Some good news for both Linux fans and gamers: After months of speculation, Valve is officially announcing that it’s bringing Steam to Linux.
The popular game store will first show up on Ubuntu 12.04, since it’s one of the most widely-installed distros out there. The first game with Linux support will be Left 4 Dead 2.
“Why Ubuntu? . “There are a couple of reasons for that, ” a Valve blog post said. “First, we’re just starting development and working with a single distribution is critical when you are experimenting, as we are. It reduces the variability of the testing space and makes early iteration easier and faster. Secondly, Ubuntu is a popular distribution and has recognition with the general gaming and developer communities. This doesn’t mean that Ubuntu will be the only distribution we support. Based on the success of our efforts around Ubuntu, we will look at supporting other distributions in the future.”
Gabe Newell, Valve’s head honcho, has been interested in Ubuntu for some time. Valve has already been running Steam and Source game servers on Linux for some time, so it seems like a natural choice for the desktop as well.
The availability of major games will help Linux break out of its niche in the server room onto the desktop. There are a few fun games on Linux already, but a lot of them, to be honest, are knock-offs of commercial games. Ubuntu has also been targeting game developers by selling paid games on their own Software Center.
The growth of commercial, proprietary games on the bastion of open source freedom might not sit well with free software diehards, but more users will mean better hardware support, which has been a major obstacle to Linux desktop adoption. One major sticking point is video card drivers, which often lag behind in terms of features supported on Windows. With more gamers on Ubuntu, the video card companies will have to either improve their drivers or release more information on the cards so the community can build the drivers instead. This might mean better availability of pre-installed Ubuntu systems designed for gaming.