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When Will Steam Come to Linux?

March 16, 2010

Valve recently announced that it will be releasing Steam for the Mac:

Valve Software, whose Steam download services has become a successful content distribution platform for the PC, will expand to the Apple Macintosh, the company said.

More importantly, Valve will also port its Source graphics technology to the Mac, giving both platforms access to the same games. Valve also confirmed that it will launch a sequel to its highly acclaimed game, Portal, which it will simultaneously launch for both Macs and PCs.

Valve’s library of games, including Left 4 Dead 2, Team Fortress 2, Counter-Strike, Portal, and the Half-Life series will be available in April, Valve said.

I’ll have more to say about Steam on the Mac later, in another column. Valve’s announcement, however, raises the question of when Steam will come to Linux.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Steam, here’s a brief explanation of it from the Steam site:

Instantly access your favorite games
The full Steam library and all future Steam releases are at your fingertips. After you’ve purchased a game, download it immediately and start playing.

Join the Steam Community.
Now it’s easy to find someone to play with, meet up with friends, connect with groups with similar interests, and host and join chats, matches, and tournaments. Best of all, it’s all free.

Chat with your friends while gaming.
With Steam’s “Friends” service, you can talk to your friends while you play. You can also see when they’re playing games and easily join the same servers together.

Easily browse multiplayer game servers.
Steam’s integrated server browser makes it easy to navigate thousands of Internet game servers.

Receive automatic game updates.
Hunting for patches and downloading from unorganized web sites is so twentieth-century. On Steam, your games stay up-to-date by themselves. No hassles.

Play your games on any PC
Once you have a Steam account, you can sign in from any PC to access your games. Your games are associated with your account, not your computer.

Enjoy Steam-only special offers
From pre-release discounts to free-play weekends, Steam delivers what gamers value most.

Microsoft’s Evil DirectX
I hesitate to use a word as melodramatic as “evil” here, but Microsoft’s near monopoly on computer gaming via its proprietary DirectX code has made it incredibly difficult for any company to consider releasing both Windows and Linux versions of its games.

I know that there are those who will argue that Linux isn’t worth supporting, but I disagree. It’s been a travesty and grave injustice for Linux to be almost totally locked out of the computer gaming market thanks to Microsoft pushing its proprietary junk and deliberately locking game vendors into Windows, and the laziness of game companies that can’t be bothered to support multiple platforms.

The lack of games for Linux (and also Mac OS X) has worked to Microsoft’s advantage by making Windows the platform for computer gaming. That’s great if you’re a Microsoft shareholder or employee, but it’s very bad if you believe in choice when it comes to computer operating systems.

Gaming companies need to abandon DirectX as quickly as possible and move to OpenGL instead.

Steam and Linux
Linux is the next logical place for Steam to appear.

Linux has been starving for good games for many years now. Yeah, there are some games available for Linux, but nothing compared to what’s available for Windows or even the Mac.

Here’s a list of some of the games available for Linux right now via the Live.Linux-Gamers.net distro:


Um… I think it’s great that these are available, but they don’t compare to what Linux gamers could get via Steam:

Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War 2
Assasin’s Creed 2
Battlefield: Bad Company
Napoleon: Total War
Supreme Commander 2
Rise of Prussia
BioShock 2
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

And that is just a very tiny selection of what’s available on Steam. Can you imagine the excitement of Linux gamers if Steam was available on Linux? What an amazing thing—and a potential moneymaker—it would be to have so many great games running in Linux without Wine or virtualization.

And why not?

Wine and Virtualization: Not Good Enough!
I know that some folks might suggest running games on Linux via Wine or Crossover Games. Well, if those solutions work for you, great. I appreciate the efforts of the Wine developers and the folks who make the Crossover products. But it’s not enough for Linux gamers.

Linux gamers need more games and better games. Games should be released for Linux at the same time they come out for Windows and Mac computers. There should be no delay whatsoever. Linux gamers should be first class citizens when it comes to gaming.

Just as important: Games must run natively. Gaming requires the best performance possible, and you simply can’t get that with emulation or virtualization.

No Steam for Linux?
Unfortunately, there seems to be no definitive word about Steam possibly coming to Linux. I can’t find any evidence that anyone at Valve is saying anything about it one way or the other. What a tragedy it will be if they stop with the Mac and don’t offer Linux gamers a way of enjoying first-rate games (and shelling out their money to do so).

We can only hope that Valve has plans that they are keeping quiet right now. The Mac announcement surprised and delighted many people (including me), and a Linux announcement would set the Linux gaming community on fire, to say the least.

Come on, Valve. Linux gamers are waiting. Please don’t disappoint.

What’s your take on Steam for Linux? Share your thoughts in the comments, and be sure to read my review of Steam for Mac.


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2 Responses to When Will Steam Come to Linux?

  1. Roasted on April 2, 2011 at 10:49 am

    @ sahan:

    Uh. No. It’s not. It’s not “available on Linux” if it requires Wine. Did you read the article? The entire thing was praising the work of Wine/Crossover, but begging for NATIVE (non Wine/Crossover) support for games. Native support should be the future. It’s disappointing Steam hasn’t done this already, but I’m still holding out hope.

  2. sahan on July 14, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    you guys do realize that steam is already out for linux right? you just need to get the windows installer and install it through wine

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