Valve CEO: Why Linux is the future of gaming

Valve CEO: Why Linux is the future of gaming

Summary: Gabe Newell, CEO of Valve declared that proprietary software and closed platforms are gaming's past, its future is open and on Linux.


New Orleans: If you've heard it once, you've heard it a million times: The reason why desktop Linux hasn't made it is because of its lack of games. Thanks to Gabe Newell, CEO of Valve and its Steam game platform, that's not true anymore.

Left 4 Dear Linux Gaming
Linux gaming is ready to rumble and Valve expects it to win.

As a keynote speaker at the Linux Foundation's 2013 North American Linuxcon, Newell explained that the old proprietary ways are no longer working for gaming companies. In no small part, that's because the economics of games are changing. Newell said, "Games are becoming nodes in a linked economy where the majority of digital goods and services are user generated, rather than created by companies."

In fact, Newell said that the Team Fortress Community is already creating 10 times the content of Valve's Team Fortress developers. Newell has no doubt that in head-to-head competition, Valve could take on any of the other gaming companies. But there's no way that it can beat the content of its community and companies that don't realize it's the gamers, and not the developers, who are calling the shots.

While Newell wouldn't go so far as to repeat his claim from last year that "Windows 8 is a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space," he made it clear that he thought he disapproved of the current direction of the PC platform.

"How to be polite ... we think that has been some bad thinking. Platforms are becoming more controlled, the software developer market is controlled, the content is controlled, and [so is] the pricing." He believes that Microsoft and the PC vendors think that this is the right way, but they're wrong. "They should have leveraged the strength of open systems, rather than going to proprietary platforms."

As a consequence, "We have had significant year-over-year declines in PC units". And, "PC vendors and software programs have a deer-in-the-headlight look in their eyes." While PC sales decline, gaming sales have continued to increase, and Steam itself has seen a 76 percent year to date gain in usage.

At the same time, "The Linux desktop is painfully small for the gaming market. It's insignificant by pretty much any metrics — players, players minutes, revenue — it's typically less than 1 percent." So, if gaming continues to do well, despite Mac and Windows overall declining sales, why did Valve decide to go with Linux? Because Newell has seen the future and it's open.

Newell pointed out Valve has actually been using Linux since 1999. "We use several hundred thousand game servers and use it internally as well for game servers. Internally, we have 20TB of content, we go a year between reboots, and we delivered over an exabyte of data on the internet in the year to date, which comes to 2 to 3 percent of the world's internet." He added, "In all game companies, you'll find more reliance on and higher percentages of Linux usage."

"Linux is the future of gaming for gamers on the client as well, because, besides Microsoft moving to a more locked-in style of computing, "Open systems were advancing much faster. The old console guys are not competitive, and there's huge tension in proprietary systems." For example, Newell said, "It took us six months to get one update through the Apple store. Closed systems are at odds with the evolution of gaming."

So, Valve has been bringing its Steam games to Linux. There are now 198 Steam games running on Linux. The issues of bringing the games to Linux have been solved.

The next step, from where Newell sits, isn't so much bringing games to Linux, but rather working on the hardware side to create a living room gaming device based on Linux. This device, which we'll find out more about next week, is designed to span the gap from the desktop to the living room TV.

In Valve's future, players will run their games on Linux systems. They may not know they are running Linux — any more than nine out of 10 Android users know they're running Linux — but it will be Linux under the hood. These devices, whether PCs, tablets, or dedicated game consoles, will all play the same while running the same Steam-based games on top of Linux.

Related stories:

Topics: Hardware, Linux, Software Development

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  • Valve CEO real words...:

    "Because with Windows 8 Microsoft is stepping in my foot with their integrated Xbox Games Store." translated it for you. ;)
    • Exactly, Steam is garbage

      When I play games on PC I wanna hack them whatever ways I want so I do not want that Steam garbage to get in the way updating stuff I do not authorize.
      • Open-Source is the future of everything

        PC sales are steeply declining year on year. It's on a downward slope from now on.

        Two factors here: At some point, development of Windows will slow down as revenue decreases. The other point, mentioned in the article, is that Microsoft is trying to copy Apple by making Windows more of a walled garden. A lot of people want something else.

        We haven't seen the full extent of Valve's plan. That gets revealed next week when this new Linux gaming device is released.

        I see a strong future for open-source in general. The world is moving to 2 platforms, Android and iOS, which will eventually be upscaled to take on PC roles. The only way to compete against 2 existing entrenched platforms is to be more open than they are. People like openness.
        • >Revenue

          If you're talking revenue, it isn't coming to OSS. It's not impossible to make money with OSS, that's not what I'm saying.

          I'm saying closed source makes more money.

          People still make tons of money from Windows, and they likely will into the future. Because even a slowing PC market sells approximately 300 million per year.
          Michael Alan Goff
          • great

            great. surely this console will compete directly with Play 4 and XBone
            Henrique Dourado
          • Re: I'm saying closed source makes more money.

            This is simply not true. Not without some context.

            When you add the context, it may turn out either way.
          • Hmmm ... Xbox games retail for about $60 (and the new Xbox One ...

            ... will have DRM - which kills off the "after market" for used games) but my son regularly buys Steam games on sale for as little as $5.00.

            It is clear that OSS games cost less money. Whether Vavle makes more money (through higher volumes) or not is a different question but Xbox is still the number one console so I wouldn't bet against Microsoft.
            M Wagner
          • Xbox DRM?

