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Why Valve Wants To Port Games To Linux: Because Windows 8 Is a Catastrophe 880

An anonymous reader writes "Gabe Newell wants to support Linux because he think Windows 8 is a catastrophe for everyone in PC space. He wants to move away from a closed ecosystem of Microsoft Windows 8. He recently made a rare appearance at Casual Connect, an annual videogame conference in Seattle. From the allthingsd article: 'The big problem that is holding back Linux is games. People don't realize how critical games are in driving consumer purchasing behavior. We want to make it as easy as possible for the 2,500 games on Steam to run on Linux as well. It's a hedging strategy. I think Windows 8 is a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space. I think we'll lose some of the top-tier PC/OEMs, who will exit the market. I think margins will be destroyed for a bunch of people. If that's true, then it will be good to have alternatives to hedge against that eventuality.' Some Linux users think that this is a win-win situation for Linux users as it will brings good game titles on the Linux system that haven't been there and it will protect steam business model from both Apple and Microsoft."
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Why Valve Wants To Port Games To Linux: Because Windows 8 Is a Catastrophe

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  • by jkrise ( 535370 ) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @08:54AM (#40775757) Journal

    Windows 8 is a catastrophe only for those who use it with a keyboard and mouse. For the rest of us, it is the greatest desktop operating system.

    • by Astatine ( 179864 ) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @08:56AM (#40775795)

      What exactly does this desktop of yours look like, and is it situated underneath a bridge?

      • by jkrise ( 535370 ) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @09:01AM (#40775859) Journal

        Sorry, I had put 'sarcasm' and '/sarcasm' tags in my original post; they didn't appear though. Been a few years since I posted regularly on Slashdot.

      • Well there are full size touch screen, problem previously was the UI for them.

        Of-course MS does seem to be making a mistake by trying to shoehorn this tablet centric UI onto everything under the sun.

        • by ultranova ( 717540 ) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @10:01AM (#40776623)

          Well there are full size touch screen, problem previously was the UI for them.

          And it still is. Specifically, you need to hold your hands extended before you for prolonged periods of time and make huge, sweeping motions, lose two mouse buttoms and the wheel, and trying to type will require on-screen keyboard which obscures the screen contents and is slow to use (since you can't touch-type). And on top of that you'll get grease on the screen.

          Tablets use a touch screen because they can't fit in a keyboard and mouse, not because it's an even remotely good solution.

          • by Electricity Likes Me ( 1098643 ) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @10:41AM (#40777123)

            Touch screens also have poor conveyance of intent.

            You touch the screen - and that's about it. You can't hover with your fingers and then choose to click, you can't convey different intent (right-click, middle-click, other mouse buttons etc.) easily.

            You also can't see what your clicking while you hold onto it if it's right under your finger.

            While I'm sure the touchscreen has a bright future, the significant of the interface is currently being overstated - all the "cool stuff" ultimately will come from pairing touchscreens with other devices including traditional things like keyboards.

          • Actually I'd say from watching my customers who have had them get me tablets that the reasons tablets have touchscreens? Is that people use 'em as big oversized iPods. Watching my customers they aren't answering their webmail, or writing a doc, or frankly creating squat with their tablet, they are playing music or video or at most Googling something from the couch, like what the name of the actor is in the show they are watching.

            Frankly the ONLY ones pushing the whole "post PC" thing is those that stand to gain from tablets. be it by lock down like Apple and MSFT, or eyeballs like Google, or the hardware manufacturers that hope they can have a MHz war with ARM like they did with X86 from the early 90s through mid 00s. But actually interacting with the people buying the things i can tell you they are NOT replacing their PCs, be it desktop or laptop (most have both) for a tablet or smartphone.

            In fact, and this will blow the mind of many a geek but the average consumer? Does not look at the phone or the tablet as a computer at all! The phone is a "phone that plays games and does Google" and the tablet is a "touchscreen that lets me watch videos and does games and Google" and that's it. As far as they are concerned it might as well be a washer and dryer because to them its an appliance not a computer!

            So it isn't about what is or isn't a good solution or form factor, its simply about accepting the reality of the market. Once PCs went multicore they passed "good enough" and went into "insanely overpowered" for the vast majority. Hell do you think anything Suzy the checkout girl is doing on a PC is gonna stress even a 5 year old Phenom I triple? Of course not, so she doesn't buy a new one until the old one breaks. We are VERY close to seeing that in ARM as well, just look up "ARM dark silicon" to see we are about to hit the wall just like we did with X86 but in this case the wall is power instead of thermal as the batteries simply can't feed the chips. Once that happens and everyone who wants one has one the bottom will drop like with X86, sure people will break a few more of these than computers but it won't be a boom like today.

