Steam on Ubuntu

Naturally, I am delighted with the news of Steam coming to Ubuntu. While everyone is happy about getting their favorite games on Ubuntu, I think there is another subtle yet important gem in this announcement.

Creating a AAA title such as Left 4 Dead is an expensive and time consuming process. This expense is not only in the conceptualization, design, and development of the title, but also the associated support, community, marketing, and distribution services. This has got more and more complex in recent years with the abundance of platforms; it is not as simple as just creating a title for a particular platform…a studio now needs to bring cross-platform development in-house (with all the tool-chain and QA work required) to support these different platforms. While cross-platform development saves development time, it still requires extensive investment.

The gaming industry is one driven by volume. The sheer level of investment required to deliver these games means that they need to be assured that customers will buy the games. Assuring volume in the early days required having strong sales channels (such as gaming stores), but in recent years the push to digital delivery channels such as Steam has reduced the need for these brick-and-mortar sales channels. The challenge though is that while there are fewer bricks and dorky games clerks, there are more platforms and a greater demand for AAA titles.

So in a nutshell, games studios and publishers still need to sell a buckletload of games to justify their investment. I am sure that this is no different for Valve with Steam.

The announcement of Ubuntu as part of this platform is a testament to the growth of Ubuntu as an emerging gaming platform. Valve are not the first, EA have already delivered games in the Ubuntu Software Center, Carmageddon is coming, and we have an increasing number of Indie games (such as the Humble Indie Bundle) running natively on Ubuntu.

I know that Ubuntu’s continued focus on a beautiful user experience, growth in emerging markets (such as India and China), focus on wider device adoption (e.g. TV), and our evolving hardware and app developer relationships are all furthering the interest from publishers such as Valve and EA.

Valve bringing Stream to Ubuntu is another stake in the ground in the confidence of Ubuntu as a strong consumer platform. For many years our users have dreamed about playing their favorite games on Ubuntu and it is coming. How can you help? Vote with your feet…buy the games, enjoy them, share your excitement online, and this will help us to continue to grow Ubuntu as a strong gaming platform.

  • Martin Owens

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    It’s exciting to see games coming to Ubuntu. Although of course with the focus more and more on aesthetics, games, apps, I do worry about Freedom. We seem to have either succeeded in embodying freedom so completely or just completely given up on it. But it doesn’t seem like it merits even a token paragraph in a post about bringing in a hoard of new proprietary packages and the culture of that industry.

    I want games more than I would want to stop propritary apps, but I feel we don’t even mention it in passing to our friends in the games industry: “By the way, did you know our soul creed is based in user freedom? Yeah true story”

  • Anonymous

    This is not an either or situation. The goal here is to continue to protect Ubuntu as a Free Software platform, but to empower both Free Software and Non-Free developers to deliver their content on Ubuntu.

    While this post is very focused on commercial games, we are doing lots of work right now on making it easier than ever for Free Software developers to deliver their content on Ubuntu (more to come soon!).

  • Martin Owens

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    Commercial does not equal proprietary. Encouraging more Free Software commercial apps/games should be part of our mission too.This is the typical misunderstanding which permeates our culture here, (usually from Canonical IMO) that Freedom means you have to give it away and making money means you need to hoard code and do silly things with development practices.

    We understanding that the culture of the games industry is broken regarding software development methods, licensing and just common sense. But we have to work with them to deliver great games and so we do. It’s not like games are particularly important to a user’s freedom.I just feel it’s indicative of the New Ubuntu culture to see proprietary and Free Software as equal and to ignore the concessions we make for proprietary creators. All we have to do is admit that we’re doing something naughty in order to do something good and that we’ll always truly be thinking of ways to get these guys on side.  

  • Knut

    I would rather use non-free apps and games on a free operating system than on a big blob of Microsoft code.

  • Martin Owens

     I agree.

  • Witty Gareth

    About time :-)

  • Jo-Erlend Schinstad

     I was really disappointed when Diablo 3 wasn’t immediately supported on Ubuntu, because Diablo 2 has worked so well for so long. And though Diablo 2 is 12 years old, I’d still recommend that people buy it if they haven’t played it yet. It’s still a good game and it always will be, just like The Godfather is still a good movie. In other words, I think there’s still plenty of time for the recent blockbuster to be made available for Ubuntu and when it is, of course, there’s a short path to supporting other distros as well.

