Valve announces the Linux-based SteamOS

Valve's first reveal is the company's very own Linux variant aimed at living rooms everywhere

Valve has announced the next step in bringing Steam to the living room: Steam OS. Valve president Gabe Newell's open dislike of "closed" operating systems like Windows and Mac OS X has led to the creation of an open Linux-based OS. Steam OS is aimed at the televisions everywhere.

"Steam is not a one-way content broadcast channel, it's a collaborative many-to-many entertainment platform, in which each participant is a multiplier of the experience for everyone else," reads the website. "With SteamOS, 'openness' means that the hardware industry can iterate in the living room at a much faster pace than they've been able to. Content creators can connect directly to their customers. Users can alter or replace any part of the software or hardware they want. Gamers are empowered to join in the creation of the games they love. SteamOS will continue to evolve, but will remain an environment designed to foster these kinds of innovation."

A Steam OS machine can stream Steam games from your existing PC or Mac, meaning even if your games aren't Steam OS-ready, they'll still be available in some form on your TV. Valve is also bringing new family-oriented options to the Steam client and Steam OS. In addition to the previously-announced Family Sharing there will also be library filtering, making it easier for users to only see their libraries. Steam OS and the Steam client will also be adding popular music and video services, though Valve did not detail which ones would be making the transition over.

Linux support for major titles hasn't been the best, but Valve is using its muscle to bring AAA games to Steam OS.

"Hundreds of great games are already running natively on SteamOS. Watch for announcements in the coming weeks about all the AAA titles coming natively to SteamOS in 2014," the website teases.

Steam OS will be free for users, and will be available for download "soon". Valve's next announcement will be in two days.

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Latest comments (22)

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 8 years ago
I really want to see this succeed... Even if the Steambox fails, due to hardware manufacturers and cost (both of which are unlikely but possible), a free, stable, up-to-date Linux-based OS that supports a gaming and media hub (both streaming and not) is big. If the streaming is akin to Nvidia's Shield or the much-touted Cloud (and no reason why it isn't) then even cheap-ass laptops hooked up to HDTVs and a gaming PC in a bedroom will be pretty awesome.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 8 years ago
It is a very smartly placed product. On the PC end of things, it's at best an addition and fallback to your Windows, not a replacement. At the TV end, this could really give PS4 and Xo a run for their money. Particularily since Steambox hardware will constantly update and outpace the consoles in terms of raw power. If you consider Intel's Thunderbolt 2, the architechture could even split CPU and GPU into two modules you connect depending on what you want. Just a CPU for some streaming, or a full console with the current iteration of graphics card. Two part electric lego.
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Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 8 years ago
This is, basically, like a non mobile Android. Optimised for gaming.
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Show all comments (22)
Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 8 years ago
Yup, kind of. Valve are leveraging their position to market an alternative to existing OSs (and it's free), so it's like Android in that respect. But it's not just optimised for gaming - I have the suspicion that Spotify/Netflix/LoveFilm are
many of the media services you know and love.
which means it'll also be optimised for media. Assume that SteamOS has the K-Lite Codec Pack, say, and it'll also play .OGM and .MKV files out of the box. Which... I don't think the PS4/XOne are going to natively, are they?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 23rd September 2013 10:36pm

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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 8 years ago
Of course, as great as this announcement is, it still doesn't do anything about the users living in areas that can't use it. I know I harp on this a lot here, but someone needs to figure out how to get all these wonderful services into the hands (and living rooms) of people who might like to buy in, but thanks to living in certain areas, can't. I just hope it doesn't require as many mandatory updates as Steam currently does if you don't use it for a week or more, but hey - that's part of the digital age, right?
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Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd8 years ago
@ Greg Steam will let you run in offline mode for 30 days.

As for the news, I'm excited for it, although I already use a Windows gaming PC under my TV so I doubt I'll get as much use from this as others.
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Adam Campbell Product Manager, Azoomee8 years ago
Today I was explaining Valve's decision to back Linux as opposed to Windows so they could effectively deliver their own ecosystem and SteamOS experience (in a box).

Well, they're doing just that and have announced their very own ecosystem through a customised Linux OS. I'm also not surprised the focus is on the OS after they backed down on internal hardware development.

