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Upcoming SteamOS Feature Could Finally Revolutionize Linux Gaming. Or Not.

View Nelson Schneider's Profile

By Nelson Schneider - 08/19/18 at 02:50 PM CT

Earlier this year, Valve quietly removed the Steam Machines section from the Steam Storefront. Many industry watchers and gamers took this to mean that both the concept of Steam Machines – console-sized PCs that are built specifically for couch gaming – and the Linux-based SteamOS that powered them were dead, despite official word from Valve PR stating otherwise.

Recently, some clever delvers into the behind-the-curtains goings-on at Valve noticed that a new feature will be coming to SteamOS soon, and it’s the one I said Valve needed to put as much effort into as possible. Steam Play has been around since 2012, when it was introduced as a “Buy Once, Play Anywhere” marketing strategy that allowed Steam customers to buy a license for a specific game, rather than a specific game version for a specific OS, thus gamers could buy “Half-Life 2,” for example, and play it on Windows, MacOSX, or Linux, without having to pay a separate fee for each OS, as things had been done previously. Microsoft later adopted a similar concept for Windows and Xbox, calling it Play Anywhere.

It looks like Steam Play is ready to expand beyond its humble beginnings as a pro-consumer sales model, as it will be gaining an auto-installed suite of compatibility tools that aim to make Windows games playable on Linux. Work has been ongoing in the Linux community for quite some time with the aim of making the GNU open-source OS compatible with software people actually like to use, with compatibility tools such as WiNE (short for WiNE is Not and Emulator) and the relatively new DXVK (short for DirectX VulKan) resulting from those efforts. However, nobody would ever call WiNE or DXVK ‘user friendly’ with a straight face, and definitely wouldn’t liken a Linux distro running these compatibility tools to a game console.

With a new wave of FUD about the future of Windows-based computing driven by the recent reveal of Microsoft Managed Desktop, we’re guaranteed to see a corresponding surge of interest in unchaining PC gaming from the House that Gates Built. Perhaps this time around Valve will actually have something compelling for panic-stricken neckbeards to cling-onto.

Hopefully Valve has actually been putting as much effort and funding into creating these Steam Play compatibility tools as it has been putting into creating a digital trading card game. Linux already feels like a half-assed product, which is why most people don’t enjoy using it as a desktop or gaming OS. The original recipe version of SteamOS lacked any compelling features for those seeking an open-source alternative to Windows as a gaming platform. And if users have demonstrated anything, it’s that they aren’t willing to give any given product more than a few chances to impress them before they dismiss it outright.

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Matt

Wrote on09/04/18 at 07:35 PM CT

This could be a very good thing for PC gaming. However, like you mention, Valve has to deliver. Linux would be a good platform if the community could solve the accessible part. Too often there are too many choices that only serve to muddy the water. However, Valve could cover up the muddy waters with a SteamOS that just works at playing any game.

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