PC game development company Valve, which makes the Steam distribution platform, announced September 23 that it plans to launch a Linux-based PC operating system dedicated to gaming called SteamOS. The plans for the new OS are the first of three announcements for this week surrounding Valve’s intentions to expand to living room gaming. According to Valve, many developers are already on board with the platform, and gaming-focused features will be part of the company’s pitch as it potentially seeks to lure developers away from Windows, onlookers noted.
The new OS will include a user interface specifically designed for TVs and the living room gaming experience. It will be a free, stand-alone operating system designed to run “on any living room machine.” Valve suggested that the it had determined that the best way to deliver games in the living room environment was through the Steam engine.
“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,” Valve wrote on the SteamOS website. “Game developers are already taking advantage of these gains as they target SteamOS for their new releases.”
Additionally, users will be able to stream content from other computers on their home network through the SteamOS, enabling a sort of backward compatibility, Wired noted. Since the OS is Linux-based, developers will have to make SteamOS-specific versions of their games, which could make it difficult to attract their interest. However, several triple-A titles are already slated for 2014, according to The Verge.
Piquing developer interest
In addition to performance-focused features, the company noted that SteamOS will be designed with “openness” in mind and innovation as a core priority. To that end, users will be able to modify any part of the software or hardware, and content creators will be given features to reach consumers directly. It will also be freely licensable for manufacturers. According to The Verge’s Sean Hollister, this approach likely constitutes Valve positioning SteamOS as a potential competitor to Windows 8, whose app store could draw sales away from Steam and which Valve co-founder Gabe Newell has publicly blamed for declining PC sales.
“It’s much like the Android strategy: Where Google provided a free Linux-based operating system to hardware manufacturers to compete with Apple’s iOS, Valve appears to be doing the same to compete with Microsoft,” Hollister wrote.
The fact that Valve will also be using Linux, which has long been unpopular in the professional game development community due to its lack of a unified API for communicating with hardware, is also an important statement and transition, Develop noted. The SteamOS announcement is the first of three, and Valve is widely expected to announce a complementary hardware offering later in the week. With its own dedicated OS and hardware for living room gaming, Valve could expand its presence in the home and attract additional developer interest. Regardless of what happens next with SteamOS, those in the game development community will likely want to continue paying close attention.
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