After GLaDOS: Valve Releasing SteamOS

By Adam Smith on September 23rd, 2013 at 6:08 pm.

As the internet held its breath and the countdown reached zero, speculation in the RPS chatroom reached fever pitch. And after the announcement was made, John bellowed, “I PREDICTED THAT!”. He did, you know. Valve are releasing an operating system, SteamOS and this is what we know.

As we’ve been working on bringing Steam to the living room, we’ve come to the conclusion that the environment best suited to delivering value to customers is an operating system built around Steam itself. SteamOS combines the rock-solid architecture of Linux with a gaming experience built for the big screen. It will be available soon as a free stand-alone operating system for living room machines.

More below.

The fact that this is actually happening is important in and of itself but I’ve picked through the announcement page for the most relevant pieces of information. I’m also going to have a swift ponder about how much it’ll affect me (probably not a great deal).

1) It’s an open, ‘collaborative’ system – “With SteamOS, “openness” means that the hardware industry can iterate in the living room at a much faster pace than they’ve been able to. Content creators can connect directly to their customers. Users can alter or replace any part of the software or hardware they want. Gamers are empowered to join in the creation of the games they love. SteamOS will continue to evolve, but will remain an environment designed to foster these kinds of innovation.”

2) It’s built on the foundation of Linux. Combined with all of the ‘living room’ features announced, this means that a Linux-derived system may well have better support for big screens and cross-device play than Windows. If you see Microsoft staring at the ground, they’re probably looking for one of the balls they dropped.

3) SteamOS is free and is coming “soon”. Because Valve operate in the screeching chaos between two different timelines, that could mean anything.

4) Everything that Steam already does will also be part of SteamOS and available on SteamOS machines. That could well mean ‘PCs with SteamOS installed’ but the next of Valve’s three announcement seems likely to be the long-rumoured SteamBox. Here’s what they have to say about support for the Steam catalog(ue). “Hundreds of great games are already running natively on SteamOS. Watch for announcements in the coming weeks about all the AAA titles coming natively to SteamOS in 2014. Access the full Steam catalog of over nearly 3000 games and desktop software titles via in-home streaming.”

5) The next part could be important. “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. Game developers are already taking advantage of these gains as they target SteamOS for their new releases.” Forget the ‘significant performance increases’ for now, it’s the support for developers that might bring about the most long-reaching changes. Providing a platform and a ready-made marketplace for developers to target, built to be independent and open, could alter the methods by which developers find visibility and support through Steam. My feeling is that, right now, this is a more exciting announcement for developers than it is for consumers.

6) Do we care about the living room experience? It’s not important to me. The TV is what other people look at while I’m playing games. Valve say this: “Finally, you don’t have to give up your favorite games, your online friends, and all the Steam features you love just to play on the big screen. SteamOS, running on any living room machine, will provide access to the best games and user-generated content available.” I’ve got a pocketwatch and a record player in my living room – can’t wait to play Team Fortress on ‘em.

7) Streaming. This could have been the headline announcement. “You can play all your Windows and Mac games on your SteamOS machine, too. Just turn on your existing computer and run Steam as you always have – then your SteamOS machine can stream those games over your home network straight to your TV!” They even used an exclamation mark!

8) And what will that third announcement be – a certain game, perhaps? Exclusivity to SteamOS maybe? We’ll know soon.

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433 Comments »

  1. DrManhatten says:

    I’ve got three (four words for you)

    This will fail (spectacularly)

  2. Vizhon says:

    Microsoft dropped this ball back when they were still developing the original X-Box.. I remember how X-Box was going to be wonderfully windows compatible and a proprietary system that could set the line and standards for all Windows based games.. Then they keyboard disappeared, then the Windows compatibility disappeared, then the X-Box became a competing platform within Microsoft’s own corporation and some of us have been hating Microsoft for it ever since and hating them more everytime an X-Box exclusive game comes out that I refuse to buy a console to play.

  3. irongamer says:

    As someone that games, works, reads, and watches content on one convenient device (the PC), I’ve decided this is not aimed at my demographic at all. It is just a direct cut by Steam into the console market, which is big news for all those console peeps, have fun!

    • cunningmunki says:

      I already have my PC hooked up to my telly, so I’m not the target demographic either, but I’ll be getting all three of these things, whatever they are.

      • irongamer says:

        Yeah, I had my TV hooked up to mine a number of years ago. There was really nothing better, the larger screen was just annoying. There may be some neat stuff to come from this, just can’t find any excitement in it.