    If you’re hunting a moving animal with a bow and arrow, you have to aim at where the target is going to be, not where it is. And there’s no doubt Ubuntu is going to be somewhere else in the next couple of years. We’ve seen a large increase in “normal people” coming to Ubuntu the last couple of years, and these people have gotten a dramatically increased audience, due to social networks, etc. And of course, if someone is trying to tell you something is easy to use, do not trust the expert. Trust the non-expert. And that’s exactly what’s happening; normal people telling all their normal friends that Ubuntu is actually quite easy to install and use. It’s gratis too, which isn’t a bad thing either.

    I think Valve has made a very good decision. I’ll certainly buy it.

  • Jesse Litton

    “Valve are not the first, EA have already delivered games in the Ubuntu Software Center…”

    I don’t think those hyperlinked icons from EA can seriously be considered as any real sign of commitment.  Many like me were put of from them by their very nature.  If anyone at all is worth mentioning as a “first”, it’s id Software… though the lack of any recent support is depressing.

    So, don’t downplay Valve’s thunder – They will certainly be the guys with the best Linux games available.

  • Jef Spaleta

     there’s a deeper meme here Martin,

    Consumer culture versus Maker culture. And there is a big big gulf between these cultures sadly.  FOSS traditionally is aligned with Maker culture. Makers rely on FOSS tools..even Makers of consumer culture consumables.  Valve uses Ubuntu internally as infrastructure for its deliverables.

    Games have traditionally been treated as deliverables in the consumer culture. Just like ebooks and multimedia a/v. We simply don’t expect end-users to need to edit a creative work such as a digital movie or a popular fiction ebook or a software game. It’s actually sort of frowned on. Even if its done as a public service for all of humanity like removing Jar-Jar from re-editted Star Wars movies. 

    Consumable entertainment is expected to be used as is as fully formed work. Up till now FOSS has really focused on making sure the tools necessary to interpreter  the creative content formats is in the control of the users who purchase the works. But the works themselves…have really not been expected to be one, 

    Native PC (console) games bleed out of the nice delineation of media consumable because  traditionally they are both content and renderer bundled together as a deliverable. You seldom purchase game content without also purchasing the tool to render the content as a seperate transaction. Contrast that with how be buy dvds or music.  Even though culturally we still really treat games as pure content in the marketplace. 

    The best thing we can do with regard to games is to encourage more html5 rendered game play and less specialized rendering engines.   Break the renderer and content bundling in game deliverables.


  • Martin Owens

     Hey jef, I look forward to your comments. The reason why I consider games companies to be “silly” as opposed to say “malicious” is because the FOSS arguments here are not centred around the user’s freedom to modify but on the channel partner’s ability to certify, the ability to recompile for newer platform releases without producer back catalogue support and more generally for the industry, increasing their efficiency making games by introducing strong incentives to standardise and collectivise sections of the work such as engines.

    They’re silly because they spend too much, make games hard to make for themselves, make them harder to support and give them shorter shelf lives. It’s really mercy they need at this point.

    I’ve long thought of HTML as the release valve, focusing developer attention and energy because it’s open, compatible and available; not because it’s actually any good. A more well used open source platform could far more easily take over for games.

  • Tim Blokdijk

    Thank you.

    I’m involved with, fork us on github. Or apt-get us if you want to play our content on your Ubuntu installation right now. (PPA is more up to date)

    And no need to thank me although we do accept patches and donations. :-)

  • Gues

     But iD abandoned us and the one guy that took care of it at theit place left. EA on the other hand said they are porting some titles, albeit with wine. It’s still better than nothing.

  • Jackie McGhee

    Yay! More DRM!

  • Dante Díaz

    You’re right, nothing more important to spread the expansion of games on Ubuntu than buying it. Simple.

  • Chris Weig

    Please, don’t be a drama queen. Id Software actually released source code. How many FLOSS games are powered by Id technology? Lots and lots. All Valve gives us is a DRM-protected, proprietary platform.

  • Chris Weig

    Steam is convenient, too convenient. I hadn’t this thing installed on Windows, and I sure as hell won’t install it on Ubuntu or any other Linux. I actually own a PS3, and there I grudgingly but willingly accept the restrictions in order to play games. But I won’t accept proprietary shit like Steam on my computer where, thankfully, I still have the say as to what happens.

  • Anon

    Valve gives us games that don’t insult our intelligence.  

     @8719dcca0b1b2d12f271fdcea16ed254:disqus iD would care about linux as a platform if they hadn’t lost million$ porting Quake 3 commercially.  

  • Chris Weig

    ROFL. Q3 for Linux was published by Loki. Id didn’t lose anything.

  • Utmule

    I love spring RTS