          • by Wraithlyn ( 133796 ) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @01:20PM (#40779627)

            I think the big advantage is MULTI-touch. Take Garage Band on the iPad for example; a brilliant application of multi-touch (ie, real time instrument playing) that simply wouldn't be possible with any sort of conventional single-pointer interface. Shared-screen multiplayer games (ie, Fruit Ninja, Fieldrunners, Flight Control, Marble Mixer, etc) are another good example.

            I'm not saying that makes it "better" (in the general sense, it's certainly not, for the reasons you outlined above), but calling it "not even remotely a good solution" is a bit harsh IMHO. It's just a very different toolset, that is great for some scenarios, but sub-optimal for others.

        • And it is THAT, that right there, that I don't get. Are you telling me MSFT hasn't run a single focus group? hell I've had over 400 folks that has gone through my shop try it, everyone from teens to little old ladies and down to a person they HATE METRO on a bog standard non touch desktop.

          And lets not kid ourselves, the economy is a corpse and both AMD and Intel are reporting sales slumps as it is so do you honestly believe that adding a HIGHER price now by adding touchscreens is gonna do anything but torpedo the figures of anyone stupid enough to try? Hell has nobody in fucking Redmond ever been into a Walmart? Or a Best Buy? Have they ever bothered to ask anyone selling PCs retail WTF is going on? Walk into ANY B&M and what you see sure as fuck ain't "ultrabooks", oh they may have ONE which they'll tell you an't selling for shit, but what do you see? AMD as far as the eye can see, why? Because the "sweet spot" is between $350-$500 with the $400-$450 laptops being the biggest sellers and you just ain't gonna hit that price point with most of the Intel line and you sure as hell ain't gonna hit it by tacking on another $100-$150 a unit for touchscreens that nobody wants because poking your damned laptop or desktop all damned day is uncomfortable!

          So that is what I don't understand. I mean surely to God they can see that freightrain of failure rolling down the track full speed ahead, can't they? Can't they see that the desktop and laptop form factor simply doesn't work with a touchscreen? Hell have they even looked at the sales numbers for non tablet touchscreens? I have, last figures I could find had just 4% of the X86 units being sold with touch and BTW that was counting industrial like POS and kiosks. if you remove those? Less than 2% of the world X86 market is being sold with touch.

          And before anybody says it, yes i know they are getting the shit stomped out of them in cell phones, but how does torpedoing the only OS business you aren't getting stomped in make ANY sense at all? If they wanted to use a single codebase, with the Metro UI on the tablets and phones and a standard desktop on...well desktops and laptops? Okay, makes sense and saves money by cutting out reinventing the wheel. But what they are doing here is completely batshit, its just the opposite of the "Hey lets make phones teeny tiny desktops!" that they did for a decade with WinCE. Can they not read reviews in Redmond? Can they not see the memes on YouTube where people throw a relative on Win 8 just to watch them be lost and fumble around? How can you not see what a fucking disaster you have about to take a shit all over one of your few remaining profitable divisions MSFT?

          • by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @11:56AM (#40778237)
            The general consensus seems to be that Microsoft knows Windows 8 will flop, and is willing to accept this if it means reorientating the industry in a manner which will be of more benefit to their long-term aims - specifically becoming a serious player in the tablet/mobile space and securing themselves a lucrative slice of app-store pie. They saw how well Apple and even Google, not traditionally an OS vendor, managed to achieve this and now Microsoft wants in - even if it means taking a big short-term hit by releasing an OS everyone loathes.
          • by DuckDodgers ( 541817 ) <> on Thursday July 26, 2012 @01:54PM (#40780431)
            I can see three counters to your position. I'm not sure it will be enough to save Microsoft, but I understand what they're trying to do:

            1. If you've never used a computer before, I suspect learning to use a touch screen is easier than learning to use a mouse or keyboard. That doesn't affect most people in the US, but it does affect kids and a lot of countries that are only now joining the information age. My kids are pretty young, and they all figured out how to use games on my phone faster than they figured out how to use a mouse.

            2. Apple and to a lesser extent Android destroyed Palm, Blackberry, and Windows Mobile, and Windows Phone because people got so attached to their iPhones that they brought them to work and refused to use corporate substitutes. If that's a few isolated incidents then the employee involved gets disciplined or fired. But when it affects a large percentage of employees plus managers and top executives, anyone in the IT staff that insists on Palm, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, etc... is told to change the IT policy or be replaced. So Microsoft is trying to work the same way - make Windows 8 consumer first, business second, and hope they can get back into enterprise business through the same "bring your personal device to work" route that the iPhone took. And unifying the interface across all devices works in both directions - maybe the consumer who buys a Windows 8 tablet takes his device to work, and maybe another consumer forced to use Windows 8 at work becomes accustomed to it and purchases a Windows 8 phone or tablet. I don't think it will work, but I can see why they are trying. I suspect that if Microsoft doesn't pour everything into this massive makeover, in ten years people will be using the iPad 15 with HDMI out to a 30 inch monitor with bluetooth keyboard and mouse at the office, and then taking the iPad home to surf the web and play games in the evening, and Microsoft will be cut out of most of the world's enterprise office space and consumer computing device market.