Something worth mentioning is that I always had the belief that Microsoft should license (for a fee) Xbox as a gaming/multi-media OS for manufacturers to go and make their consoles with. If SteamOS really picks up steam (excuse the pun) and gets the biggest and best consumer electronics companies on board, it will be interesting to see if this direction would have been a better choice than manufacturing an expensive box with a contentious design and features...

Genius, yet great minds think alike ;p

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Adam Campbell on 23rd September 2013 9:12pm

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Yiannis Koumoutzelis Founder & Creative Director, Neriad Games8 years ago
On the other hand, i don't like how Valve tries to create an exclusive marketplace and put their customers into a pen, while at the same time bad mouthing Microsoft for creating a store! ;)
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 8 years ago
@Nicholas, Oh, I know... but not updating in that time means a looooong wait to play when you do log back on and those updates you miss get installed. As noted, it's expected in this day and age, so it's just my aged whine pouring away... ;3
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development8 years ago
I'll write a game for it if every valve employee gives me a greenlight
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Chris Lewin Software Engineer, EA8 years ago
DirectX has a ton of inertia. I suspect it will take a lot more than this for most devs to seriously consider building for Linux. Delving into the miserable pile of secrets that is the modern OpenGL API is enough to make a grown man weep, and that's on Windows. Add crappy drivers and laissez-faire approach to hardware compatibility in Linux and you have a risky venture.
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Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd8 years ago
@ Chris That may be true for big publishers but most big indie games are Linux-supported these days (check out basically any Kickstarter project). That said, I agree it will be a while before Linux could be considered a serious gaming platform, and I'm curious what tools Valve may have in hand to help that along. Of course, they don't actually need people to abandon Windows. They just know they can't throw all their eggs in that basket.
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Nuttachai Tipprasert Programmer 8 years ago
Since every big studios already have their own cross-platform engine, I don't see any problem for them porting their games from DirectX to OpenGL. And also the reason Valve introduced its own OS because it wants to solve the Linux's drivers issue, I don't see this being a problem neither.

TBH, I saw this coming since the first time Gabe talked about "Linux being perfect gaming platform". The only way he can make that happen in reality is making his own Linux based OS and I'm glad he really did that.
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Craig Burkey Software Engineer 8 years ago
The important thing is, will it play Half Life 3 / Episode 3?
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Sam Brown Lead Audio Programmer, TT Games8 years ago
@Chris: The OpenGL issue is a thing, certainly, but I don't think it's as big as people are making out. It's possible I've become inured to it over the years, but keeping a cross-platform GL version of our engine going hasn't been a major problem (personally I prefer to do my own feature checking) and I can vouch for the fact that it does indeed run quicker under Linux than Windows.

On the other hand, poor GL driver support, even on Windows, really is an issue (ATI, sort your GLSL out, seriously). However, I've found that's got a whole lot better over the last year or so. Maybe Steam moving to Linux a while back had an effect?

What I can't find, and what I'm really interested in, is what is SteamOS based on? Is it a Debian variant or have they cooked up their own distro from scratch? Does the X support have a framework like XFCE or is it vanilla (which IMHO would be better)?

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Sam Brown on 24th September 2013 10:49am

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Thomas Dolby Project Manager / Lead Programmer, Ai Solve8 years ago
I have very little doubt that Valve can make it work on a technical level, my main concern is whether there's actually a big enough market for this to work. The streaming is great if all the possibilities that are rumoured are true, but I have to question the amount of people that will either buy an expensive steam-box (let's face it, to be small enough to fit under a TV and also play the latest games it's going to be expensive), or have the ability (or should I say be willing to try) to install a Linux based OS onto another device.

I only have anecdotal evidence, but a lot of my gaming friends seem to share the same opinion "it's great and I want it to succeed, but I wont use it". I'm really hoping Valve have done some good market research to be sure their target market exists in a large enough form.
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Caleb Hale Journalist 8 years ago
Whatever this trifecta of announcements ultimately means for the Steam platform, it likely won't equate to a product instantly ready to compete with the likes of the Xbox or PlayStation. Over time, though, and if done correctly, I can see Valve eating up a significant market share of the hardcore gamer.

