I’ve played plenty of Game Pass over the past year, but not on my Steam Deck, until now. Game Pass on Steam Deck setup finally. It’s not the easiest first time setup, but I’m impressed how well it works when it does. Microsoft was nice enough to provide a detailed article on how to setup, but I have suggestions.
Setting up Game Pass on Steam Deck
Unfortunately, there’s no current way to install Game Pass games directly onto the Steam Deck without installing Windows. The best option right now is to setup the Microsoft Edge browser on Steam Deck as a Non-Steam game. Too bad it’s not as easy as installing and adding to Steam. For one, it requires upgrading to Game Pass ultimate, part of why I waited this long.
Microsoft provides detailed instructions on the full setup, but I have suggestions to avoid the mistakes I made. There are console and launch commands to properly setup the controls and view window. I wish they worked with Valve on a more user friendly way, but at least this whole ordeal is a one time setup.
Avoid my Mistakes
When I viewed the instructions, the flatpak command word wrapped and spaces are the killer of commands. I’d suggest opening the page on the Steam Deck desktop to copy/paste directly. Remember the touch pad presses act as mouse buttons and Steam button + X brings up the virtual keyboard.
That step is very important. I screwed it up the first time around and navigating around the Cloud Gaming page was a nightmare in game mode. If moving the left joystick does help you get around, then you know you screwed that step up too.
Later on, adding the launch commands to the Edge shortcut in Steam is best done in desktop mode. Just don’t open the shortcut after this in desktop mode. It’s a pain to get out of, especially if the controls are not set properly.
Once everything is setup properly, it opens in game mode without issue and controls just work for navigation.
Testing Xbox Cloud Gaming on my Steam Deck
Upgrading to Game Pass ultimate to even try all this out is only an additional $5 per month, but I had doubts about cloud gaming. Despite those doubts, I really wanted to add Game Pass to the list of subscription services I play on my Steam Deck.
My son raved about how funny High on Life is and the graphics look great. I figured that’s the perfect stress test for how viable cloud gaming is on my Steam Deck. Since I screwed up my first attempt at setup, XCloud warned me that no controller was detected. It also warned me my network was unsupported.
The controller issue, as mentioned in the previous section, I fixed, but the network issues was by design. I closed both bedroom doors between me and the Google WiFi puck hooked into our router (500Mbps up/down). I have 3 more of the WiFi points scattered around the house, but those closed doors represented a worst case scenario.
Game Pass on Steam Deck Beams me Up
Upon hitting the play button, a rocket ship glided across my screen and the game loaded under 30 secs. That part alone impressed me since it’s spinning up an Azure server instance of the game and loading it in that time. Maybe part of that $5 extra per month is local server space to speed the process up.
Starting the game works just as if it were installed on my system. The beginning of the game starts with a classic pixel video game look, so I had to get past the first few minutes to see how much the true eye candy strained things. At one point in the game, the first city opens up with plenty to load/see.
I’m so happy to report the whole game streaming worked great. Playing around that first wide open area was more than playable. My whole playthrough, although brief only offered 1 or 2 instances of the classic Netflix-like buffering pixelation. Even in those moments it was only far off parts of the scene and not the whole thing.
To be clear, you will notice it from time to time, but not enough to ruin my fun on Steam Deck so far. Forza Horizon worked even better, as did Pentiment. Plague tale looked good, but I only played a few minutes. My guess is the less graphic intensive games have far few instances of visual artifacts. I have not tried multiplayer yet, but doubtful the tech is quite ready for any fast paced FPS games.
Once I put some actual hours into some games on the cloud, I’ll have more to talk about. Plus, I need to try a best case scenario for the network. For now, I’m happy the hard part is over and it’s so easy pick up any Gamepass cloud game.