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Steam Box phase one complete: Steam's Linux client is out now
Steam Box phase one complete: Steam's Linux client is out now
February 14, 2013 | By Frank Cifaldi

February 14, 2013 | By Frank Cifaldi
More: Console/PC, Indie, Business/Marketing

Valve has made its first real move toward its vision of having a "Steam Box" in every living room: a native Linux client for its popular game and software digital community.

Steam for Linux launched today for the popular Ubuntu distribution of the open source Linux operating system, along with an extensive sale on Linux-native games, including Valve's recent ports of Half-Life, Counter-Strike Source and the free-to-play Team Fortress 2.

Co-founder Gabe Newell has been pushing for Linux-powered plug-and-play computers incorporating Valve's Steam client, to be manufactured both by Valve and by hardware partners.

Incorporating Steam's TV-friendly "Big Picture Mode" already, his Steam Box concept is technically a reality as of today for those who want to build their own.

"Our perception is that one of the big problems holding Linux back is the absence of games," Newell recently said. "I think that a lot of people...donít realize how critical games are as a consumer driver of purchases and usage."

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Wyatt Epp
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Huh, I wasn't really aware it wasn't "released" yet. It's certainly been available in my package manager for a few months.

(I'm estimating the first snide comment about the recent lay-offs and "Steambox is a sham idea" will come within two hours.)

Edit: Sorry, did I say two hours? I meant twenty minutes. :/

E Zachary Knight
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Its been is private and public beta for a while now. I think this is the official release.

Duong Nguyen
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Linux box? Hmm how is it suppose to run Windows based games? Steam Box is already starting off on the wrong foot, it's like they made it a Linux box to just spite Microsoft..Maybe it's just suppose to stream videos? Good luck with that only have to compete with 100 other devices which can already do that.

Kris Graft
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Newell has referred to Linux as a "get out of jail free card, if we need it." It's going to take a company like Valve to spearhead a widespread Linux game movement, and I think it's a smart play... why put all your eggs in the Windows basket when you have the know-how, the leverage and the resources to lessen your risk?

Also, Newell has said that if you want, you'll be able to install Windows on the Steam Box. It won't be a closed platform.

E Zachary Knight
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Considering Valve and Gabe have been complaining about the direction Microsoft is going with Windows 8 for a while now, one would have thought that was obvious.

Jannis Froese
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Actually, many Windows based games run just fine natively on linux thanks to wine. Also the Steam Box is able to come with a notably lower price tag if they don't use Windows.

And as others have said: why should they help Microsoft when they don't like the direction Microsoft is headed.

E Zachary Knight
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"Run natively using Wine" is the talk of heathens and heretics. ;)

Jimmy Albright
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@Jannis Froese

"the direction Gabe Newell speculates Microsoft is headed"

I only see the Windows store as an honest way to compete with Apple in the certified markets for tablets and phones. As much as I absolutely loathe iTunes, it's been a great business model for Apple and honestly I think Microsoft is just trying to get a piece of that pie.

Steam runs fine on Windows 8. Counter-Strike Global Offensive and Dota 2 actually get more frames for me (if only by 2-3 more per second) than on Windows 7. You can launch steam from the 2nd UI, or from the desktop. It doesn't matter. Windows doesn't require certification to install software straight to the desktop. (You can still launch anything from the 2nd UI) it only requires certifications to have in the Windows App Store.

If Microsoft were to be so foolish as to require certification all across the OS, there would be more important things to worry about than how we're going to play our steam games. On the development side Microsoft has come leaps and bounds towards Open Source, even doing things like adding full GitHub integration into Visual Studio and contributing quite a bit to Open Source projects.

Honestly I could be alone in this but from my point of view a lot of the negativity that's come from Gabe Newell about Windows 8 is some pretty big fearmongering. It also strikes me that he would lambast Microsoft on pure speculation that they may some day be closed, while at the same time saying things like "Apple rolls the console guys." You praise Apple, the definition of closed while fearmongering about a platform that's open?

