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Valve still sees Linux as the key to PC game success
Valve still sees Linux as the key to PC game success
September 16, 2013 | By Kris Graft

September 16, 2013 | By Kris Graft
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    31 comments
More: Console/PC



Valve Software founder Gabe Newell has been relatively quiet lately about the future of Linux games and his company's mysterious PC console solution Steam Box. But at LinuxCon today, he reminded people about the prospects of PC games in the living room, and that Valve is still actively examining the potential of the format.

It feels a little bit funny coming here and telling you guys that Linux and open source are the future of gaming," Newell said in an Ars Technica report. "It's sort of like going to Rome and teaching Catholicism to the pope."

"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," he said, suggesting there is some kind of development on the horizon.

Valve's interest in open-source Linux jibes with Newell's rhetoric about the importance of open platforms. He's previously derided Microsoft's Windows 8 as a "catastrophe," saying that increasingly-closed systems would be the death knell for innovation and overall good business.

He's also made clear that Valve wants to open up its massive digital distribution platform Steam, in order to remove the bottleneck of greenlighting games.

Earlier this year, Valve released Steam for Linux, signaling the company's active interest in the operating system. Valve is also working on debuggers for Linux in order to make the development process less of a headache.

Newell's statements about the PC market sound much like he and Valve are building a sort of lifeboat with Linux.

"I think we'll see either significant restructuring or market exits by top five PC [OEMs]. It's looking pretty grim," Newell said at LinuxCon. "Systems which are innovation-friendly and embrace openness are going to have a greater competitive advantage to closed or tightly regulated systems."


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Comments


Alan Rimkeit
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Make Half-Life 3 Linux exclusive. Nuff said Gabe!

Karsten Schlachter
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I think it's quite likely that valve is at least going to perform something in this direction..like give hl3 a one month headstart on the steambox or so..

Valve has already proven that a real great game can be used to force customers back in the days of hl2 with steam itself and i guess its very likely they are going to use that kind of strategy again, though i don't see them taking the extreme high risk of making hl3 (or some other awesome title) totaly exclusive

Harry Fields
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Forcing people to do something they'd rather not is almost always a recipe for disaster. Giving a compelling reason to *try* something is how you expand and create markets. Look to Origin for how not to do digital distribution. They shoe-horn it onto their products and lock other stores out of selling their wares. The overall consensus towards Origin is pretty negative because of that. I buy EA titles on Console only where I can because I have chosen Steam as my digital storefront of choice. There have been many games I would've bought a second PC copy of for the visual fidelity, if available on Steam, but I simply refuse to do so on Origin because they're hell-bent and determined to force you into installing it to play their titles. and one store is enough for me until someone makes a better mousetrap.

And that's where Valve has to be careful. Porting to Linux and giving gamers a choice is great. Trying to force people to adopt a platform they have no understanding or interest in is inherently a dangerous, dangerous move.

Karsten Schlachter
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yet this is exactly what they did with steam...they used their leverage of the totally awesome hl2 to enforce customers to register to steam and despite the fact many people (including me) hated them for that, it created a large enough user base which was necessary to make steam a success later on..

anyway, as long as they won't give away the box for free it would really be nuts to make hl3 or something linux only...i'd rather expect something like a one month or so exlusive hl3 along with few older valve games bundled for free plus the announcement of "partnerships" with companies like rockstar and bethesda agreeing on publishing all future games on linux same time as win or something like that..

Alan Rimkeit
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Making HL3 a Linux exclusive would be putting his money where his mouth is. It is that simple.

Karsten Schlachter
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no doubt about that :D

Aaron Brande
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That would really annoy about, what was it, 90%? of the current Steam user base. No one is going to install an OS they aren't currently using for a single game. But they could certainly not publish this one to consoles and keep it a Steam Exclusive. I have predicted it as launch title "exclusive" (to the Steam platform) when the Steambox officially is produced and launches.

Harry Fields
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More rhetoric. If Valve decided to make all future titles Linux exclusive, they'd lose sales, plain and simple. If SteamBox is Linux under the hood, who cares, really? Users will be seeing so little of it, they won't even know what it is. I love Steam, but they are not some infallible company. All they have to do is drop the PC digital distribution ball, and another player will pick it up and make them wholly irrelevant in the process.

Dane MacMahon
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Not only do you have to convert the 90% of PC gamers to Linux, you also have to create Linux versions of games which largely don't get them today. It seems insanely far fetched to me at this point. I'm sure he has a plan, but I'm also sure it tosses aside every game on PC made before now, or which doesn't comply, which seems insane to me.

