Open Ballot: A head of Steam, or just a fizzle?


2013 may go down in history as the year gaming came to Linux. It feels like there's news of a new release every week, and they only seems to be comming faster. On the Steam platform alone, there's almost 200 games for Linux users to download.

Valve have just announced SteamOS, a Linux Distro built for gaming in the living room. This, Valve CEO Gabe Newel believes will herald a new era for gaming under Linux. But the gaming market is a tough one to crack. With a brace of major consoles due out soon, it'll be difficult for SteamOS gain traction.

Our question this fortnight is, Will SteamOS become a major gaming platform?

Is it the best thing since sliced bread*?

Do you think that it'll fizzle under pressure from Microsoft?

Or do you not care about such closed source nonsense? You apt-get, yum, emerge or pacman all the open-source gaming goodness you need.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments and we'll read them out on our upcoming podcast (which has been delayed until Friday)

* Ben Says: Actually, I hate sliced bread with a passion. Unsliced loaves are so much tastier and, seriously, how hard is cutting a fresh slice?

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Your comments

steamos thingybob

I dont see why it should be a success unless they start
dropping support for major steam client features on
different distros, or they create some incredible
gui front end.

this is probably just there software solution for their
hardware box which i believe is where the real marketting
power comes in.

...anyway steamOS sounds like something that runs a shower.

Support! Support! Support!

I think this will be a huge win for gaming on Linux. Not just because we'll be getting even more games through Steam, but with everything that Valve has been doing with video card manufactures to update drivers it should help with all games. I look forward to finally be able to cut the MS cord... and tell my PC gaming, Linux hating coworkers to suck it.

The power of the steam engine.

I think one thing that people often overlook in the debate about Steam on Linux is weather or not steam has the market power to make the big game developers turn out Linux products instead of windows products. Sure all the indie developers love steam, and happily support Linux, and some big titles do hit steam, but it is still very very few. No matter what steam does, if the big titles doesn't hit steam, no matter how good or bad steamOS and the steambox is, it won't be a replacement for avid gamers.

Why wouldn't it?

Saying steam OS wont succeed is like saying I wont have breakfast today, or British people wont have their daily beer!

A Slice of Life

I think SteamOS is a good thing, but I'm not really a gamer, so I'm going to address the other issue of sliced bread.

If Ben states he that hates sliced bread, but then later, in the same sentence, remarks that unsliced loaves are better because he can freshly cut a slice, does not the fresh slice merely represent "sliced bread", and furthermore, isn't sliced bread fresh when it is sliced? Perhaps he is referring to "pre-sliced" bread as opposed to "self-sliced"? For my money, I prefer chunks of bread, either cut from a bigger uncut loaf, or depending on how mancho I'm feeling, TORN from the loaf. Yeah, now that's a meal!

If [games exist ?]=true then success; else fail

It does't matter if SteamOS is good or bad. The magic formula is: If [games exist ?]=true then success; else fail

It is the same formula as with other OS. Apps=success.
See windows phone: Are IOS and Android a "million miles" better than Windows Phone that justifies the diferences in market share ? I don't think so. the diference is in the apps available.
Now replace Windows Phone by Nokia/Blackberry and the story is the same.

However I could see SteamOS in the same way as Android, that is, SteamOS available to everyone and some manufactures ofering hardware with SteamOS preinstalled.

Provided there are games available it would be a win-win solution: Steam woild sell more games, manufacturers would sell more hardware, consumers would have more (and less expensive) choices.

Will it be good for Linux ?
Is Android good for Linux ?
I don't know.

Disclaimer: I am not a gamer
Sorry for the bad English (not na native speaker)

Steamy Windows

SteamOS seems to have some nice features, but no matter what they add in your average PC Gamer has a good gaming PC to game on already. Why would they have another bit of kit in their living room to play all those same games on.

