The recent GDC 2015, especially the revelation of its own VR ambitions, has thrust Valve and Steam back into the spotlight. Many gamers, especially of the PC kind, might still remember the promise of Steam Machines that have yet to materialize in retail forms. But while part of that equation lies on the hardware, especially the special Steam Controller, the other part is tied to the software. So just how well is Steam doing on Linux today? Well, apparently quite healthy, but it could do with a bit more.
Linux-oriented news site Phoronix reports that there are around 1,002 games for Linux available on Steam. 1,853 if you count even demos and DLCs. Some of those, however, are non-game but game-related software, like the $120 Wings 3D polygon modeler (think Maya or ZBrush). The highest priced real game, on the other hand, is Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel at $60. The most recent additions include PAYDAY and Hotline Miami 2.
Now, why is the selection of Steam games on Linux even worth noting? It’s because it will eventually be the measurement of success for Steam OS, itself based on Linux. While Steam might boast of thousands of titles on its digital catalog, the only ones that Steam Machine owners will be able to play directly on the metal will be those compatible with Steam OS, in other words, with Linux. Which means this 1,000 assorted mix of both indie and mainstream titles.
Impressive as a thousand games might seem, in context it might actually be a bit worrying. Steam for OS X, for example, has over 1,600 titles. The entire Windows inventory, however, includes more than 4,800. And majority of those are the really popular ones. It’s been nearly two years since Steam for Linux launched out of beta and it was only last year that it reached 500 titles. It definitely has a long way to go. Not that Valve it to be blamed, as many games still use technologies that tie them with Windows, DirectX or Direct3D in particular. That is why Valve is investing heavily in things like SDL or the next gen OpenGL “Vulkan” to help push more high-profile cross-platform games to the forefront.
That said, Valve does have a temporary solution in the form of streaming. It’s Steam Link, for example, can practically stream Steam for Windows games to Steam Machines. That said, that would mean at most three pieces of equipment (Steam Machine, Windows gaming rig, Steam Link) instead of a solitary, Windows-only setup.