Valve has announced it is pulling support for its Steam digital distribution platform on Canonical's Ubuntu Linux operating system, after the company revealed plans to drop 32-bit support.
Valve's interest in Linux is storied and ongoing: While the company focused, naturally enough, on Windows for the launch of its now-ubiquitous Steam digital distribution platform, the company announced Linux support in 2012 and launched in in 2013 via Canonical's Ubuntu Software Centre. When Valve announced its own Linux-based gaming operating system in 2013, it extended its efforts with the operating system; Steam Play, launched late last year, allowed Steam for Linux to play Windows games through a compatibility shim dubbed Proton.
Now, though, Valve has indicated that it is to drop support for the popular Ubuntu Linux distribution - though not Linux in general - over maintainer Canonical's decision to stop developing 32-bit libraries.
First announced earlier this month in Ubuntu's mailing list, Canonical's plan is to cease support for the 32-bit x86 architecture - known in Linux terms as i386 - completely, freezing the currently-available 32-bit libraries at the versions provided with the now year-old Ubuntu 18.04 LTS release. While the move doesn't affect the majority of software available for Linux, which is natively 64-bit, it does affect a fair bit of older software, hardware drivers, and games - including Valve's Steam, which is available in 32-bit-only flavour. To run on a 64-bit Linux system, Steam relies on the very same 32-bit libraries - installed alongside their 64-bit equivalents using a feature known as multi-architecture - that Canonical will no longer support nor develop.
Valve's response: To drop support for Ubuntu Linux. A Twitter post from Valve developer Pierre-Loup Griffais, first spotted by OMG Ubuntu, explains: 'Ubuntu 19.10 and future releases will not be officially supported by Steam or recommended to our users. We will evaluate ways to minimise breakage for existing users, but will also switch our focus to a different distribution, currently TBD.'
Canonical's decision to cease supporting the 32-bit libraries affects more than Steam, too: Many hardware manufacturers ship 32-bit drivers - this author's Dell-branded Xerox laser printer relies on 32-bit libraries to operate - while the WINE Windows compatibility tool, which allows Windows binaries to run on Linux, is heavily tied into the 32-bit ecosystem with many Windows installers launching in 32-bit mode even on a 64-bit system.
The 32-bit libraries will be frozen and unsupported, Canonical has confirmed, starting with the launch of Ubuntu 19.10 in October this year.
Canonical has issued a statement which backtracks, in part, on its original plans, though sniffily blames Valve for failing to raise concerns during the development process. Under the revised plan, Canonical pledges to work with Valve as well as the communities behind WINE, Ubuntu Studio, and other projects which rely on the 32-bit libraries to ensure that the software will still be functional going forward - including in Ubuntu 20.04 LTS, the next scheduled Long Term Support release of the Ubuntu Linux distribution.
May 15 2020 | 11:00