Valve’s Gabe Newell Calls Linux the ‘Future of Gaming’, Steambox Announcement Imminent

Posted on September 17, 2013 2:51 PM by Rob Williams

Years ago, it seemed certain that Microsoft would remain dominant in the PC gaming space forever, as far as OSes go, and if you were to ask me at that time if I felt that the platform would be successful in the future, I’m not too sure I’d be enthusiastic about an answer, despite being a Linux user. While Linux is more than capable of delivering compelling gaming experiences, it’s support that matters at the end of the day.

My lack of enthusiasm turned overturned when Valve finally pulled the trigger and released Steam for Linux, though, because here we had an industry leader taking a massive chance on the OS. Sure – it’s impressive when a large company decides that Linux might be an interesting OS to target for their latest game, but it’s something entirely different when the company is designing an entire platform, one that it relies heavily on third-parties to keep successful.

Gabe Newell LinuxCon

Even when Steam on Linux dropped, though, I am not sure I could have pictured Valve CEO Gabe Newell giving a talk at LinuxCon, but lo and behold, it happened just this week. Sheesh – how things can change in just a couple of years!

Comically, Gabe opened up with, “It feels a little bit funny coming here and telling you guys that Linux and open source are the future of gaming, It’s sort of like going to Rome and teaching Catholicism to the pope.

Despite Linux’s marketshare being┬ápaltry in comparison to Windows (and even OS X), Gabe sees major potential in the OS as a platform because of its sheer openness. The flexibility that open-source offers could result in some interesting things in the future, such as… a Steambox, maybe? Outside of designing its own OS, which it sure wasn’t going to do, Valve’s option here would have been to bundle a Windows license with each and every console it produces – hardly ideal in an effort to keep pricing attractive. Plus, even if Windows were free, it lacks the flexibility and openness that his company is clearly striving for.

With regards to Steambox, Gabe mentions, “Next week we’re going to be rolling out more information about how we get there and what are the hardware opportunities we see for bringing Linux into the living room” – it seems clear that we’re going to be getting some solid information about Valve’s TV-bound console next week.

I’m a little excited. This could be huge.

  • Marfig

    That Linux can become a de facto gaming platform, I have little doubts. Especially with Valve behind trying to push the idea of a Linux based console-like gaming platform. What this doesn’t mean though is that “Linux is going to be the future of gaming”. That’s the type of marketing talk we can expect to hear from someone trying to invest in a Linux gaming box.

    As an exercise let us assume the Steambox becomes hugely popular and game developers (AAA and indie) are publishing titles like mad. As such let us imagine a Steambox as popular as the XBox or PS. Can you imagine it? Good. Now, has it become the future of gaming?

    Despite my typical skepticism, I’m looking forward to the Steambox. My main concern though is exactly the platform openness which I see as a weakness, not a strength, as far as game development is concerned. Windows closed source and heavily controlled OS development still manages to produce all sorts of issues with hardware compatibility that we gamers are fully aware for over 20 years. What with Linux?

    • Rob Williams

      I understand your concerns, but I think the Steambox is a little different in that Gabe is interested in making even THAT customizable (at last check, at least), and modular. While I’m sure he’ll be happy to sell Steamboxes, he’s still going to be happy if people build their own higher-end boxes and then take advantage of Steam. It’s all a win/win for him in the end. So while he might be focusing on a front-end for Linux, this should trickle outward and benefit the ecosystem as a whole. Not everyone wants a console experience, after all.

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