Let the pandering to Linux gamers begin! Valve has just kicked off the Steam for Linux beta, bringing the Steam client, a free-to-play version of Team Fortress 2, and other titles to Ubuntu 12.04. (Valve says two dozen games beside TF2 have made it in, but the announcement doesn't say which ones.)
This is a closed beta for now. Valve has received more than 60,000 applications since the signup page went up late last month, and an undisclosed number of those folks will be allowed into the first wave of the closed beta. The firm plans to open the beta to more users as time goes on. "Once the team has seen a solid level of stability and performance across a variety of systems," it adds, "the Steam for Linux client will become available to all users of Steam."
More information, including screenshots of Steam running on Ubuntu, can be accessed here on the Steam for Linux hub.
In related news, earlier today, Nvidia released a fresh set of Linux graphics drivers that purportedly bring about "massive" performance improvements. Unsurprisingly, the chip maker says Valve (among other game developers) was involved in the year-long development effort preceding the release. Nvidia quotes a rise in frame rates from 142.7 FPS to 301.4 FPS over the previous, 304.51 driver in the Left 4 Dead 2 Linux beta. That's out of the scope of even 120 Hz monitors to display, but hopefully, the gains carry over to slower cards and more demanding games to some degree.
You can grab the new 310.14 drivers for Linux right here. Graphics cards from the GeForce 8800 GT through the GeForce GTX 600 series are all supported.