Linux gaming may sound like an oxymoron. But while traditional desktop gaming for open source operating systems likely will always remain a tiny niche, next-generation, cloud-based gaming platforms increasingly are playing well with Linux, as a new partnership between Valve and the Linux Foundation makes crystal clear.
The Linux Foundation recently announced that Valve, which develops the popular Steam platform for creating web-based games and other content hosted in the cloud, has signed on as one of the newest members of the Foundation. The move followed Valve's release of a Linux-compatible version of Steam back in February 2013.
The partnership is all about continuing to expand the possibilities for playing games on Linux, according to Mike Sartain, a developer at Valve. "Joining the Linux Foundation is one of many ways Valve is investing in the advancement of Linux gaming," he said in a statement. "Through these efforts, we hope to contribute tools for developers building new experiences on Linux, compel hardware manufacturers to prioritize support for Linux, and ultimately deliver an elegant and open platform for Linux users."
And in an indication of just how weighty Valve's close association with the Linux community now is, the Linux Foundation released a short video featuring Linus Torvalds himself, the founder of Linux, speaking about the importance of the partnership for Linux development. Gabe Newell of Valve also discusses the company's Linux strategy going forward. Here's a look:
The Linux world's endorsement of Valve is proof that open source platforms have a promising future in the world of gaming software, which traditionally has been dominated by proprietary developers who release products only for closed-source operating systems. Complex, professional-quality games that run natively on Linux desktops have been few and far between. (And we're still patiently waiting for the highly promising, but slowly maturing, 0 A.D. to reach production status.)
But the cloud erases most of the traditional barriers to playing games on Linux, as Steam has shown. Close collaboration between cloud-based game developers such as those at Valve and organizations with a stake in the open source ecosystem stands to open up a slew of new opportunities for Linux users. As nice as the GNOME Minesweeper clone may be, greater things are on the horizon for open source fans.