            3. Microsoft executives must understand how important low price is. The iPad manages to sell like hotcakes at the $500 price point, but it has the strength of the Apple brand. ( I hate the Apple brand, but clearly most of the US doesn't share my views. ) The only Android tablets that have grabbed a significant piece of the tablet market are the 7 inch, $200 Amazon Kindle and now maybe the 7 inch, $200 Google Nexus 7 - smaller and more importantly much cheaper than the iPad. If Microsoft starts selling the Surface RT (ARM processor) 10 inch tablets at a $300 or so price point and they manage to adequately explain to buyers that Windows on Arm won't run legacy x86 apps so there is not mass confusion, I think they might have a shot at getting at least some of the market. If on the other hand they try to price head to head with the iPad or higher than the iPad they will get killed. I think they know that, and will price accordingly - if I was running Microsoft, at this point I would be trying to convince the board of directors that the long term survival of the company hinged upon dethroning the iPhone and iPad, and that if Microsoft had to take a loss for five years straight to pull it off, that would be a price worth paying.
    • by Ynot_82 ( 1023749 ) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @09:00AM (#40775849)

      Windows 8 is a catastrophe only for those who use Windows. For the rest of us, it is the greatest Microsoft operating system ever


    • by MrEricSir ( 398214 ) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @09:02AM (#40775869) Homepage

      Windows 8 is a catastrophe only for those who use it with a keyboard and mouse.

      It's also a catastrophe if your business model involves running a 3rd party app store. Good luck competing against Microsoft, Gabe.

      • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @09:29AM (#40776183) Journal

        Windows 8 is a catastrophe only for those who use it with a keyboard and mouse.

        It's also a catastrophe if your business model involves running a 3rd party app store. Good luck competing against Microsoft, Gabe.

        +1 for identifying the second horn of the dilemma.

        On the one hand, if MS underperforms, their historical platform buddies face the real risk(at least outside of enterprise stuff, where entrenchment goes a lot deeper) that Apple will eat into the desktop/laptop/portable segment(and Apple has made it fairly clear that 3rd-party vendors are forbidden on iOS and grudgingly permitted, for now, on OSX) with Sony on consoles and a somewhat chaotic flux of Android devices on mobile.

        On the other hand, if MS does a good job, they have their fingers in, or heading for, so many of their platform partner's pies that that won't clearly be a win for those platform partners. They've got their own application store, their own cloud/SaaS thing, their own console, an unknown-but-enough-to-make-the-OEMs-nervous amount of their own PC and tablet hardware, their own pet phone company...

        Getting the Steam catalog to 'Just Work' on linux isn't going to be a picnic; but you can't exactly blame them for looking for plan B.

        • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Thursday July 26, 2012 @09:55AM (#40776543) Homepage Journal

          Getting the Steam catalog to 'Just Work' on linux isn't going to be a picnic

          It should be a lot easier to make it "just work" on an OS you have the source to than an OS you only have hooks, many of them undocumented.

          Nobody else seems to have any trouble making their software "just work" on Linux. Hell, I bought a bluetooth dongle that supposedly had no Linux support at all, I plugged it in and it just worked. On the Windows box I had to install software and drivers and reboot a couple of times, and it kinda sorta worked.

          In the last 10 years, MS and Linux have switched places in the useability and maintenance aspects. Windows needs far more maintenence than previously, and more than Linux, and is far less useable than Linux. This is the opposite of the situation 10 years ago. Anyone who has used both OSes lately is aware of this.

          • by Guspaz ( 556486 ) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @10:56AM (#40777347)

            I suspect a lot of the work is already done for games that have been previously ported to OS X. After all, that already entails the switch to OpenGL. Obviously there's a lot more to it than that, but having your game already running under OpenGL on a POSIX platform is a big head start. Especially if you started out on Windows, since that means you've already had to abstract a lot of the platform-specific stuff out to get it running on the second platform.

  • He's Right (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rodrigoandrade ( 713371 ) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @08:56AM (#40775791)

    Look no further than iOS and Android. No matter what the fanbois of each platform say, games invariably are among the top downloads.

    • Re:He's Right (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @09:30AM (#40776201)

      Look no further than iOS and Android. No matter what the fanbois of each platform say, games invariably are among the top downloads.