Kujel s
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Newell is just afraid of the day when MS will block steam and force everyone to got through their app store instead.

Chris Melby
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Aren't we all afraid of that happening? I certainly don't want my OS dictating my choices -- which is why I stopped using iOS.

Who would welcome this sort of fascism openly outside of those invested in it? And going by Windows RT's failure, it's safe to say that PC users don't want an OS that greatly limits their choices.

Kujel s
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Oh I'm not in favor of it but Newell's comments are driven by this fear.

Dane MacMahon
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Always assume bottom line is the first reason for comments. And I do think they are afraid of losing their massive market share in PC gaming should Microsoft decide to squeeze them.

That said Microsoft getting pesky isn't good for gamers either, and it would be nice to switch someday to an open platform like Linux or Android. I just don't see it reasonably happening in the PC gamer space because of the current catalog and percentages Linux has. If Valve think a set-top box with their name on it is going to sell enough to change things anywhere near quickly I think they're being naive.

What do I know though, they're Valve and I am Joe Shmoe.

Either way, the way things are going in gaming right now I don't expect to be interested in new releases for much longer, so it likely matters little to me in the end.

Chris Melby
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@Kujel,

I have similar fears, as I like the benefits of competition that a gatekeeper-free OS offers.

Kujel s
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I'm like minded hence I'm writing this comment form a computer running Linux ;)

Curtis Turner - IceIYIaN
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First off, PC gaming isn't going anywhere anytime soon because of the keyboard and mouse combo. Adding actual mouse support to be common use would be much more of a threat to computers than anything else.

Second, because HDMI has become standard, slowly, but surely the TV vs Monitor situation is history. Also streaming technology is catching up.

As for me, I've had a Windows Operating System since like 1999... Don't know anything about Linux, etc. I like the fact that Microsoft is combing Windows, Windows Phone, X-BoX, and Laptops/Tablets. Sony has PS3/4 and Vita. Nintendo has Wii U and 3DS. Valve could use a box and a mobile tablet.

Multi-Hard Drive / Operating System...

Maria Jayne
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You know what Mr Newell needs, a Google based PC Operating System. Linux is a lifeboat but it's a very tiny lifeboat, and Valve + Steam Windows users look like they won't fit.

I've been using Windows since 3.1, but I'd drop it in a heartbeat if they blocked me accessing Steam. Linux though, doesn't look appealing. What Microsoft needs is monetary competition for tablets, laptops and desktop OS. It's grown fat and lazy and the recent fumbles by the company have proven it isn't used to having it.

I'm already using Chrome now, wouldn't be that big a leap to start using a Goggle OS.

Rick Hoppmann
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Ack.. Are you kidding?
I dislike Google a lot, because of their tremendous influence and power.
Google collects our data and use the gathered pieces of information to manipulate & control us. For example are the results of the search engine filtered, thus influencing your opinion on a topic & adverts are based on your searches, making you buy things you actually don't need.
Google Glasses is scaring me a lot, since it would allow Google to build motion profiles, have cameras everywhere and be able to influence directly the wearers by giving them selected pieces of (wrong) information about their surroundings.

A Google OS would be the top of the iceberg.


I'm using Linux Mint for some time now and I have to say I'm really pleased. It is visually appealing organized and faster. It's regulary updated. Also, developing games on Linux is really amazing, since it's incredibly easy to install libraries.
If you don't like Linux Mint, their exist plenty of other Linux distributions, such as Ubuntu or Arch Linux.
As I see it, their exist plenty of prejudices of Linux, which are related to the past, but not the present state of the operating system. Give it a try, you won't be disappointed! Linux Mint is free and can be installed next to any other OS.

Maria Jayne
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@Rick "I dislike Google a lot, because of their tremendous influence and power."

Funny, many people feel the same way about Microsoft.

The best thing for companies perhaps too confident in their own superiority is to introduce another company, equally confident. Then they have to question what the consumer wants to stay competitive.

Maurício Gomes
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You do realize that Linux is just a kernel right? and that Chrome OS and Android (both owned by Google) use Linux as kernel.


There is no such thing as "Linux is not appealing" there is: "some OS that use Linux kernel is not appealing"

Maria Jayne
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@ Mauricio ok...

