Monday, March 5

[Speculation] Valve's New Game Console to be Based on Linux??


Disclaimer: Everything you are going to read below is nothing but wild speculation.

The Verge recently reported that Valve is working on its own gaming console 'Steam Box' running an open software platform. The basic specs of the Steam Box include a Core i7 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and an NVIDIA GPU.

This software platform for game consoles will also be available to interested hardware manufacturers, much like what Google has done with Android. Third party hardware manufacturers will be then able to put this software on their own hardware and sell them to gamers. These devices will be able to run any standard PC titles.

Open in the sense that:
  • There won't be a required devkit, and there will be no licensing fees to create software for the platform. 
  • All the resources and direct hardware component access can be allotted to the game. 
  • Plus, other than Steam itself, the device will allow third party gaming services (e.g. EA's Origin) and there can be multiple storefronts in one console. Something which usually we don't see in consoles.
Now, one of the most debated questions on this news has been - Which OS will it run?

In community discussions on numerous sites an forums, many people are guessing that there is a good chance that it can be Linux and some concrete points were given:
  • The license cost of running Windows could be huge on these consoles.
  • Game developers/publishers would not like dll mess Windows can create on the console.
  • Even if Valve want to use Windows, Would Microsoft agree to license Windows on a console when it will compete with its own gaming hardware?
  • If not Windows, then why would Valve get into building an OS from scratch. Linux could be most likely choice.
If Linux is indeed the choice of OS on Steam Box, then there would be problems too:
  • Most of the games on Steam and other big game titles rely heavily on DirectX. How DirectX compatibility will be maintained on a Linux box?
  • Wine can be used. But there is no guarantee about stability, performance and visuals.
  • Graphics driver support?
So, nothing is confirmed and there is no official announcement. There are only wild guesses. But if Steam Box is indeed happening, Will it run Linux? Will it lead to finally bringing Steam service to Linux distributions as well? 

Or may be Steam will never come to Linux distros. All the job postings and other Linux stuff has always been related to this secret 'Steam Box' or something else.

Too much speculation. May be I should stop writing now.

P.S. Gabe Newell hinting something:

On the platform side, it's sort of ominous that the world seems to be moving away from open platforms. They build a shiny sparkling thing that attracts users and then they control people's access to those things.

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