Wednesday, 26 December 2012

STEAM - musing.

For the first time in, well, for the first time ever there has been a Steam Sale and I haven't brought a thing. Partly because I've been super busy this Christmas and gaming has been far from the focus of my time and partly because so far at least nothing that I want has been on sale at a price that makes it irresistible.

Steam sales are so regular that I the sense of buyers urgency has faded substantially. For instance a game I have wanted for a while - Alan Wake - was on sale for about £7 a few weeks ago, usually an irresistible price but I was a little light in the piggy bank and figured it would be on sale again pretty soon - Steam sales are so regular that they have become a reason not to buy a game at a bargain price unless all other conditions (bank account) are perfect.

With the launch of Steam for Linux and the announcement of the 'Steam Box' the PC gaming world hasn't been so bright for years and the future is looking very good indeed. I have even gone to the effort of installing a Linux partition on my hard disk to test things out and I assure you, Steam for Linux is a very solid application, the games list just needs time to grow.

With Steam when you buy a game it's your's on any platform that Steam supports. So, if a game that I already own becomes available on Linux its mine. End of story. No more cash needed. This concept will be transferred to the Steam Box (a Linux driven device) - so, In many ways the Steam box cant fail for existing PC gamers at least.

With all these points at hand you have to wonder how Valve have gained such total dominance over the PC market, to the point that they are for all intense and purpose re-launching gaming on Linux. This is something that has been the holy grail of the OS for years.

After a quick Google I realised that the reason Valve have gone so far and accomplished so much is that they simply know what gamers want and they try to give it to them. If only EA has realised that gamers want Steam when they forced the doomed Origin on the world.

I for one will be grabbing/building a Steam Box the moment its possible/available because as far as I can see there is no down site. There are many gamers who feel the same as me about this but will it have a larger impact on the popularity of Linux?

Gaming has always been a big deal for most of us geeks so being able to do so on Linux will really help towards the migration for a lot of us. There are still however many games on the PC platform that where developed for Windows and unless 'Wine' (the windows API wrapper/emulator for Linux) makes some serious leaps and bounds then there will always be many games that require windows. There is also the larger issue of the none geek population migrating. I can't ever see a time when a none geek will make the jump to Linux. Windows is perfect for 99% of users, to the point that changing OS is pointless. Microsoft can't get people to upgrade to a new version of Windows so convincing them to switch to Linux is an impossible task.

I think this is the motivation behind the Steam Box. It will mean that many none geek gamers can grab a rock solid gaming platform with ease as well as forcing more developers to cater for Linux, these Linux versions will be easy to install in a 'normal' Linux environment, not just hte Steam Box Disto. For everyone else there is still Windows, but if the Microsoft empire ever falls all your purchases will still be available in Linux. It also means that Linux will get more attention from hardware developers, meaning finally, good drivers.

The resulting ecology is happy one

Geeks = linux or windows gaming with a smile
None Geeks = windows gaming and/or a Steam box
Console gamers = Steam Box

The result of this is good for literally every gamer as we have nothing but choice's the only people who maybe upset about this are Microsoft who for the first time since windows 3.11 may have to step their game up a little to stay relevant.

Will I switch to Linux? - yes, eventually. In fact I've been trying to dump windows forever as Linux is more fun for me but there has always been things to turn me back to windows. In a few years that little Linux partition on my hard drive may become my main OS.

Good luck Valve, you fantastic Glorious Bastards!

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