        • fish99 says:

          It’s probably worth pointing out here that while your TV has a bigger screen, since you sit much further away, in most cases it occupies a much smaller percentage of your vision versus a monitor. Which is why I’ve never really got the desire to play PC games on a TV.

          So is it all about the couch versus office chair? Get a more comfy office chair then. I’m sure some people will claim it’s about being in the living room with other people, but those people want to watch TV and not you playing your PC games.

  4. PlaneShift says:

    You know what would be cool? If Valve made an SmartTV app to stream games from my desktop PC. We could plug a controller into one of it’s own many USB ports. Of course the app would need to offer the compatibility with the controller. I do not see the need to add a computer to my living room that would overlap so much of the functions a SmartTV already does.

    • cunningmunki says:

      I was thinking the same thing, but about an Android app.

  5. realitysconcierge says:

    I cannot wait to try this out. I’ve been wanting to use Linux as my main is for a while now, but the lack of games just doesn’t work for me.

    What I really hope, is that valve remembers desktop users and doesn’t make terrible usability decisions ala Windows 8.

  6. cunningmunki says:

    It amazes me how many negative and doubtful comments there are about the idea of an open source OS with the backing of an innovative and well known tech company versus a well-entrenched, closed OS that’s been around for years. Its not like there isn’t a parallel precedent for this situation. Android vs iOS. And we know who’s winning that war.

    • PlaneShift says:

      iOs was still young when Android made it’s move. Also, iOS is locked into Apple devices when Android can be put into any device any manufacturer chooses to. Windows is a lot older and is in any computer anyone wants to install it. I am looking forward to the battle. It won’t be as easy but I do have hope SteamOS will gain ground.

    • bluebomberman says:

      If you truly believe Android is trouncing iOS then there’s little point in arguing with you.

      • InternetBatman says:

        In terms of marketshare it has been for a while.

        • bluebomberman says:

          But Apple has never played the market share game. They play the profits game.

          • Low Life says:

            But we’re not comparing Apple and Google here, we’re comparing Android and iOS.

          • bluebomberman says:

            You say that as though I’m not staying on-topic. But the profitability that comes from an OS is entirely relevant.

            People look at the market share charts and declare that Android is winning, conveniently ignoring that Apple makes a ton more money per iOS user than Google does from every Android user. This is a deliberate decision on Apple’s part.

            Which is why arguing with people who just reflexively cry out “Android is winning!” is largely futile. They cherry pick a favorable statistic (market share) and ignore the rest of the picture.

            You see this lack of sophisticated reasoning in the comment I was replying to. Using the “Android is winning!” argument to deduce that Steam OS will succeed because they are open-source OSes going up against big-bad closed source OSes overlooks how much Android’s success comes from wireless carriers ordering their sales personnel to push Android phones over iOS devices. (They get more money per Android phone than iPhone sold. Android tablets, meanwhile, have largely tanked because they can’t be easily sold by wireless carriers.)

            SteamOS might be successful, but it won’t succeed by replicating Android’s success. They’re not going to have wireless telco’s selling Steam boxes for free with a 2-year contract.

          • Low Life says:

            “Android tablets, meanwhile, have largely tanked because they can’t be easily sold by wireless carriers.”

            Right. http://static.techspot.com/images2/news/bigimage/2013-07-29-image-13.png

            edit: Sorry, pressed reply too early. I’ll probably be editing this for more content.

            This discussion started about Android challenging iOS as the dominating smartphone OS. Profit has absolutely no say in that – if it did, then you could in the same vain claim that Windows is dominating the server OS market because it’s making more money off of it than Linux.

            The goal for Google isn’t making profit from Android, it’s making everyone their customer (tie them to their services etc.) and that’s exactly what they’re achieving with their market share.

          • bluebomberman says:

            Looks like I’m a year off in my understanding of tablet sales. Oops.

            Your server example doesn’t refute my point entirely. I think my main problem is this whole “X is winning! Y is losing!” mentality. Take Android and iOS. My opinion is that neither side is “winning” the war; I would say that both sides are doing quite well and will continue to be highly successful for years to come. It’s not a zero-sum game.

            Yet people whip out the market share pie chart and immediately declare winners and losers. The only real losers here are Blackberry and Microsoft.