For existing Linux users, I'm sure there will be some adoption of an extra box that you can just bung SteamOS on as your gaming machine. But a widespread living room revolution?
I doubt it

My big hope here is that

My big hope here is that they're basing it so closely on another big distro that anything written to run on SteamOS will inescapably be compatible with other Linux systems.

If this is the case, I can finally say with conviction that I'm never buying another copy of Windows.

how hard is cutting a fresh slice?

Having had a breadmaker for over a year now, I've discovered that cutting very fresh slices (i.e. hot out of the oven) is almost impossible - the bread is very soft and squidgy, and like wibbly wobbly jelly to even the sharpest knife. Consequently the slices are uneven, thick and usually in bits. In a word...D'oh!

However, leaving the loaf to cool for a good few hours does the trick - the break dries out and becomes nice and crisp to cut, and you can manage very thin slices easily...much butter, if you ask me!

steam on arch

For me (I have steam installed on my arch) steam in linux is a good thing. Valve has concentrated their efforts in ubuntu but still, steam works flwalessly on my archlinux(thanks to the people from arch who took the time to make it so). The problem remains in the graphics drivers, in games that where ported to linux instead of being made with linux in mind and in the lower market share linux based OS's represent. Valve is a big shark, but It, is not going to take linux to a new level by itself. Still I believe that Steam on linux is a great step.

P.S.: Thanks to my HumbleBumdle purchases, my Steam is loaded with great games ;). I have completely deleted Windows from my personal laptop :D.

Tip of an Iceberg

I suspect that gaming market is the proverbial of a very large iceberg, in that hardcore gamers, whilst not inconsiderable in number/spending power seem not to be the major target of people such as MS or Apple. Looking at the user interfaces both these companies have produced lately (Win-d'ohs Hate, i-Owe-S 7) there are big similarities. I suspect that both companies have looked at the demographics and realised that the western world has an ageing society, and thus aimed to create a simple easy to read GUI which works well for those with poor eyesight and touch screen interfaces.

Whilst I do not think that PC gaming (or laptop in my case) will truly die I think that it may become neglected by big software houses in favour of the touch (punch?) screen market.



I have to say I'm a bit disappointed in recent open ballot questions, they're not very divisive issues nor ones which encompass much scope in terms of opinion/ideology. "Are bees nice?". "Pyjamas: cosy or confining?", "What's your favourite dinosaur?".


>Will SteamOS become a major gaming platform?

Probably, yes. If one accepts the narrative that open platforms eventually win out in any given arena, which is what Valve are claiming and which has certainly been true in the past, then it's arguably inevitable that such a platform will eventually emerge. And Valve certainly have the muscle and brains to pull it off.

>Do you think that it'll fizzle under pressure from Microsoft?

No. Did you not see the launch of the Xbone and reaction to that launch? MS have lost it.

>Is it the best thing since sliced bread?

I'm not entirely sure when pre-sliced (which is, I assume, what you mean) bread was first available but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that, no, the polio vaccine, Guernica and Squeezy Sauce bottles are probably better than SteamOS in terms of their impact on human culture. If you mean 'best' in the moral sense; virtuous rather than of particular utility or relative inherent value, then I'd probably opt for Peppa Pig, who often helps other creatures out with no obvious desire for personal glory or recognition. She is an example to us all.

>Or do you not care about such closed source nonsense?

While caring quite deeply about Free Software nonsense, believing that it represents a better (both more virtuous and in terms of utility) model for human interaction, I do also care about this particular closed source nonsense because I believe that games have the potential to become a particularly potent form of culture, owing in part to their unique ability to synthesise a somewhat authored experience, absolute agency on the part of the 'viewer', an explicit enactment of negotiated nature of meaning in all media, emergent simulation and a very profound blurring of the distinction between producer and consumer of cultural objects.

However, Valve have said:

"You will be able to download it (including the source code, if you're into that)"

Which indicates that their product will be, at least in part, Open Source.

>how hard is cutting a fresh slice?

I find it quite difficult indeed. I seem unable to cut a slice which is equal-width all the way down and usually end up, no matter how hard I try, with a slice having a triangular or, at best, rhomboidal section.

