When Gabe Newell speaks, the Internet listens—especially when he hints at Valve's plans for a Linux-based console. During a keynote address at the LinuxCon show in New Orleans, Newell suggested that more details about the supposed Steam Box could be released next week. Ars Technica has the scoop, including the appropriately vague quote: "Next week we're going to be rolling out more information about how we get there and what are the hardware opportunities we see for bringing Linux into the living room." You can watch Newell's speech in its entirety below.
The quote comes at the end of a presentation in which Newell discusses why he believes Linux is the future of gaming. Newell notes that the open PC platform has produced the best hardware and the most interesting innovations, including digital distribution, MMOs, and player-generated content. He decries the "friction" caused by proprietary platforms, pointing out that it took six months to get one Steam app update validated by the Apple Store. And he's no fan of Windows 8, either.
Interestingly, Newell echoes the sentiment that PC gaming is thriving despite the broader downturn in the industry. "We're going up 76% year over year at the same time PC unit sales are getting double-digit declines," he says.
Of course, Newell concedes that Linux accounts for a tiny slice of the PC gaming market. According to the latest Steam survey, less than 1% of the service's users are running a Linux-based OS. Even if you count the "other" category, the total adds up to only 1.6%. It's no wonder, really. The selection of Linux games on Steam is still rather limited, with Portal 2 and the latest Counter-Strike iteration absent from Valve's own catalog. I count only 174 Linux games in total, most of which are obscure indie titles. There simply isn't a lot for folks to play right now.
A Linux-based Steam console would go a long way toward luring developers and gamers to the platform. Newell said in March that prototypes of such a device were due to be ready to show to customers this summer, so it doesn't seem unreasonable to expect a final product—or products—to be ready for the holidays. Knowing how Valve time works, I'm not getting my hopes up too high.