      Erm no, Your top downloads on the Play store are things like Maps, Streetview, Facebook, Youtube, Viber, hell even Flash is still up there. Out of the free applications [], the first game is at number 16 (Angry Birds), out of the top 25 there are 5 games.

      This is because a lot of people who own smartphones don't play games. For the most part people own smart phones as mobile email/web. I'm a PC gamer and I've tried to play a few games on my Android phone but most of them have such clunky control schemes that its more annoying than entertaining. Add to this the fact that EA have been losing big on mobile games and it's pretty clearly not the way for a company to go if they want to make good games or make money.

      As for Windows 8, Gabe Newell is dead on the money. It's a complete train wreck, the Windows 8 Express has already derailed somewhere between Poor Concept Central and South Retarded Design. What I disagree with Newell is that OEM's are going to be hit hard, they're going to do what they did when Vista was released and keep selling Windows 7 against Microsoft's objections. The big difference is, this time OEM's will be ready to tell MS to bugger off.

      Still, might be a good time to get rid of MSFT stock, especially if Windows 9 is just as bad as 8.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Maybe you should try the stats on iOS rather than just rely on your own biases. []

        7 of the top 10 paid apps for iPhone are games
        4 of the top 10 free apps for iPhone are games

        Guess where the money is?

    • by Morgaine ( 4316 ) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @10:36AM (#40777055)

      He's right in many more ways than one. Hedging his bets against a future in which Microsoft is his biggest rival is only one reason for doing this. The other big reason is simply to expand the gaming market, and to lead it.

      It's no secret that the Linux world is full of endearing geeks and nerds who love to play video games --- there could hardly be a bigger truism! And yet they are totally under-served on their favorite platform, and frequently have to run a Windows box for the sole reason of being able to play their games. That presents an obvious business opportunity.

      By supplying Linux gamers with good games on their favorite platform, not only is he expanding his customer base to a whole new audience of Linux-only gamers, but is also making it possible for Linux gamers to avoid running a Windows box at all. And that can remove one of his rivals from the competition entirely. It would be a move of genius.

      What's more, if Linux gaming takes off bigtime (his company certainly has every opportunity to make that happen), then he will be the leader in a new gaming frontier, and everyone else will be playing catchup. That is worth a gamble all by itself, and it's not even a high-risk venture.

      I think Gabe's business nose can sense a big opportunity here, a huge and almost unexploited market that he can make his own, while at the same time safeguarding his future against Microsoft.

  • Hardware partner (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FictionPimp ( 712802 ) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @08:57AM (#40775811) Homepage

    If they are serious about this, they need to get Dell or HP to start building gaming oriented linux desktops and notebooks. Linux will never gain traction as long as the users have to actively decide to install it.

    • And they'll be reluctant to do that. They Sell Windows boxes largely because Windows is a standard OS that's easy for users and it lets them offload a good chunk of their support costs. Dell doesn't want to help you unfuck your Linux system because too much of the support and warranty costs would fall on Dell. The more closed the system is the easier and cheaper it is to.maintain and support. That's why so many employers have such overbearing support and security policies.
      • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @09:45AM (#40776415) Journal

        Eh, I'm not sure that it'd be as difficult as you suggest.

        Yes, Dell and friends want to get into software support like they want an extra hole in the head(which is why, unless you are paying for a nice support contract that lets you talk to a real support guy about why the TOE feature on the BCMXXXX LoM is corrupting packets under Server2000whatever, the advice is 'reboot, reimage); but if somebody came to them with an order for a suitably large number of standard-configuration boxes, they'd take it, no problem.

        Consider Dell's existing [] "Hardware and Services for OEMs" program. Currently, it's mainly server-based, with offerings for people who make assorted enterprise network appliances, but workstations are also available. Basically, you, the OEM, supply the software and the customer support. Dell fulfills all hardware orders(with Dell designs, dell branded, unbranded, or customized-chassis, depending on volume and how much you pay) and handles all hardware replacements and FRUs. Dell ships more whiteboxes, you get to sell your linux softswitch or firewall appliance, or enterprise search widget, or what have you without developing any hardware supply chain or expertise. Simple enough.

        Certainly neither Dell(nor, for that matter, Valve) would want to get dragged into the morass of 'let's support "linux", everything from antique versions of Redhat to Timmy-tweaker's ub3r Gentoo ricebox!'; but Dell wouldn't blink at shipping and (hardware) supporting the box of your choice if the volume were right, and Valve presumably wouldn't have any problem with saying 'Steam Just Works on Ubuntu Gaming Groundsquirrel LTS: if you can get it working elsewhere that's cool too".

      • Re:Hardware partner (Score:5, Interesting)

        by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @10:16AM (#40776783) Homepage Journal

        Having had to adjust to Vista and Windows 7, I don't feel too bold in saying that switching from Windows to Linux with Gnome 2 or Gnome 3 wouldn't be a stretch for anyone. Windows typically frustrates me, the new Office Ribbon whatever crap is HORRIBLE, etc.

