The Steam Deck does a lot of things well, but if you fill it up with high-end 3D games, you’ll soon find its internal storage straining. The most expensive model only has 512GB of space, and even upgrades like the excellent Sabrent Rocket SSD are limited by the 2230 form factor of the M.2 internal drive. But if an analysis of an upcoming software patch holds true, some of those space-hogging game files are about to shrink in a very satisfying way.
According to PCGamer, the May update to the Mesa video driver will result in a reduction of shader cache file sizes by around 60 percent. Shader cache is a series of files that the game engine loads along with a game environment to more quickly and accurately render the graphics, among other things, and these little files make up a pretty sizeable chunk of a game’s install size on your storage drive. (They’re also one of the biggest things that contribute to loading times — just ask The Last of Us players.)
Streamlining the way that the cache is implemented for Mesa in OpenGL and Vulkan means more compact shader files, which means more free space on your storage drive and (hopefully) faster loading times for complex 3D games. Exactly how much drive space is saved will depend on how specific games implement the Mesa driver, but it’s common enough that anyone with a big enough Steam library should notice a definite savings in space. Hopefully Valve can add the improvements to the Steam Deck’s Linux-based operating system sometime this summer.