Steam Deck isn't a console, and it isn't a PC: it's both. It truly has the modularity of a modern laptop and all the familiar conveniences of a console. Accordingly, the Steam Deck doesn't work like an Xbox, PlayStation, or PC. It's something different, and it's different from other handhelds like the Nintendo Switch. However, the Steam Deck is going to change the world of mobile games, and in this article, we'll explain why.
Are Mobile Games Coming to Steam Deck?
Officially, no. Steam Deck will play Steam games, which are translated into code that SteamOS can run via Valve's Proton software. Otherwise, you'll need games with a Linux version to play them natively on Steam Deck.
Outside of mobile games that are already on Steam, mobile games aren't suddenly getting ported to run on Steam Deck, so don't expect, for example, to see Call of Duty mobile on the front page of the Steam Store.
Related: Fortnite Will Come to Steam Deck
However, the thing is that mobile games don't need to come to Steam Deck to actually be played on Steam Deck. If this sounds confusing, that's because it kind of is confusing. The Steam Deck doesn't just play Steam games, but like a PC, you can install different operating systems on Deck rather than its default Linux-based SteamOS.
OS options include Windows but more specifically they include Windows 11. Windows 11 is kind of a curious case because Windows 11 supports natively running Android games and applications. The idea is for them to just work out-of-the-box on Windows 11. Naturally, there'll likely be some growing pains here, but with Windows 11 on a Steam Deck, now you've essentially got a souped-up Android device, too.
The Steam Deck has orders of magnitude more horsepower than a traditional cell phone, even at a fraction of the cost of modern phones. This is because of the Deck's form factor. Much of the cost of a phone goes into getting it to be performant in such a small form factor. The Steam Deck is a hefty device and with that heft comes some serious power.
Related: Can Steam Deck Play Mac Games?
Now, while there's more powerful hardware in play on a PC, Android games will likely run better on Android, so there may be some finetuning necessary to get the best performance out of these games, but assuming the software side works out, playing mobile games on a Deck will be better than on a phone.
Not just because of the Deck's power, either, but with a variety of inputs built right into the Deck, playing a mobile game your way is a lot easier to do than it is actually on mobile. This will likely play into the larger question of fairness in mobile gaming, but there's little doubt that like playing a mobile game on a PC, playing on a Steam Deck will be better than playing on a phone.
Can Steam Deck Play iOS Games?
Nope. It can't.
iOS is an extremely proprietary technology. Apple controls this operating system entirely, and it's not at all an open-source thing you can plug into other products or ecosystems. Android is like that. This is why there are many different flavors of Android and an Android application is fairly versatile.
Related: Do Emulators Work on Steam Deck?
An iOS game that's not on Android or otherwise available on another platform is not going to be playable on Steam Deck for the foreseeable future. Unless, of course, Apple makes a move to support Steam Deck in some capacity.
This is unlikely, but if it ever were to be the case it would likely be, at most, some kind of streaming service you access on Steam Deck. Ultimately, though, don't expect to ever be able to do anything iOS-related beyond remoting into an iOS device on a Windows installation on Steam Deck.
Streaming, Steam Deck, and Mobile Games
Will streaming games be a thing on the Steam Deck? Maybe so, someday. It's not a technical consideration in the sense that the Steam Deck is more than capable of running any streaming service that's known to man.
Related: Where to Buy Steam Deck: Is It in Stores?
The Nintendo Switch, in recent memory, has been getting game streaming support, and that's a significantly less powerful machine. This isn't a question of if but rather a question of will. Naturally, within Windows on Steam Deck, all your familiar streaming services are supported.
Steam also has Steam Remote Play, which is Valve's own game streaming tech, you can use on Steam Deck. However, SteamOS, at least at launch, does not build in support for a variety of third-party game streaming services. These kinds of services may come in time if there's demand for them and the Deck itself sells well, but there's not a guarantee.
Ultimately, game streaming is just not much of a priority for the Deck. It's a powerful device with a lot of hardware built to run games itself. It can and will probably be used to stream games, but don't expect this to ever be a major force in the Deck.
Related: Is Steam Deck Upgradeable?
For more articles like this, take a look at our Tech & Games and Gaming page.