Merc Hoffner
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I think Newell is totally right - the increasingly closed and controlled 'ecosystems' and the use of proprietary corporate owned 'standards' can only be a negative for the evolution of software - one that gets worse as companies infiltrate deeper into our lives.

But he's also saying something ludicrously impractical. How can this possibly be made to work?

Direct X? Hello? Wouldn't you break virtually all historical everything? Do they have the weight to move the whole industry 'to the left'?

Maybe they have some miracle solution under the wraps - maybe they're making their own OS - maybe they've perfected automated reverse engineering. I'd LOVE for it to happen, put so far it's a lot negative of platitudes that do nothing but remind us of depressing aspects of the situation, while offering little assuring hope that there's a solution.

Patrik Kotiranta Lundbeg
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Gabe is correct that we need open platforms but Linux will never become the solution unless it becomes a lot more user friendly, offer viable alternatives for all major software packages and if they find an incentive strong enough to convince companies to rewrite their own software to Linux.

"I think we'll see either significant restructuring or market exits by top five PC [OEMs]. It's looking pretty grim,"

The PC is not going away, people just love to bring their work,movies and games with them and this is why average users are switching from desktop computers to laptops and it will soon be the hybrid laptops that dominate the market. The change already started a while ago when laptops became cheaper. Personally, I do not know a single family that have invested in a desktop PC in the last five years, everyone bought laptops. The new hybrid laptops that I see in my local electronic stores offer the same thing as a laptop but have the ability to turn into a tablet and support touch behavior. The hybrids are just a bit to expensive atm but that will change when manufacturing costs decrease.
The slowdown in computer sales is also nothing strange, nothing exciting has happened on the PC area for the last few years. My really old laptop with a dual core cpu can do almost everything that my powerful desktop can, the difference only appear when I work with graphics or play recent games. It is just a direct effect of the "law of diminishing return".

A bigger problem then anything mentioned that I have noticed is that less computers that are sold through electronic vendors come with a NVIDIA or ATI GPU. Most computers are equipped with Intel HD XXXX and big AAA games have a hard time running on them. If you want a family with a laptop or hybrid laptop to pick up your next game, then start with targeting the Intel HD graphics chip and worry a lot less over the OS.

Dane MacMahon
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Most PC gamers I know use canon laptops now. Consumers love convienence. I still use a desktop because I can't stand touchpads and it's cheaper, but as long as people are buying gaming PCs in some form I'm a happy camper.

J Spartan
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When Steam was first announced it just seemed all about a completely closed proprietary DD system (think Apple store etc), and i've never understood why people have flocked to it because of that. All the talk i've ever heard from Steam people about 'Open' and the democratizing of gaming has always been about mostly the opposite.

Gabe and Valve just want all of us to use Steam, a closed controlled system that provides their now vast income, and the advantage of using Linux is just that they can use it for free, while making their profits, and control, larger in the game space.

A true 'open' DD system is GoG (for a comparison).

Gabe (and Valve) is a master of double-talk.

Bob Johnson
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People love open. That's why we are all using Steam. :S

Kujel s
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But steam isn't open!!!

Karsten Schlachter
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i'd guess that bobs post was meant to be ironic

Greg Quinn
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Sorry, I don't see it happening. As popular as Steam is.. people still use their PC's for other things besides gaming.

And then you'd have to get the major developers porting all their new titles to Linux too, with all the game engine IP and investment sitting on top of DirectX, I don't see that happening either.

Karsten Schlachter
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are there really that much solely directx-based engines out there?
at least unreal and unity support open gl as should anything id did...and the source engine obviously..
ok, the cry engine doesn't seem to and i have no idea about the others..

but as the ever more mobile space is based on opengl es, which is a subset of opengl, i'd guess that sooner or later all major engines will support opengl and it should therefore be relatively easy to include "normal" linux boxes beside android

Matt Ployhar
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Was talking to a Game Dev day before yesterday. He brought up a genious point. It's better to have Linux installed and then just emulate/vm windows. Might be easier to contain the spyware, etc that way. PC Games on Linux via OpenGL also makes a lot of sense; as long as there's a proven market for it and we can get the key Game Engines guys to refocus. Besides... anyone notice the footprint that Windows 8 takes up on your SSD? HOLY COW! Performance would also theoretically be better by being able to (hopefully) kill most of those ridiculous background services.

I support Gabe on this endeavor.

Not only is it a good hope for PC Gaming - but it keeps the ecosystem open, and it might even be the salvation of PC's. I don't see Msft making the right choices right now for my 'personal computing' devices.


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