            And there’s your server example: people generally don’t talk about Windows Server vs. Linux in “X is winning!” terms. I guess being less about consumers and more about business means less fanboyism.

            Yes, market share is important. But it is also misleading.

          • Low Life says:

            Fair point, I guess winning is a bit of a silly term. It could even be considered more of a negative situation – someone ‘winning’ the market is always bad for the customer. Even though my current phone is running Android, I wouldn’t want every smartphone on the market being in the hands of Google.

            But yeah, both Apple and Google likely consider their respective operating systems very successful, even though their market share difference is huge. So in that sense, they’re both winning :)

            I’m at the point where the word ‘winning’ is starting to sound strange.

    • ffordesoon says:

      Devil’s advocate: Android is winning in market share, but which is the better platform for games? This article suggests iOS.

      • honkskillet says:

        iOS. Hands down.

        • jrodman says:

          iPhones have known controllers, and known screen sizes. That’s a HUGE upside.
          There may be others but that alone seems like an enormous advantage.

  7. kalirion says:

    I just hope they have a different team work on this than the one responsible for the Steam Client, because that is rather … unoptimized to say the least, and, at least for me, tends to go unresponsive all the time. And the browser is simply awful.

  8. ffordesoon says:

    I care about the living room, and I think this is genius.

  9. Artificial says:

    I honestly don’t get the excitement for this. It just seems to bring all the negatives of console gaming, without any of the positives of console gaming.

    • Tei says:

      This console will be open. So you will be able to modify it, upgrade it. You could get the OS and install it in something that cost 34$, or on a good PC. Steam will be more usefull because of this thing. With this thing you will be able to play pc games anywhere on the house.

      • SkittleDiddler says:

        The console might be open, but what about the OS itself? How much of a walled garden are Valve going to make it?

      • honkskillet says:

        Why do you think this will be “open”. Steam currently isn’t open and Greenlight is a pathetic joke.

    • Mr Propellerhead says:

      To my mind, it brings all the positives of PC gaming to consoles.

      • mattevansc3 says:

        Isn’t the main benefit of PC gaming choice? I get to choose between GoG, Origin, Steam, retail discs, humble indie bundles and plenty more when I look for games but the Steambox is just Steam and if it isn’t on Steam I can’t play it on the device and I can’t stream it to the device.

        Choice brings competition and competition brings better products. On the Steambox who will the devs be competing against and what incentive will they have to give us a better deal?

        • jrodman says:

          If SteamOS is truly as open as their rhetoric, adding another game store to the system shouldn’t be much difficulty.

          We’ll see how that plays out.

  10. derbefrier says:

    So basically this is Valves console OS. It will be interesting to see Valves approach to the console market and to see if Gabe will actually practice what he preaches. A console with the openess of a PC, if successful could really change things in the industry but the Steam Box will have to have the big AAA publishers on board if he wants to compete with the big boys.

  11. Vinraith says:

    Hey look at that, it’s a walled garden with a walled garden in it!

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      Wow, had to wade through all these posts to find the obligatory “Vinraith’s snarky comment on anything to do with VALVe/Steam” post.

  12. uh20 says:

    i expressed this above but i just want it as its own post

    on the thesis that “linux is a solid architecture”. since valve brought it up, stating it was “rock-solid”

    you can say that solidity = maximum potential / the ability for someone to corkscrew the whole thing

    under this, you could say windows is 10/4, mac is 6/3, and linux is 9/5318008

    there is always a good way (restricted drivers tool) and a bad way (nvidia website) to pretty much every little task, which means someone could fall off track and accidentally break their system in a heartbeat.

    so the major challange for the SteamOS (as it looks like they are covering everything else) is not neccesarily based on upgrading graphics and sound, as it is technically fairly solid, but to make all the decisions either automated or very 1-sided, so that the classically average user can not open up a terminal and completely screw up their system by downloading a 2-day old obscene beta driver from the amd repos.

  13. EzdineG says:

    THIS is what the Xbox should have been in the first place. Microsoft, why hast thou forsaken us?

    • Panda Powered says:

      Forsaken us? Were they ever with us?

      • Apocalypse says:

        SteamOS is seems to be the Linux version of the original Windows Xbox1 OS ;-)

        But Microsoft cut all those features, cut the windows compatibility, cut the keyboard and mouse support, cut about everything that would have made their console open.

    • joedpa82 says:

      Microsoft replied “Fear not my child. We have not forsaken thee. Just remember to fill out the collection plate on your way out.”