            I thought Microsoft did a U-turn on the DRM for used games.
            Andrej Petelin
          • They did.

            Unfortunately, taking all the future facing features away in the process. Stupid internet.
          • Point at any context

            When it comes to selling software? iOS is king of the mobile profit realm. All other app stores bow at its feet. And that, my friends, is closed source. Yes, yes, it uses some OSS components. But iOS itself is closed source.

            Then we have the desktop where Microsoft is making all the money.

            Heck, Valve even makes a ton of money through their product being on a closed source OS.

            Also, M Wagner... they've reversed the idea of not being able to play used games.
            Michael Alan Goff
          • The fact that nearly all Linux-based OSS software ...

            ... also has a Windows port available - for free speaks volumes.
            M Wagner
          • nearly all Linux-based OSS software also has a Windows port available

            M Wagner is right. Linux and OSS software having free ports to Windows does speak volumes. It shows exactly what the difference is between Open Source developers and lemmings who develop for proprietary systems like Windows and Mac. Open Source developers write software because they can. They create something from nothing. They attack a problem and come up with a solution, and are willing to share that solution with anyone who wants or needs it. By the way, that is how both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates started out. Then they got greedy. They now lock down their code, keeping it secret so that nobody can see what they did. They patent things that have existed for thirty years and strong-arm people who violate those patents. You want proof? Do a Google search on 'file system mounting patent' and see what comes up. Microsoft patented the mechanism, and according to their patent, UNIX, BeOS, GEOS, Linux, MacOS, and mainframes all violate this patent - and most of them existed long before the date on the patent filing (2000 by the way). I am not saying Microsoft has not created anything new. Look at Word (stolen from Word Perfect) or Excel (Visicalc and Lotus) or SQL Server (Sybase) or MS-DOS (CP/M) oh, wait... They HAVEN'T created anything new. No, the reason people port programs from Linux to Windows is simple. Windows lacks the proper functionality to do what users need to do. Open Source apps give that functionality to a seriously deficient operating system. Look, then, how many Windows apps have been ported to (or forced to run through WINE on) Linux. Also look at what has been brought over. You won't see Internet Explorer on Linux, because we already have Firefox and Chrome. You won't see SQL Server because we have already had MySQL, PostgreSQL, and a native Oracle port. You won't see Visual Studios because Microsoft enjoined Novell and forced them to stop working on Mono. You won't find a (working) Silverlight because Microsoft can't force their proprietary DRM code into the Linux kernel (not to say that a limited form of DRM is not a good thing, but some companies take it too far).

            So STEAM is not that great. Big deal. At least SOMEONE is trying. Instead of bashing their games for quality, help them to improve it - if you are capable of programming. Otherwise, stop criticizing others for doing something you are not able to do.
            Garry Hurley Jr
          • Woah, wall of text

            And some of it is even accurate! :D

            @M Wagner: To me, it says the people want their software to be used by a larger crowd.
            Michael Alan Goff
          • MS wrote Excel

            But they bought Word off someone else.
          • no they didn't

            they stole guy who wrote quatro pro
        • I'm going to challenge your main assumption...

          It's common belief that PC sales are 'steeply declining' but in fact, that's not actually true.

          Consider this chart:

          What's actually happened is that laptops took over from desktops - but even then, desktop sales *flattened*, they've declined only a little and most of that seems to have come from the transition from desktop to laptop, not desktop to tablet.

          When you lump desktops and laptops together (as 'Intel CPU running Windows or MacOS'), then PC sales are still growing, quite well actually.

          In fact, given the massive growth of tablets in such a short time (relatively) - if the argument that tablets were eating PC sales were true - you'd see a massive drop in PC sales - which isn't happening.

          The reality is that tablets mostly represent an entirely different market and people are buying both tablets and PCs - although the shift is away from pure desktop systems to laptops. It's *netbooks* that got wiped out and their sales numbers show it - just a few years ago netbooks were all the rage and were crowding out desktops and laptops.. now they're essentially extinct.

          Tablets are also carving out a new market - people who want a 'simple, task based' computing device - which is one the classic PC could never sell into. That's not lost market - it's a different market.

          So, let's get over this silly 'Post-PC' rubbish until we're actually there - if we ever get there.
          • Re: It's common belief that PC sales are 'steeply declining' but in fact, t

            Tell that to HP and Dell.
          • Awwww did the lunch time crowd

            at McDonalds make you work overtime today?
          • HP, Dell, and Lenovo are the top three sellers of PCs worldwide

            They are not exactly going broke.

            HP has lots of internal conflict and suffers from a lack of direction despite their ranking in the top 3 and they are overly dependent upon their resellers (who cut into their profit).

            Dell has suffered from corporate changes in their hardware lifecycles (from three years back to five - to please their accountants).

            Lenovo is stealing the thunder of both HP & Dell with well-made devices made by cheap Chinese labor.

            Still, none of these companies are suffering too much.

            Dell is
            M Wagner
          • Direct salesforces are not free

            Resellers do not "cut into profit." They are a substitute for a direct sales force in vertical markets that are too small to interest the likes of HP or IBM.

            At an Exxon shareholders' meeting, a shareholder once asked the CEO why Exxon didn't just buy all the Exxon gas stations, instead of franchising small businessmen to own and operate them. The CEO asked the shareholder if he knew where Exxon could hire someone to run a gas station who would work 10 hours a day, seven days a week, never steal from the business, and do it all for $40,000/year.
            Robert Hahn