At long last, Valve has confirmed that Linux ports of both Steam and the Source engine are in active development, and should be released later this year. These are native solutions that run directly on Linux, without any kind of Wine-like emulation. Left 4 Dead 2 will be the first Source-based title on Linux, but once the engine has been successfully ported other AAA games will surely follow.
Now, the usual port of call is to wax lyrical about how Steam on Linux could finally kick start desktop adoption. Linux might have plenty of productivity apps and utilities, but Windows’ dominion when it comes to games is often cited as one of the key reasons for the failure of desktop Linux. With the Source engine coming to Linux, and assuming developers actually take the time to build Linux versions of their games, rebooting into Windows to play games — or incessant fiddling with Wine or Cedega — could become a thing of the past. This could be it for desktop Linux!
Let’s be serious, though — Linux won’t flourish on the desktop unless Microsoft monumentally messes up. It would seem, though — at least according to Valve co-founder Gabe Newell — that Windows 8 might actually be bad enough for Linux to step in and take the desktop PC reins.
Speaking to Michael Larabel of Phoronix, Gabe Newell expressed “stunning negativity” for Windows 8 and the future of Microsoft. On the flip side, after speaking positively about Linux for hours, Larabel quips that Newell could be “the director of the Linux Foundation.”
While Newell doesn’t say it outright, his comments to Larabel and the timing of Steam and Source for Linux could hint that Valve isn’t confident about the future of gaming on Windows. Linux ports have been in the works for years — and yet now, just a couple of months after the release of Windows 8 Consumer Preview, a working version of L4D2 for Linux appears.
We’re no strangers when it comes to critically analyzing Windows 8. There’s no getting around the fact that desktop PCs — and thus gaming PCs — are an afterthought in Windows 8. Matthew Murray, perhaps portentously, even went as far as saying that Windows 8 might drive him to Linux. It’s a little bit extreme to suggest that Windows 8 will be so awful that gamers will flee en masse to Linux, but Valve obviously wants to be first off the boat if such a sea change occurs.
The Oatmeal’s take on the Steam Box video game console
Another possibility is that Linux will power Valve’s “open hardware platform” Steam Box video game console, which it recently confirmed is in development. Valve isn’t a hardware or an operating system developer, so starting with a known quantity such as Linux would make a lot of sense.