Valve made waves not all that long ago when it announced that it would be bringing its supremely popular game distribution client, Steam, to the Apple side of the aisle. The company took the opportunity to re-engineer the software around the open-source webkit platform, moving away from Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.
That shift paved the way for an announcement made yesterday, which is that Valve is bringing the Steam client to Linux. Specifically, to Ubuntu, with guaranteed compatibility with Ubuntu’s 12.04 release (the version numbers indicate an Ubuntu platform release date – so this was released in April of 2012).
The blog post notes that founder and head honcho Gabe Newell has been curious as to the feasibility of running Steam and their Source games on Linux for a while. Valve employs Linux in the running of both internal and external servers, and the open-source nature of the OS seems a good fit for the egalitarian way in which Valve is run.
So far, both the Steam client and game overlay as well as the popular title Left 4 Dead 2 (L4D2) have been ported over to run under Ubuntu.
The current priority facing the Steam Linux team is getting things to work just as well under Linux as they do under Windows – right now, performance for Source games like L4D2 isn’t quite up to snuff. It’ll come in due time of course, should Valve find working on a Linux arm a worthwhile goal.
If things pan out, Valve will expand the compatible list of titles, and work with game developers to make Linux versions of their games available, or at least to help rein in all the games (ha) that are currently available on Linux; the company mentioned that they’ll look into supporting other distributions in the future, if this effort attracts sufficient followers.
Unmentioned, but worth considering, is the long-term goal of Valve’s work on Linux. While rumors of a Steam box have largely died down for the moment, it’s well known that Gabe Newell and his team are looking hard at the value proposition behind a Valve console. Having an estabilished Linux-compatible codebase and series of games would lay the ground work for such an effort in the future.