        Really, Windows to Gnome 2 isn't a big deal. With Ubuntu or Fedora, pretty much no problems: everything hardware works out of the box or it will never work. More software works out of the box (more file formats work immediately on Linux than Windows, more stuff is installed, etc). On Ubuntu, you can pull up the Ubuntu Software Center and type in vague things like "Games" or "video editor" and it shows you everything ranked by popularity, and you hit Install and it tells you when it's installed (no questions, it just does it, no installers and next next next and do you want this on C: like in Windows).

        When it comes to going from XP to Vista or Win7, versus from XP to Ubuntu, I'd say going to Gnome 2 will leave little shock. Windows: Start menu. Gnome 2: Applications, right at the top. And on top of that, the menu is organized better, broken down by type (Office, Internet, Games, etc). Gnome 3 or Unity is going to be more iffy; I dare say Gnome 3 fairs better, but as maligned as Unity is (it really is stupid) it's not a far cry off in this case. Gnome 3 you'll eventually accidentally figure out you can tap the top left corner (which is labeled ACTIVITIES anyway, and you can click in that area for the same effect).

        As for a direct comparison between Gnome 3 Gnome-Shell and Ubuntu Unity, the problem with Ubiquity lies in the applications bar on the left vanishing when something overlaps it. Then you have to somehow get into the expanded view or make it pop back up (I haven't figured out how to do the latter). The search box I guess comes up with alt+f2? On Gnome 3 there's a search box right there when you pop up the Activities view, and it takes over the screen if you start to use it.

        Gnome 3 is very adaptive to what the user is doing: if you see something and start to use it, it presents you with better context. The expanded Activities view has all your running windows on your desktop, and also on the right you can shift virtual desktops, and you have applications launchers on the left, notifications from applications along the bottom, an "Applications" button to switch to showing you available apps, and a search box in the top right. If you hit the Applications button, it shows you all applications and a list of categories. If you start using the search box, it replaces whatever view you're in with results of all matching applications.

        Unity just assumes that a well-designed UI is magically intuitive, and then assumes that they've designed a well-designed UI. It starts working out more once you're used to it, though I eventually gave up before getting too comfortable. Unity's biggest failing just might be not advertising any obvious way to get into the Activities view, which leaves the user kind of floundering around trying to switch windows (no taskbar) or find apps that aren't in the default sidebar, not to mention deal with the sidebar vanishing (it won't come back if you push the mouse on the side of the screen--which would cause its own problems too, but less so than the wtf of just vanishing hard).

        All the floundering around with Unity is about how I feel with the transition from XP to Vista or 7. I know how to get to my apps (hit the start menu), everything else in the desktop is alien and has changed a lot. All the configuration settings moved around. I imagine the effect is the same from Win 7 to Gnome Shell ... hell, from Gnome 2 to Gnome Shell I was a little uncomfortable, not as bad as Unity but I felt it. Still, I don't think the transition is as terrible as most people want to believe. If I had to make a statement on it, I'd be inclined to say Unity will send people running and Gnome Shell will prove alluring, just because every victory over the initial alienness

    • by Tsingi ( 870990 )

      If they are serious about this, they need to get Dell or HP to start building gaming oriented linux desktops and notebooks. Linux will never gain traction as long as the users have to actively decide to install it.

      It will be a huge engineering headache requiring the skill to insert a Linux CD rather than a Windows CD.
      They'll certainly never be able to automate it.

  • TFA != TFS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @08:58AM (#40775817) Homepage

    So the summary is implying that several years ago when Linux Steam work began, somehow Valve knew that Windows 8 would be bad even before Microsoft had done much with it beyond initial planning? TFA actually presents a much more balanced picture: Gabe Newell had an interview, and spoke about many things including wearable computers, open platforms, and Linux support. As usual, the Slashdot submitter posted the most inflammatory piece, and the editors like it that way. TFA only even mentions Windows once, in the quote TFS copied!

    • Re:TFA != TFS (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 26, 2012 @09:04AM (#40775897)

      I'm guessing that the Steam on Linux work began as a side project for more-or-less bored Valve employees, who, as I understand it, get significant leeway as to what they spend (part of) their time on. Later, though, when it became apparent that Windows 8 appeared to be a crappy OS, Gabe and other seniors realised that this Steam on Linux thingy might actually be a very very good idea to finish before long. Meaning they allocated more resources (including hiring new people) to the project, and actually, you know, acknowledging its existance.