Though I do of course agree that fresh, un-sliced bread is superior in terms of taste and texture to pre-sliced bread and it is very much worth the trouble.

Bees are our friends, pyjamas are confining and my favourite dinosaur is the noble triceratops.

Who cares?

Just don't get the point. Who cares if Linux is used for gaming? I and I guess many other Linux users don't play games on our machines. period.
Instead of getting all the dev work and attention into properitary gaming, how about pushing into commercial software. Beside of OS alternatives we still wait for things like Photoshop, Autocad & Co., many academic software, etc.

If that is to boring how about better device support?
Or make it simple and just give us a PDF reader with a full set of working annotation capabilities.

After that we can talk about gaming. No hate I just believe there are more urgent tasks to solve rather then gaming.

no more booting windows?

I've been using windows again because I've become a gamer. I like steam and already use it via Ubuntu and win8. If valve can unify all my games on one OS and stream them downstairs to my tv that would be a wish come true.

no more booting windows?

I've been using windows again because I've become a gamer. I like steam and already use it via Ubuntu and win8. If valve can unify all my games on one OS and stream them downstairs to my tv that would be a wish come true.

Bread and steam

So on the bread front I am with Ben on the unsliced loaf. This gives me the option to slice at the thickness that I want, which is usually a bit thicker that most. (is this in the 4 freedoms somewhere?) I have a bit of a reputation for my doorstop lunch sandwiches....

On SteamOS, I see this as just the next step in the exponential rise of Linux. There has been a slow but steady take-up in the server market, now Linux dominates in the mobile handset space, now we are progressing into the Gaming space, last will be the corporate desktop, but it will fall eventually.

And on the subject of games...

Why bother to play games on Linux when hunting kernel bugs and tweaking vast swathes of code for speed bottlenecks is much more fun?

The real reason that there aren't many gamers on Linux is that as soon as they learn how much fun it is to play with open source software, the gamer dies and a Debian Developer is born.

Diced Bread

I totally agree Ben. Sliced bread.. Pffft. What person in their right mind couldn't slice a simple piece of bread.. But imagine this. You wake up from yet another feveris dream about desperatly trying to dice your bread for your upcomming party. The dices were no where near the same sizes, and all the crust keept comming in your way. Wow.. What a nightmare!! Good thing you never have to experiance this in real life! Dicing bread in an art, and we all know that nothing beats an artist. THAT WHY WE NOW HAVE A SPECAIL PROMOTION ON OUR SUPER DUPER DICED BREAD(TM) PACKAGE. FOR ONLY $99.99 YOU CAN HAVE PERFECTLY DICED BREAD! ORDER NOW, AND RECIEVE OUR SPECIAL DO IT A HOME BREAD DICER!! YOU GUEST WON'T BELIEVE THEIR EYES!

If They Get Developer Momentum

I think SteamOS has got a real chance to succeed, but it all depends on how much Valve can persuade the big companies to get on board and port to Linux. One possible issue that could either be good and pave the way into Linux adoption, or bad and act as a stop-gap is the remote streaming function. This means that you could stream your games from a Windows Steam installation and play them on the Linux console. Will this pave the way and show there is demand for Linux games, or will it just bridge the gap sufficiently to mean that for many people Windows ports are still fine?
The other bonus factor is how clueless Microsoft seem to have been with Windows 8 and the dreadful fiasco that is the Xbox One - this could move more of the hardcore gamers over to Linux, especially with the Valve promotion.
Ultimately, time will tell, but I think this is the best shot we've had for some good desktop Linux adoption in quite a while. Either way, I've got a lot more good games I can play on Linux (esp from HIB), so it's already a success, for me

Too much sugar in bread

Steam has come a long way, I hated it when half life 2 came out as I couldn't play it straight away and I only had dial up at the time. Now I love steam and if they bring out a Steam distro and works well then count me in. I would even stop using dows 8 as much.

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