Valve has officially confirmed that it is developing a version of its Steam digital distribution platform for Linux - but its efforts are to be limited to a single distribution initially.
Announced late last night on the newly-launched Valve Linux Blog
, the company has confirmed that its Steam platform will be launching on Canonical's Ubuntu Linux distribution, with other distributions potentially following at a later date.
'For some time, Gabe has been interested in the possibility of moving Steam and the Source game engine to Linux,
' the Valve Linux team explains in the blog post. 'At the time, the company was already using Linux by supporting Linux-based servers for Source-based games and also by maintaining several internal servers (running a 64-bit version of Ubuntu server) for various projects. In 2011, based on the success of those efforts and conversations in the hallway, we decided to take the next step and form a new team.
That team has been working, in slowly eroding secrecy, on moving Steam to Linux with a specific focus on making the software work under Ubuntu. 'Why Ubuntu? There are a couple of reasons for that,
' the team explains. '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,
' the team adds. 'Based on the success of our efforts around Ubuntu, we will look at supporting other distributions in the future.
Having already successfully ported Left 4 Dead 2 across to Ubuntu Linux, the team is now working on ensuring that the Steam client operates natively with full functionality, boosting the performance of Left 4 Dead 2 on Linux using OpenGL and porting additional Valve titles to the platform. As yet, the company has not confirmed whether it's working to help any of the other companies that publish through Steam port their own games to OpenGL and Linux.
The overall goal, the team explains, is to get Steam running on Ubuntu 12.04 along with a copy of Left 4 Dead 2. 'Over the last few months, excellent progress has been made on several fronts and it [Left 4 Dead 2] now runs natively on Ubuntu 12.04. We're working hard to improve the performance and have made good progress. Our goal is to have L4D2 performing under Linux as well as it performs under Windows.
Valve's support of Linux - albeit only, at present, for a single popular distribution - will be a major boost for the cause of gaming on the open-source operating system. Should Valve's efforts be rewarded with a large install base and substantial revenue from Linux users - and there's little reason why it shouldn't - we'd expect to see other companies following suit.
Whether Linux will form the heart of the oft-rumoured Valve Box console, as has been suggested by industry watchers in the past, is as-yet unknown - as is, sadly, when Valve will be making Steam for Linux available to the public.