation will rely on a player's jetpack, with no character mounts or ground vehicles. The game also includes an in-game radio station, but it will be available only at one specific location. Howard also hinted at a large font mode, to support accessibility and gameplay on portable devices. However, he remained tight-lipped about whether Starfield would be compatible with Valve's Steam Deck.
Although there's hope for compatibility, the prospects are uncertain. Starfield's system requirements are quite hefty, and the Steam Deck's specs don't quite meet the game's minimum demands.
Keep in mind that Starfield requires at least an AMD Ryzen 5 2600X or an Intel Core i7-6800K, 16 GB RAM, an AMD Radeon RX 5700, or NVIDIA GeForce 1070Ti, and 125 GB of storage space on an SSD. It's safe to say that the Steam Deck falls short.
Despite the potential for a 30 fps gameplay experience, shouldn't overlook the performance struggles that the handheld has had with games of similar requirements or even those with slightly lower requirements.
Given the ambitious scope of Starfield, with its universe-sized sandbox of exploration, it could be taxing on the hardware, even with the optimizations Bethesda might implement for the Steam Deck. While options like AMD FSR and CryoUtilities could boost the handheld's performance, preordering Starfield specifically for the Steam Deck might lead to a world of disappointment.
If Bethesda wants to stick to the narrative that it wants players to enjoy a smooth gameplay experience, the Steam Deck is not an option barring a significant hardware upgrade.
However, don't despair just yet, Steam Deck owners; there are two other potential routes for enjoying Starfield on the go: Xbox Cloud Gaming and the ASUS ROG Ally.
With a subscription to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, you can stream Starfield to your Steam Deck and other supported devices, bypassing hardware concerns entirely. This alternative, however, comes with its own drawbacks, including the reliance on a stable internet connection and some input lag. Nonetheless, it offers a promising option for experiencing Starfield where you're not tethered to one place. On the other hand, the ASUS ROG Ally has more robust specs compared to the Steam Deck. Although it's pricier and has a shorter battery life, its beefier hardware could potentially run Starfield at a stable 30 FPS.
So, what's the final word on Starfield and the Steam Deck? The answer, for now, is "not yet."
Whether or not the Starfield experience will be brought to the portable gaming realm is still up in the air, but one thing's for sure: the future of gaming is looking brighter — and more portable — than ever.