Valve's Steam Play Update Brings Support For Windows-Only Games To Linux With Proton (Wine-Based)

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Valve has released a new version of Steam Play beta that includes a compatibility layer, called Proton (based on Wine, with additional libraries) that allows playing Windows games on Linux.

Thanks to this, you'll be able to install Windows only games and run them directly from the Linux Steam client, along with native Steamworks and OpenVR support.

There are currently 27 titles which are officially supported by this Steam Play Beta release,  including FINAL FANTASY VI, DOOM, DOOM II, QUAKE, Star Wars: Battlefront 2, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, and more, along with the VR-enabled DOOM VFR and the VR version of the Google Earth application.

More games will be marked as supported on Linux via Proton in the future, but until then there's an option force enable Steam Play for all the games in your library, including those that have not been verified with Proton (you'll find instructions for how to enable this at the end of the article).

Improvements in this Steam Play beta release include:

  • Windows games with no Linux version currently available can now be installed and run directly from the Linux Steam client, complete with native Steamworks and OpenVR support.
  • DirectX 11 and 12 implementations are now based on Vulkan, resulting in improved game compatibility and reduced performance impact.
  • Fullscreen support has been improved: fullscreen games will be seamlessly stretched to the desired display without interfering with the native monitor resolution or requiring the use of a virtual desktop.
  • Improved game controller support: games will automatically recognize all controllers supported by Steam. Expect more out-of-the-box controller compatibility than even the original version of the game.
  • Performance for multi-threaded games has been greatly improved compared to vanilla Wine.

Later in the announcement it's mentioned that Proton is based on a modified version or Wine, with improvements "designed and funded by Valve, in a joint development effort with CodeWeavers".

It should be noted that for Nvidia graphics cards, version 396.51 of the proprietary drivers is required. AMD and Intel users need to install recent versions of MESA and LLVM. Installation instructions are available for Ubuntu 18.04 / Linux Mint 19 as well as a complete list of requirements is available here.

This is obviously great news, but I think there's a catch. Will there be fewer native Linux game releases due to this Steam feature? Why work on a native Linux port (excluding here the games that only require the click of a button to be built on Linux, like games made with Unity) when Steam offers a built-in solution to run the Windows version of the game on Linux, even if there's a small performance loss. What do you think?

How to enable Steam Play for all game titles in your Steam library on Linux

To enable Steam Play, you need to opt in to the Steam Beta Update if you haven't already. To do this, open your Steam settings and on the Account tab, click CHANGE... under Beta participation, and select Steam Beta Update from the drop-down:

Steam Enable beta

After Steam updates and restarts, you should see a Steam Play section in the sidebar of your Steam Settings window. From there check the box next to Enable Steam Play for all titles, as shown in the screenshot below:

Steam enable steam play for all titles

Use this option to test games that have not yet been whitelisted and you don't want to wait until they are officially supported. It should be noted that enabling this doesn't mean that all games will work - some won't work, while others may have performance issues.

Read more about this Steam Play release here.