      • Re:TFA != TFS (Score:5, Informative)

        by LordArgon ( 1683588 ) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @12:04PM (#40778375)

        If you're curious, you can actually read the Valve Employee Handbook at their site: []

        From the handbook and other things I've read, I think nobody at Valve is told what to work on... period. They work on whatever they want / think will be valuable. Valve sets the hiring bar so high that this hasn't been a problem. And, even if it was, they do periodic peer reviews that would expose the truly weak links.

        It's a really, *really* interesting model. Valve, having had the huge success that is Steam, is in the relatively unique position of having loads of cash and operating in an open-ended market that rewards creativity. I sometimes wonder if it could work in more traditional companies / businesses. I imagine it could work at some place like Microsoft or Goole that's flush with cash (if they weren't public companies, that is). I doubt it would work well at a smaller company whose life depends on executing well on a very narrow strategy.

    • BBC journalists managed to do the same thing. []
  • by Kelerei ( 2619511 ) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @08:59AM (#40775837) Homepage

    In my opinion, the biggest hurdle that Valve will face won't be porting Steam itself over to Linux, but porting the library of games over.

    While I don't know what the actual facts and figures are, I think that it's a fairly safe bet that most of the games on there will have been coded around Microsoft's DirectX graphics API, making the games themselves Windows-only. Yes, they can be rewritten to use OpenGL instead, but this would require substantial effort -- Valve would have the resources to do this with their own titles, but some of the other publishers on Steam may be of the opinion that it's not worth the effort.

    This is as close to a perfect example as one can get as to why vendor lock-in is a bad thing. Arguably, the DirectX lock-in is probably why gaming on OS X hasn't really taken off either.

    Still, this move by Valve could well be the snowball that sets off the avalanche...

  • Good Luck, Valve. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by neokushan ( 932374 ) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @09:00AM (#40775841)

    I don't think it's possible to understate how much of a monumental task this is. Not just for Valve, but for everyone with an interest in the Linux world.
    If Valve wants this to succeed, they'll need to do more than just port their games and Steam to the platform. They'll need to really get the likes of AMD and nVidia on board to get better driver support, they'll need to convince the big publishers that it's worth taking the time to port their games and find some way to make WINE and its equivalents run at nearly native speed for the ones that can't be easily ported for whatever reason.
    Then you have to deal with all the old DRM schemes that still exist and throw a fit even on newer versions of Windows, never mind a completely different OS. SecuROM rootkits? Yeah, good luck with that.

    Still, for all the issues, all the potential pitfalls I really do wish Valve the best of luck with this as it can only be a good thing for everyone. Well, everyone except Microsoft maybe.

    • Re:Good Luck, Valve. (Score:4, Informative)

      by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @09:38AM (#40776295)

      1) They are already working directly with Intel to improve their drivers, and they have a history (Windows-side) of working with AMD and nVidia for their drivers.

      2) They quite likely will not use WINE to run non-native games. They didn't do that when they ported to Mac - they ported Steam itself and all the games they themselves had made in the past decade, and made any Steam games that already had Mac ports available on Mac, but that's it. They apparently cannot, or will not, set up any sort of emulation layer (excepting DOSBox, apparently). I know there are rumors of them including WINE in LinSteam, but that's just a rumor. No substance to it yet.

    • They'll need to really get the likes of AMD and nVidia on board to get better driver support

      Already underway. For example, they don't only look for linux game developpers to hire, they are also looking for people with kernel and drivers experience.
      Spend some time on Linux-related news sites like Phoronix.

      They'll need to convince the big publishers that it's worth taking the time to port their games

      The "taking the time" won't be such a huge deal if the game engine can already run on Linux.
      - Valve are porting Source to Linux (and as they already have an OpenGL back-end on their Mac version, it's not that much difficult) (specially since employee have already been fooling with Linux for some t

  • by teg ( 97890 ) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @09:00AM (#40775843) Homepage

    Even if games was a major factor in holding Linux back, just making Steam available is not going to fix that.

    Steam was launched for Mac two years ago [], but other than Valve's own games the only top game that has been made available is Civilization V. Some indie games, sure, and Blizzard's games are available outside Steam, but all the other games are just as absent as they were before Steam was ported.

  • by RudyHartmann ( 1032120 ) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @09:01AM (#40775855)
    I think this is a Microsoft strategy to take control more and become a PC OEM theselves like Apple. I think they're success will be limited. If I were a PC OEM, I would be real concerned by The Surface and Xbox.
  • by Rooked_One ( 591287 ) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @09:04AM (#40775889) Journal
    for the first time, or at all, BECAUSE of games? I know I did. I know that they taught me lots of things - especially even just programming very rudimentary games on the apple deuce in 7th and 8th grade. That gave me a huge appreciation for computers, what they can do, and what a good product looks like. My text based zork type games were very easy to write, however the pixelized boxing game (that I was creating with the wrong process) took many many lines of code and required mass critical thinking.

