When Valve a couple of weeks ago announced that it has been working on a Steam client for Linux, we stressed just how big of a deal it is for users of the OS. Gaming has always been a sour point for Linux, and still is in some regards on OS X – at least compared to Windows. But with a company like Valve behind both OSes, things are beginning to look up. We might very well have a day in the future when Windows isn’t the de factor gaming OS.
After the announcement, Valve stole headlines once again, claiming that one of its biggest reasons for the move was that Windows 8 is a ‘catastrophe’ (according to CEO Gabe Newell, at least). With a comment like that, Linux users sure have had reason to grin, but not for too long. Richard Stallman, the biggest (not to be misinterpreted as “most important”) voice when it comes to free software (as in libre; freedom), has chimed in.
In his post at GNU.org, he states that while Steam on Linux has the ability to provide more “success” for the platform, it goes against the furthering of bringing “freedom” to its users. As Steam itself and most of the games it’ll make available are closed-sourced, non-”free”, it goes against the principles of the OS – or at least RMS’ principles of the OS.
He does go on to state, however, that if you are to play these games, then it’s better that you’re doing so on Linux rather than Windows, as Linux is in fact “free”. Ironically though, for the best performance in these games, proprietary, closed-sourced graphics drivers would be required – but let’s not get into that.
Richard’s thoughts on things is that all software should be free. In a perfect world, Steam would be open-sourced, as would all of the games made available there. But the fact of the matter is, most desktop users of Linux don’t care if the program they’re using is open-sourced or not. What people care about is that they’re able to do what they want to with their PC – and believe me, gaming is definitely one of the things high on many lists.
While I certainly don’t discredit Richard’s idea that open software is better than closed software, it’s just not realistic to expect that from those making a business out of it. I appreciate the fact that Linux itself is free and open-sourced under a great license, but past that all I care about is being able to do what I need to do. Edit photos, listen to music, watch movies, play games and so on.
Another point Richard tackles is the fact that the games, and Steam itself, features DRM – something everyone would love to avoid. But Steam certainly won’t be the first software on Linux to use DRM, and it won’t be the last. In the grand scheme of things, it could be argued that Valve has one of the best DRM schemes out there, in terms of consumer-friendliness.
What are your thoughts on this matter? And a better question; if all of the games you wanted to play ran on Linux, would you consider moving on over?