I understand not everyone is going to be a fan of what is a rather large change to Windows. I was extremely skeptical but after getting used to some new hotkeys, and seeing that Windows 8 runs just as fast if not faster in almost every aspect, I'm pretty much sold on it. My boot to desktop went from 10 seconds to 7 seconds, without a single hardware upgrade.
I'm not saying it's a bad idea to bring gaming to Linux, just that his fearmongering about windows 8 seems a bit much. Everyone should be able to enjoy the same games, (ideally) regardless of their OS.

On the topic of Wine, I have heard about nothing but problems from all my friends who use linux and wine. I don't think it works as well as a lot of people suspect.

Gabe Newell has said some pretty harsh things at both Microsoft and Sony, I worry that he's coming into the console market a little overconfident. These companies can literally piss away billions of dollars just to stifle competition.

Duong Nguyen
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The only way i can see it working is for Valve to step in and fully develop the Wine API and drivers, so that it can emulate the full suite of D3D features.. As it stands it's way too far behind to compete with native windows games ( going by the Cyrsis / Fallout video I just watched on YouTube ).

Maybe Valve can do for set-top what Apple did for phones, but they will have to do it fast since the next gen consoles are coming out and they'll match or exceed Steam Box for features and maybe even at a lower price point.

Chris Dickerson
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@Kris Graft: "why put all your eggs in the Windows basket when you have the know-how, the leverage and the resources to lessen your risk?"

Not only that, but i've played various games that were already developed for Linux besides Windows and OSX.

I want all companies competing for the business. I want Linux gaming to make people stand up and take notice. Competition is good, complacency gets us Nukem'd.

Matthew Thomas
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I find the concept of the Steam Box interesting. Who is Valve planning to market this to? Chances are that at the end of the day, PC gamers are going to play games on their PC's and console gamers will stay with their favorite consoles. So what is Valve's long term plan for the Steam Box? If you can't out do the XBox, then who do you expect to buy your new console/platform?

I will probably be one of those people who purchases one of these on day 1, but I don't imagine there being huge demand for this product. Or at least, no enough demand to warrant satisfying them.

Michael Joseph
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I think Valve is providing developer incentives by making it easy for devs to get their games onto a storefront. And they are providing customer incentives by making the steam box software free so that you dont need the dedicated box necessarily to try it out. And that in turn becomes a developer incentive because there's no price barrier for customers to play your game beyond the price of the game itself. The existing steam user base is another incentive. There you have a userbase of proven purchasers of games... something that's always been tough to gauge on linux as well as a system for gauging your games useage statistics.

And you may not have to purchases one on day 1. I have a dream that you will be able to start writing games for a beta version sometime next year without needing a special relationship to gain early access. Steam box will be the most developer friendly/empowering gaming platform there is... or at least it is in my dreams :)

EDIT: Steam Box is doing what Microsoft could have been doing from the start but MS embraces the publisher mentality for it's hardware too much. They wont stop users transitioning to Apple products by adopting Apple's fascist (heh) personal computing philsophy with it's tight controls. Hell, we don't even know what Microsoft's computing religion is anymore.

EDIT: And Valve can harvest the power of an enthusiastic and greatful Linux development community.

David Glenn
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This is no surprise to me given what I saw at the OpenGL BOF at SIGGRAPH. From what I heard, stem actually ran faster using GLSL over the DirectX version. For me, its a validation of what I always believed that Linux is not a bad platform at all for gaming and Graphics based programs. All the products that I have worked on to this point have used Linux for the OS! I think that Microsoft has missed the mark when it comes to computer graphics - and they even have a console. But don't worry, we will soon fix that as most future consoles will be using Android - with Linux as the core. And Linux is no longer being treated as the bastard stepchild as it was once considered. Because it is repayable, but also keeps reinventing itself, UNIX based platforms in the form of Linux, Android and IOS are going to be with us for a long time to come!

Long Live the Penguin!!