    And I can relate this to what was supposed to be a huge blockbuster, although I don't know if their programmers are just new, inexperienced, or just don't know what a good game is - or, they were told to dumb it down as the company wanted an incoming stream of income like they had with their graphical chat room (WoW).
  • by azahar31 ( 1492521 ) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @09:04AM (#40775893) Homepage

    I just posted this on my blog...

    Steam on Linux is a strategic move for Valve. They have enjoyed success on the Windows and Mac platforms for years and now they have recently announced that the penguin crowd will get to enjoy the games (no, not the Olymic ones).

    Why am I even bothering to point this out? Windows 8 is lurking, that's why.. and Gabe Newell, the boss at Valve, knows it. Speaking at the recent Casual Connect conference in Seattle, Gabe expressed his concerns and criticisms of Windows 8 and in particularly the new Windows Store.

    Because in order to make the Windows Store a success, Microsoft needs to block the competition, just like Apple does with its App/Mac stores. As Steam is an online store itself for gamers, this is where its going to hurt Valve as potentially, no more Steam on Windows.

    Microsoft could very well only have games that link to its own XBox system. This makes sense as a business and to up-sell to existing Windows customers.

    Gabe Newell worked at Microsoft for 13 years before he started up Valve, and its here where they have recently embraced the penguins as a "hedging strategy" to further gain customers. He is worried that potentially losing the Windows customer base will cause lasting damage to their own customer base. I'm sure he thought that when he said "Windows 8 is a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space."

    Now think about this...

    Steam has an average of 4 million users connected at any given time.
    Windows has an average desktop market share of, say 80%. That's 3 million gamers.
    Now suddenly, Steam is no longer available on Windows, but it is on Linux.

    Will those gamers switch? Or even try?
    Some will move to a console, some to a Mac. But some, lets say a optimistic 30% or 1 million of those start using Linux, just for Steam? That's a lot.

    The Year Of the Linux Desktop? No seriously... stop laughing, it may happen.

  • by MetalliQaZ ( 539913 ) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @09:15AM (#40776013)

    ... is DRIVERS!!! Good luck getting real open source drivers out of Nvidia, ATI/AMD, and Intel for their graphics hardware.

    • Why would Valve care if the drivers are Open Source? They only care if their games run on them.

      • by theweatherelectric ( 2007596 ) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @09:49AM (#40776465)

        Why would Valve care if the drivers are Open Source?

        Because they find them easier to work with. To quote a recent blog post [] by one of Intel's open source GPU driver developers: "The funny thing is Valve guys say the same thing about drivers. There were a couple times where we felt like they were trying to convince us that open source drivers are a good idea. We had to remind them that they were preaching to the choir. :) Their problem with closed drivers (on all platforms) is that it's such a blackbox that they have to play guess-and-check games. There's no way for them to know how changing a particular setting will affect the performance. If performance gets worse, they have no way to know why. If they can see where time is going in the driver, they can make much more educated guesses."

  • Boot-to-Game (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pscottdv ( 676889 ) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @09:24AM (#40776129)

    I have wondered for years why game-makers haven't already started working on writing games for Linux so that they can sell games that boot directly to the game on any system.

    To me it seems so obvious. Now you don't have to worry about which version of what a user has on their computer and the user doesn't need to install the game.

    Why hasn't this already been done?

    • Re:Boot-to-Game (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 26, 2012 @10:14AM (#40776773)

      Because people don't want to close everything to play a game. Convenience is important, even if a game is good, if it's inconvenient people won't play. Especially now people like to listen to mp3s and chat etc. while playing.

  • by obarthelemy ( 160321 ) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @09:25AM (#40776141)

    Steam is an appstore, Windows 8 too.

    Yep, it's a catastrophe. For Steam.

    • by ledow ( 319597 ) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @09:31AM (#40776203) Homepage

      Not really. Games For Windows Live is already really an appstore for PC games. It's universally berated as a heap of junk. Origin is an appstore for PC games. It's universally berated as a heap of junk.

      Steam have the best appstore at the moment. Sure, MS focusing on them could really hurt them but *killing* them without costing more than it would take just to buy them out is probably not easy at all, even for MS. For a start, I have several thousand dollars invested in my Steam account and have been using it for nearly 9 years now. That's a HELL of a legacy to just abandon, just switch over to a Windows appstore for.

      Most existing Steam users will still want to keep their paid-for Steam accounts on Windows 8. Thus Windows 8 appstore is hardly a threat to Steam, really. But Steam is certainly a threat to the Windows appstore, especially if every Steam user on Windows 8 ends up installing Steam anyway - and that could bring trouble.

