Big-time gaming coming to Linux

Big-time gaming coming to Linux

Summary: It used to be that the Linux desktop’s one real adoption problem was that it had comparatively few games. Now, with the Steam for Linux beta release, that's changing.

Steam-based gaming is well on its way to Linux.

 As wonderful as it is to use Linux on a desktop PC, gaming on Linux has been one of its weakest points. Yes, there are many Linux games but nowhere near as many as on Windows. That's changing. Valve, creator of the popular Steam game engine, has released its Steam for Linux Beta client.

Avid gamers have heard of Valve. It’s the publisher of such favorite games as Grand Theft Auto, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.

Today, the company said it had launched a limited access beta for its new Steam for Linux client. It also includes Big Picture, the beta mode of Steam, designed for use with a TV and controller

The Steam for Linux Beta client supports the free-to-play game Team Fortress 2. Over two dozen other Steam games are also now available for play on Linux

“This is a huge milestone in the development of PC gaming,” said Gabe Newell, Valve president and co-founder in a statement. “Steam users have been asking us to support gaming on Linux. We’re happy to bring rich forms of entertainment and our community of users to this open, customer-friendly platform.”

The Steam for Linux Beta client is currently available for installation only on Ubuntu 12.04. “An overwhelming majority of beta applicants have reported they’re running the Ubuntu distro of Linux,” said Frank Crockett, a member of the Steam for Linux team in the same statement, “We intend to support additional popular distros in the future; we’ll prioritize development for these based on user feedback.”

Alas, it's a closed beta for now. Don’t get your hopes up: The first round of beta participants has already been selected, out of the 60,000 responses to its initial request for participants.

However. the Steam for Linux Beta client will become available to a widening group of users over the course of the testing and release cycle. Subsequent participants will be chosen from among survey respondents. Once the beta is more stable and its performance has improved, the company says, Valve will make the Steam for Linux client available to all Steam users.

Why is Steam doing this? I mean, after all, Linux, not counting all the Android games like Angry Birds, probably has less than 1% of the gaming market. The answer isn’t necessarily a heartfelt belief that the Linux desktop is going to take over. It’s because of Windows 8. Newell thinks, "Windows 8 is a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space" and he wants to hedge his gaming system platform bets.

He's not the only one who sees Windows 8 as being a black hole for computer games. NVIDIA has partnered with Valve to deliver new GeForce graphic drivers. NVIDIA, which has often been harshly criticized for its lack of Linux support, claims that these new drivers will bring double the performance and will dramatically reduce game loading times. The company claims that these new R310 drivers have been thoroughly tested with Steam for Linux.

The R310 drivers support both the GeForce GTX 600 series GPUs (graphics processing units)), and earlier generations’ GeForce GPUs, such as the 8800 GT and above. Drivers are available for both 32-bit and 64-bit Linux systems.

Games may not seem like a business issue. But, as we all know, game support historically has helped popularize systems, encourage hardware innovation, and driven system performance, and thus made an impact in enterprise computing.Most recently, GPUs initially designed for gaming systems have seen new adoption in servers and in security.  With both a major gaming and graphics company throwing support behind desktop Linux, and Windows 8's lack of luster for business, Linux may yet get another shot not just at the gaming market but at the office desktop as well.

That's for the future, for today If you just want to play games and find out more about Steam for Linux, head over to the new Steam for Linux Community Hub.

Related Stories:

Topics: Linux, Operating Systems, Ubuntu, PCs, Windows

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Everything will have to become platform-independent

    • But...

      What the heck are we going to argue over then?
      • There will be lots to argue about

        FOSS vs. proprietary software, for one.

        Amongst FOSS software, licensing (e.g., GPL vs. BSD vs. Apache 2.0) for another.

        Mobile apps vs. desktop applications vs. web-based apps, for yet another.

        Desktop environments. Should a user be able to choose a DE? Or should the OS dictate the DE? And where choice exists, which DE is best?

        Web browsers. Which web browser is the best? Psst! Don't look for IE on any platform other than Windows soon. Also, web browser lockout. Want Firefox on iOS? Tough.

        Finally, be careful of falling into the trap of believing that the only OSs are Windows, OS X/iOS and various Linux-based OSs. FYI, there's the BSDs: FreeBSD, PC-BSD, OpenBSD, NetBSD and Debian GNU/kFreeBSD to name the major ones. Just because Steven never writes about BSD doesn't mean that it doesn't exist.
        Rabid Howler Monkey
  • Big-time gaming coming to Linux

    Oh boy, we can relive the days of 2d and 8-bit goodness because gaming is coming to linux! It doesn't support 3D so that's out of the question. We'll have to see if they resolved the sound skipping issue otherwise you are in for a very painful experience. Steam is going to lose out on this deal and aren't going to grab nearly the market share they think they are. Can't wait to read about their linux division being cut.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • -

      01001010 01110101 01110011 01110100 00100000 01100111 01101111 00100000 01100001 01110111 01100001 01111001
      • Agree

        The farther the better
    • Umm

      Linux does support 3D.
    • Why?

      First are so very very wrong about sound and 3d.....

      Second, it's like you want Linux to fail....I dont get it, are you financially invested in Microsoft's success or something? If you aren't, what harm does it do to you to have more options, and more competition for the big contenders out there? It's not like they are short on money, and if anything it will just make them try harder.

      Regardless, in no way (unless you belong to Microsft and are a scared little puppy) does the failure of Linux help you in any way, and in fact actually hurts you in many respects

      But I call Troll
      Britt Yazel
      • It is a well known fact

        Lovekok Gaayvidson IS a troll, 'it' has been creeping around ZDnet for years, I have even speculated 'it' is on ZDnets payroll to inflame, incite and aggravate. Or possibly, 'it' is on Microslop's payroll, can you imagine the job title? Web FUD Manager, lol. ;-)
      • I'll answer you...

