The news comes via Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney himself, in replies to fans on Twitter. As reported by our sister site PC Gamer, Sweeney apparently is unsure that Epic Games can bring over its Easy Anti-Cheat technology to Linux, which is the open-source operating system that powers the Steam Deck. Anti-Cheat is a piece of software necessary to ensure that a game such as Fortnite runs fairly.
"We don’t have confidence that we’d be able to combat cheating at scale under a wide array of kernel configurations including custom ones," said Sweeney in a tweet. However, Sweeney did confirm that there's a "big effort underway to maximize Easy Anti-Cheat compatibility with Steam Deck."
Fortnite no, but there's a big effort underway to maximize Easy Anti Cheat compatibility with Steam Deck.February 7, 2022
It's a nuanced statement by Sweeney. He admits that the team at Epic Games is working on bringing Easy Anti-Cheat to Steam Deck in general, just not for Fortnite.
Easy Anti-Cheat is an Epic Games-owned piece of software, which aims to limit cheating in multiplayer games. Titles that use Easy Anti-Cheat include Apex Legends, Dead by Daylight, Fall Guys and more.
"With regard to anti-cheat on the Linux platform supporting custom kernels and the threat model to a game of Fortnite's size, YES THAT'S EXACTLY RIGHT!" he tweeted. "The threat model for anti-cheat varies per game based on the number of active players and ability to gain profit by selling cheats or gain prominence by cheating. Hence anti-cheat which suffices for one game may not for another game with 10, 100, or 1000 times more players."
Essentially, the open-source nature of Linux poses some security risks for a game like Fortnite.
It's also worth noting that Fortnite is not available on the Steam marketplace. Epic Games has its own online digital storefront called the Epic Games Store. Essentially, Epic Games wants to keep most of its major titles exclusive to its own store.
Sweeney also addressed this point when replying to a fan. While Epic Games is not opposed to the idea of bringing its titles to a rival platform, the company does not want to give over 20-30% of its revenue to Valve in the process. Epic Games actually sued Apple over this, and got one ruling in its favor. Apple must now allow rival payment platforms on the App Store: a move that Apple is fighting hard against, with the case currently in the appeals process.
Epic would be happy to put Fortnite on Steam. We wouldn't be happy to give Steam 20-30% of its revenue for the privilege. Supporting Steam Deck hardware is a separate issue, but the market for non-Steam-hosted games on limited availability Steam Deck hardware is how big exactly?February 8, 2022
There's also the very obvious fact, which Sweeney points out, that demand simply isn't there to bring Fortnite to Steam Deck. It's a handheld PC that, while exciting for the hardcore gaming community, will likely not attract a large chunk of Fortnite users. Sweeney's statement did anger some Linux gamers, but the operating system is still fairly niche, never amassing more than a few percentage points in comparative OS usage versus Windows or MacOS.
Still, it won't be impossible to play Fortnite on Steam Deck. Users can still go through the trouble of installing Windows 11 on Steam Deck, then run the game via the Epic Games Store launcher instead. At the very least, early impressions of the Steam Deck are highly positive.