In case you haven’t heard, Valve Corporation has released nearly
everything about the Steam Box but the box itself. We now know that the Steam Box is a
Linux-powered gaming console to run Steam games, and it even has its own Steam Controller. Furthermore, the Steam OS
will be available to use on a desktop PC to turn your living room into a
My how things have changed.
Just a few short years ago, I would have insisted that Canonical and Ubuntu would push Linux to household-name status. I also stood firm that gamers weren’t average users, nor would they drive Linux
into the hearts and minds of the masses.
It seems that I may have been wrong, and I have never been too
big to admit my mistakes.
What I overlooked was simple. Gamers are one of those
select few groups still willing to shell out their hard-earned coin for
software. They wait with bated breath for the latest release of a title and — when it arrives — they buy, buy, buy.
Steam knows this. Steam also knows that Linux is a perfect
platform to hitch their wagon to. It’s cheap to use, can be bent and twisted
to fit their needs, and it isn’t Windows 8. To that end, Steam is banking fairly heavily on getting their
Steam Boxes into the homes of gamers across the globe. Their goal is to create
the perfect gaming environment for the big screen. Hence the Steam Box and the SteamOS. Anyone who enjoys Steam should
be excited about this, and anyone who enjoys and supports Linux should be
The SteamOS and Steam Client will be able to:
- Stream your Windows and Mac games
- Stream music, TV, and movies
- Share games
- Offer family controls
And of course, the Steam Box will focus on playing all the
games you want. But wait.. it’s more than that. Imagine, if you will, an open
gaming console that allows you to install your own software, change the
hardware, run another OS, and more! That’s what the Steam Box is all
about — and only Linux can make this all possible.
From my perspective, this is only the tip of what
should prove to be a very large and exciting iceberg. Why? The gaming industry
has always helped push technology forward. When the Steam Box is released
(sometime in the beginning of 2014), other companies will see how well
Valve has managed to leverage the Linux OS. Those companies will immediately
want to hop onto what could possibly be a very lucrative bandwagon.
Of course, this all depends on a lot of very large
factors. One of the biggest is if Valve can manage to get OpenGL to perform better than DirectX.
Valve has already released documentation claiming that Left 4 Dead 2 is faster
on Linux/OpenGL than Windows/DirectX. However, on that front, Valve doesn’t
have to get Linux to perform faster than Windows. If the
performance is comparable, the reliability and flexibility offered up by Linux
will be enough to push Linux into the limelight as a gaming platform.
The next big issue is that of video support. Linux has long
lagged behind Windows in video support. Both AMD and Nvidia have had
plenty of problems getting their proprietary drivers to work well on Linux.
The Steam Box could really give Linux a push forward into the land of
support from all the major video players. This would certainly trickle down to
the Linux desktop, which is something that it has sorely needed for a very long time.
Should the Steam Box be met with open arms (and wallets) by
the public, this could easily translate into the land of DVRs and more. Imagine
having a DVR to replace that horrible Motorola box given to you by Time Warner
Cable — one that you could actually work with (and even modify to meet your
needs). That would be a huge boon to not only Linux, but to the masses.
What most people don’t realize is how much their day-to-day
lives could benefit from the use of Linux. That veil of ignorance could soon be
lifted, thanks to Valve and the Steam Box. Other attempts to push Linux
forward have failed. While Canonical has done an admirable job, it’s frequently
come up short (where are those Linux-based tablets?). Sure, Android has wowed much of
the world with a Linux-based mobile platform, but now it’s time for a company like
Valve to up the stakes and get Linux into the living rooms of the world. Once
that’s accomplished, the keys to the kingdom will be handed over
to herald a new age of Linux for the masses.