Valve has joined the Linux Foundation, along with Cloudius Systems and the HSA (Heterogeneous System Architecture) Foundation.
“Joining the Linux Foundation is one of many ways Valve is investing in the advancement of Linux gaming,” Mike Sartain, a key member of Valve’s Linux team, wrote in a comment included in the Linux Foundation’s press release. “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.”
Valve is making a hard push into console gaming: in late September, it announced SteamOS, a Linux-based operating system for living-room game consoles. “In SteamOS, we have achieved significant performance increases in graphics processing, and we’re now targeting audio performance and reductions in input latency at the operating system level,” is how the company described its progress at the time. It followed up that unveiling with a prototype model of a “Steam Machine,” a console that runs SteamOS; in theory, the first machines will arrive on the market sometime in 2014.
In contrast to the closed systems sold by console rivals such as Sony and Microsoft, Valve is clearly pushing a holistic platform based on openness, where games developed for desktops and laptops by an indie developer can easily find their way to the living room (and vice versa). There’s a solid business reason behind that: if SteamOS succeeds in knocking down the wall that’s long separated console and PC gaming, it could place Valve at the forefront of a seismic shift in the video-game industry.
Whether or not that comes to fruition, however, it’s clear that Valve has managed to accrue a good deal of customer loyalty: Valve’s Steam gaming platform boasts 65 million active user accounts, and rising. In a keynote address at this year’s LinuxCon North America, Valve co-founder and managing director Gabe Newell told the audience that end-users would eventually become more involved in the creation and enhancement of gaming ecosystems: “Games will becomes nodes in a linked economy, where the majority of digital goods and services are user-generated.”
In the next generation of the console wars, Valve clearly wants to play the role of spoiler.