      Hence, I think, why this "get the community on your side" effort is likely to be quite successful for Valve/Steam. If nothing else, you then bring in the Linux crowd as an extra weapon to ensure your own survival. I think it's a pre-emptive levelling of the playing field to ensure they don't become an easy target for MS, personally.

    • by mauriceh ( 3721 ) <`maurice' `at' `'> on Thursday July 26, 2012 @10:02AM (#40776631) Homepage

      This has been the typical "disaster" that has been suffered by EVERY company who have built a successful business model based on Windows:
      If it is profitable, then sooner, rather than later M$ WILL steal your business.
      Ask Lotus, Borland, Word Perfect, Netscape, Corel, and so on how it felt.

      Unfortunately I see little different with the case in Win8 than in any of the predecessors.
      Steam are screwed.

      • by TellarHK ( 159748 ) <tellarhk AT hotmail DOT com> on Thursday July 26, 2012 @01:45PM (#40780251) Homepage Journal

        Not necessarily. Steam isn't just an application you use to buy games, it's a whole platform you use to buy, play, and message in games. If you buy a game in Steam, it's hooked into Steam's DRM forever unless you break it out. This might -sound- like a bad thing, but in this particular case it's probably one of the best things Valve could use as leverage to fight being locked out of any newer versions of Windows. Microsoft, as stupid a company as they can be, aren't going to want to wind up under the threat of the lawsuits and pure hatred that would come from millions of gamers suddenly unable to use the dozens or hundreds of paid-for games that they already have attached to Steam. This isn't the case of an isolated application being supplanted, this is an entire application store and platform with billions of dollars invested in it.

        There are a lot of issues people can have with Steam (particularly here on Slashdot where closed source and DRM are considered unnecessary evils by a significant percentage of the readership) but for people who get games using the platform, it's incredibly convenient and tends to be more hassle-free than buying physical media. Valve managed to get it right, where nobody else was even trying.

  • by Rambo Tribble ( 1273454 ) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @10:00AM (#40776615) Homepage
    If you're successful in marketing a software product built on a proprietary platform, you can expect the proprietor of that platform to attempt a takeover of your market, at some point. If you build on an open platform and are successful, you'll quite possibly have competition sooner, but it will likely be fair competition.
  • by AdmV0rl0n ( 98366 ) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @10:03AM (#40776649) Homepage Journal

    The problems with this idea seem to outmatch the idea. (Not that I'm against it.)

    1. API's. Linux is a sea of APIs and they shift like the wind. In the area of drivers, kernel, gfx api's, - its frankly not something I expect Steam to navigate easily.
    In windows a lot of development was based on OpenGL, DirectX. OpenGL is certainly doable in Linux, but good luck in having it work in an expectable way - I say that given Intel, ATI, Nvidia drivers..

    2. I think it can only happen if someone like steam and perhaps its partners build and define and work with OpenGL, and a directX alike environment. And early on I think to even think about making this work, it would probably need to be a platform idea where steam get hardware makers to make a box that has some fundamental hardware they and their user base would not have to fight. A steambox? Sure. And others could make their hardware 'steambox' ready by supplying hardware that fitted this working model. An early stab would seem to me to require Nvidia - as I think their closed source drivers are the only drivers *today* that would be viable.

    3. Other areas like sound and multimedia are just as messy in Linux. Don't see any other way than Steam and partners getting involved in some way to keep some stuff defined.

    4. Seems like a good basis to campaign for an open game/source standard.

    • Re:Hrmm (Score:4, Informative)

      by Ash-Fox ( 726320 ) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @11:35AM (#40777921) Journal

      1. API's. Linux is a sea of APIs and they shift like the wind. In the area of drivers, kernel

      Sure, the ABIs aren't stable (that kernel modules use), but the kernel APIs that usermode applications use generally are - To the point that you can run ancient compilations of Linux applications still on modern kernels.

      gfx api's

      Eh? Which graphical APIs? OpenGL? Those don't really change outside of supported extensions provided by drivers (usually proprietary) which is usually close to their Windows versions.

      Other areas like sound and multimedia are just as messy in Linux. Don't see any other way than Steam and partners getting involved in some way to keep some stuff defined.

      Not really that messy, getting an OpenGL context is pretty identical to Windows and doesn't require extra effort.

      Code portability for OpenGL on Windows and Linux isn't hard (although OS X is a whole other story) and there isn't really any more gotchas when using the proprietary drivers on Linux than there are Windows, which is what the games require on Windows too (since they generally refuse to work with drivers provided by Windows out of the box or perform extremely poorly, just the same).

      Sound wise, ALSA is pretty much the standard for sound, it's not much harder to write applications that handle the sound system just as well as any regular Windows APIs.

      Disclaimer: I develop an intensive OpenGL application [] that runs on multiple platforms and my Linux binaries are built to run on multiple distributions.

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