Can You Play Starfield On Steam Deck?

"Starfield's" release is upon us, and millions of fans are eager to get their hands on Bethesda's biggest-ever game. With over 1,000 planets, a main storyline you can simply ignore, space battles, exploration, and jetpack-based combat — you may have to play "Starfield" obsessively to experience it all. That's where something like a Steam Deck would come in handy.

There's also the comfort factor to consider. Many players may end up putting hundreds of hours into Starfield, and it's easier to do that laying on a couch or slumped back in a recliner than it is hunched over a desk. The portability element plays a part, too. You can take your new addiction with you and squeeze in a shootout or two on your lunch break or other moments of downtime.

Steam's handheld console is basically a shrunk-down PC with a built-in 720p screen. It's battery-powered and has enough under the hood to handle a good chunk of most people's Steam libraries. So, can it handle what is arguably the most anticipated game of 2023?

Officially, Bethesda says no

The official line when it comes to "Starfield" on the Steam Deck is as follows: Bethesda recommended we not review "Starfield" on Steam Deck because it runs below the PC minimum specifications. It's hard to imagine that recommendation changing after launch.

Beyond that, the game will probably run in some form if you attempt to play it on the Steam Deck, but it won't run well. Even with everything set to a minimum, you're unlikely to hit 30 fps. The frame rate will get even worse if you're in the middle of a particularly demanding sequence. Large space battles with multiple allies, enemies, bits of debris on screen, and lasers will likely become lag fests. When space pirates are trying to blast you out of orbit, the last thing you need is a slideshow-level framerate. 

So, to summarize, you're perfectly free to try it, but the company that made it is making no guarantees, and you're unlikely to have a good time. But don't give up just yet. There is a bit of a loophole, and some hope may be on the horizon.

There is a way to play Starfield on Steam Deck

There is a way you can play "Starfield" on your Steam Deck, and that involves not actually playing it on your Steam Deck. Thanks to Steam Remote Play, you can stream games like "Starfield" from your PC to other devices over your Wi-Fi network. There is a barrier to entry: the PC you're streaming the game from needs to meet "Starfield's" minimum requirements, and possibly a little extra, as it's streaming the game on top of everything else. If that's the case, just set up remote play, make sure your main gaming PC or Laptop is online, and you should be free to stream "Starfield" to your heart's content.

Although needing a gaming PC or laptop is a significant extra requirement, some Steam Deck benefits may make it worth it. The comfort factor is a big plus. You can lean back on the couch and relax. Increased portability is also a bonus, as you can use Remote Play anywhere with a fast enough internet connection. The demanding network requirements or the lack of a decent gaming PC may mean this isn't an option for you. Still, you shouldn't give up hope just yet. Things could change in the future.

There is also hope for the future

Despite the lower specs, there is always a chance that native Steam Deck support could be added in the future. While Bethesda has clearly stated that "Starfield" is likely too much for the Steam Deck, it hasn't ruled out optimizing the game for handheld use. The company wants as many people playing its games as possible and has a long history of issuing ports of its most successful products, such as the weird version of "Skyrim" on Alexa

If there is demand, then the company will do whatever it can to get Steam Deck users to buy a copy of "Starfield." Beyond an officially optimized game version, Bethesda's (frankly outstanding) modding community is waiting in the wings. It may take a lot of work, but there's a chance modders will trim and optimize what they can to get this game running on Valve's handheld device. This route may also require more work when it comes to installation, but it will more than likely be free.

Then, there's a new Steam Deck to consider. We'll probably see an updated version of Valve's handheld console at some point in the future, and it's pretty much guaranteed to have higher specs. These specs may be enough to meet "Starfield's" minimum and could even push beyond the recommended specs. Hopefully, the next Steam Deck also has a few other features we want to see.