All I need to see is Valve produce a "SteamBox" with modular, affordable components I can upgrade every couple of years to get optimum gaming performance and I'm in. That would break the cycle of the console refresh.
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James Prendergast Process Specialist 8 years ago
@Thomas Dolby

I would guess that, just like Steam before it, this is a long-term plan. Hence, I think it's safe to say that there's no much of a market for the OS right now but in a couple of years there might well be.

I can only vouch for myself but I would be happy with a paired-down gaming OS that resulted in better performance from the same hardware. I only use windows at home because I need it to play the games and media I want... In a couple of years maybe most of those games will be releasing on SteamOS and, instead of upgrading to Windows 9 or whatever, I'll switch entirely over to SteamOS.
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Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 8 years ago
I dont care too much about all the online, social connectivity stuff. However I would like an operating system that ran smooth, was open to develope for, that can be customized both on software and hardware, and finally no draconian, DRM systems or strict EULAS. I would like to use it on any hard ware I want as well.

Apple has this thing were they want you to use their products in there own way. it would be nice if steam allowed you to use there products anyway you like. For example. I like OSX, and I like apple laptops, but recent models lack an optical drive and sufficient USB porst to connect peripherals. Apple seams hell bent on making people download and purchase everything from them and making everything wireless. I like wireless as well, but my favorite peripherals, such as Traktor midi controllers and soundcards and DJ equipment are not wireless. Nor is my wacom tablets, external hardrives. And as of now they dont even offer blu-ray support. With Apple you cant even exchange the battery on your own. In fact the internal harddrives of the iMAC cant be swapped out for just any hard drive.

Its a feature that if they dont offer id like to look for other ways to add it. But if steam OS allows this type of customization and none draconian/closed use of their products and operationg system I can surely look into this.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Rick Lopez on 24th September 2013 4:44pm

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Robert Mac-Donald Game Designer, Lethe Games8 years ago
@Yiannis Koumoutzelis

It isn't the same thing. We are assuming/hoping that the steamOS is not only a free platform to download and use, but that will remain open so you can continue getting software and games from any place of the internet, such as GOG. You wouldn't be forced to install things only through steam.

Windows 8 is a paid OS, and people like Gaben apparently fear that it will eventually try to control what is published and what is not through the marketplace, making windows desktop no longer an open platform so anyone can publish what they want.

Personally, I feel that computers have become such a huge part of our lives at this point - such a vital one for most of us - that we are entering an age where closed operating systems just are not acceptable anymore. Just like having an internet that controls what content can be publicized or not would be against our best interests. Anything that boosts use of open platforms is good and much needed in my opinion.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Robert Mac-Donald on 24th September 2013 6:22pm

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Andrew Jakobs Lead Programmer 8 years ago
But it is the biggest advantage of a console that you don't have to upgrade because you know the game will still look great on the hardware you already have, as it's been highly optimized to run on that specific piece of hardware (and we all know that optimizing for a specific hardware can even outrun new hardware).. If you want modular gaming, just stick to the PC..

I already hate the current PC-advertisements of games, showing awesome graphics, but when I run it at my own PC it just doesn't look anything like the commercials.. Yes, some people like to update every year to be able to play the latest games, most people don't.. And as a developer it's a bitch to have to keep all those different configurations in mind (which is also the biggest problem with PC-gaming, there are always a lot of rigs where it just doesn't work).
Also for onlinegaming it's a big problem IMHO, and that's also the biggest problem with PC-online gaming IMHO, someone with a big-highend rig definitly has an advantage over someone with a medium-range rig, and let's not forget the controllers that are used.. That's the advantage of console-gaming, you know everybody has exactly the same hardware and therefore there is no advantage and it really all is up to the players (I must admit that I can't play games like Call of Duty or Battlefield 3 at all with a regular controller)..
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Chris Murphy Community & Live Manager, Ubisoft8 years ago
TBH if they've got the multimedia elements set up correctly, SteamOS's immediate value would seem to be as a plug and play HTPC/Media center OS, rather than a gaming platform. By far the most difficult thing about building a HTPC is finding the right software. If SteamOS did that for you, it makes the entire HTPC concept much more appealing.

Once you've got your HTPC setup, and you start using it for entertainment, it's only a matter of time before you try a game or two on it.
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