        Fanboys doesn't use their brains, they have no brains actually ;)
        Patryk Poblocki
    • Talking about lack of 3D.

      Have you seen Windows 8? I would say its interface is flat as a pancake, but that would be insulting to pancakes, because even the thinest pancake has a shadow.

      Of course Linux has no problems doing 3D or sound. In fact, as Valve's testing proved, Linux does 3D better than Windows.
    • when was the last time you tried linux?

      um my system runs games fine yes even in 3d really. here try it out
    • Sorry no love on this one.

      I think it is very easy to see many dedicated devices running Linux and Steam. A very easy alternative gaming platform.

      It is not only a smart decision to pursue Steam on Linux I am sure it was an easy decision.

      I think going forward it is PC support that will be the issue.
      Richard Garrick
  • Already proven that Linux "is a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space"

    so I guess he's trading a known failure for a very very very unlikely one. As for nvidia, beware focused testing of graphics drivers. "thoroughly tested with Steam" means as likely as ever to fail with everything else. This doesnt mean big time gaming for linux as muhc as it means smaller time gaming for valve as every second they spend on this is another second a competitor targeting W8 eats another bite of their lunch. W8 units sold will probably pass in a month linux desktop/laptop for all time.
    Johnny Vegas
    • This doesnt mean big time gaming for linux

      Valve is nearly here on Linux, NVIDIA's latest GeForce drivers doubles the performance and dramatically reduces game loading times on Linux, all you windows fanboys must be very worried, you'll be running out of things to complain about soon, you'll have to resort to spreading lies and misinformation, oh wait... you guys already do.
    • Where's the proof?

      That Linux is a "catastrophe for everyone in the PC space"
      Google, Redhat, Facebook are failures? I must have missed a lot news.

      Oh wait, I see, you're trolling. No facts, lots of FUD.
  • Big-time gaming coming to Linux

    Kudos to Steam Team, great job.

  • About time Linux got some gaming love... but why the MS hate?

    This is great for Linux users if it works out, but why is Windows 8 a catastrophe? Is MS somehow forcing people to use it over their other OS offerings? Is there something with Windows 8 that is a problem for running games? Serious question because I plan on buying a Surface Pro and playing Diablo 3 and all my favorite RTS games on it, which all play fine on my 2000 Pentium 4 3ghz (original P4) so I can't see why it wouldn't play on an i5 with a better video card than my current desktop.
    • I have had windows 8 installed for a while.

      All my old games work fine. I can also tell you first hand that Diablo 3 works just like it does on windows 7.
      Sam Wagner
    • Let me explain

      >but why is Windows 8 a catastrophe?

      The biggest reasons? 1) Copy and pasting a mobile interface onto a desktop for the express purpose of forcing people against their will to learn the Metro interface so that when they go into a store to buy a new phone or tablet they'll choose Windows Mobile because they already know the interface and hopefully will be too lazy to learn anything else. 2) Locking Metro apps into the "Microsoft Store" and taking a cut of every sale, along with dictating what can and can't be sold in the store, thus dictating what software users can and can't run on their PCs. Developers are being pushed off a gangplank to develop for Metro (all new features are/will be in the new WinRT (Metro)library, etc.) so this is a move to Microsoft locking down a desktop the way Apple locks down their handsets. That's inimical to general purpose computing.

      One example off the top of my head of the fallout: Embarcadero's Delphi RAD programming tools (formerly produced by Borland). From what I understand, Metro apps need to access certain libraries that for "security reasons" MS is only allowing the Visual C++ (and .net?) runtimes to access. A program compiled with Delphi obviously doesn't use the Visual C++ runtime. That means Delphi-compiled programs at this time can't access WinRT or the Metro interface! (Embarcadero has been unable to resolve this with MS as of the release of their latest compiler and Windows 8). Embarcadero made their own library that mimics the look and feel of Metro (with the interesting result that you can run faux-Metro apps on Windows 7) but since compiled programs aren't actually using WinRT they can't be sold through the Metro store. End result: anyone using Delphi (or probably any non-MS development tools) is being locked out of the Metro store, which is the only way users can install Metro apps on their PCs! It's a ridiculous situation and just one example of how this new draconian plan by Microsoft is screwing developers and end-users over in a way even control freak Jobs never dared to try on OS X.

      Now, if you're Valve, making most of your money via distributing software, wouldn't you describe users being locked into Microsoft's own store "a catastrophe"? Games that want to use the latest WinRT features are going to have to use MS' store to distribute their products and users are going to have to use it too, even if they like Steam or some other distribution mechanism better. On top of that, one of MS' requirements for selling though the store is that applications need to start in 2 seconds or less! Can you think of any complex game capable of doing that? No? Then we're also going to see the shift toward more smartphone-like "casual" gaming. MS sells the OS... it should not be dictating content, content design, or distribution mechanisms for third party software. This is a catastrophe.

      > Is MS somehow forcing people to use it over their other OS offerings?

      You might need to Google "Microsoft antitrust case" as I assume you're too young to remember the 1990s. Also, "Microsoft monopoly" would be another useful search term.

      >Is there something with Windows 8 that is a problem for running games?

      See above. Windows 8 is more like a locked-down handset than a new OS. It's not an issue with technical specs regarding what it can run, it's that Microsoft has crossed over into a scary new world where they're deciding what you'll be allowed to run and how you'll be allowed to purchase it. Many years ago Steve Ballmer once snapped in an interview that if they wanted to, Microsoft could make it so that only their software ran on their OS. They weren't going to, but they could. All these years later he's now running the company and it looks like he's finally decided that's a doable goal.