  14. Rhodokasaurus says:

    What am I missing here?

    Looking at the top games on Steam, in the top 10 are Dota 2, Civ 5, Football Manager 2013, Total War Rome, Garry’s Mod. How do you play those games on a TV? I didn’t know there was a demand for people who already have a PC, to play those games on a TV.

    I guess I’ll keep playing games on my PC and not worry about it?

    • cunningmunki says:

      There is definitely demand, (if I hadn’t already migrated to the living room, I would be demanding it!) and as for the “how”, I’m guessing that’s going to be the next two announcements.

    • joedpa82 says:

      The demand is not from us powergamers but from those average joes with average pcs.

      • Malibu Stacey says:

        Those same Average Joes who don’t use those Average PC’s to play games but spend time in the current iteration of Angry Man Brofist Shooter on their consoles?

  15. Kageru says:

    This is not aimed at PC owners, whether Linux, windows or Mac.

    It’s a response to PC sames plummeting (lots of people only need a tablet), Consoles being entirely proprietary and Microsoft wanting to be apple (providing a “walled garden”, making tablets / phones and owning one of the big two consoles). In such an environment PC gaming, indeed “open platform” gaming could easily be a marginalized and shrinking niche. And the hardware vendors are too disorganized to consider creating a new platform.

    That’s what Valve is doing. It’s effectively a lifeline to the PC market saying that if you want to thrive in this new world you need to widen the market and have some competition in the living room. Valve will do some of the foundation work, Use linux because basing it on windows makes it too expensive and cedes control to MS, and offer streaming while they try to bulk up the number of native games. Something that is more possible now that a lot of games are written using higher level toolkits and have multi-platform presence (ie. are less tied to directX).

    The fact it helps linux gamers and people who already have gaming PC’s is a nice bonus and some more customers, but not the focus. Of course Valve has a vested interest because they gain from a wide and open market they can compete in.

    Will it work? Well, it’s probably the best chance the PC, as an open platform, has of extending its market / surviving. It needs to gain traction, more native titles, it needs hardware manufacturers and game developers to get on board and it has to compete with Xbox / PS4… it’s going to be tough.

    • mattevansc3 says:

      And as said by the Prophet of Gabe so it shall be.

      This is no lifeline for the PC market, you may see a barely noticeable surge as people rush out to build or buy premade PCs to put under their TVs and then what? If SteamOS streams the games why would you ever need to upgrade that PC? Outside of it breaking why would you want to replace it? Is there even that much interest in a Steam only gaming machine under the TV? What type of advertising is Valve going to do to promote this to the vast majority of PC and Console buyers who’ve never heard of Steam, Valve or Gabe? How does Valve plan to convince the general public to buy a PC that doesn’t do what a PC, goes under the TV and not under a desk, that it goes in the living room and not the spare room? How does Gabe plan to convince retailers to sell it when you can’t sell the punter games on disc or crapware?

      Also your assessment is all wrong, people couldn’t care less whether its open or not or whether the software developer makes tablets, phones and consoles. In fact research shows that people trust products from a company that makes a product they already like. Someone who likes their iPod is more inclined to but an iPhone or iMac, someone who buys a Galaxy S4 is more likely to buy a Samsung tablet.

      • Kageru says:

        The streaming is just a stop-gap / fringe convenience / initial user base, the goal is native titles so they can go for the “no-PC” market.

        The box will look much like the other consoles (which are really just PC hardware anyway), can be cheaper than existing HTPC products thanks to economies of scale and will be easier to setup and configure since Valve will provide a unified front end and try to improve the driver situation.

        The advantage of an open system is you get competition. Lots of hardware vendors could make compatible steam boxes and compete on reducing the price and increasing the power, much faster than the consoles that can afford to stay static for very long periods of time. Likewise a lot of games that won’t get onto consoles could get onto this, and even some of the smart-TV’s and set top boxes could immediately increase their access to content by being steam-box compatible.

        I mean it can still fail… but it’s a good strategic move for valve, the hardware manufacturers and the smaller game studious if they get on board and gain some traction.

        • cunningmunki says:

          It’ll live or die by the support it receives from the hardware manufacturers and the game studios/developers, and considering how much goodwill there is towards Valve (including from Sony, don’t forget), compared to Microsoft, I think the support will be huge. It sounds like a lot of collaboration has been going on behind the scenes already. Also, from a marketing standpoint, whatever comes from their collaboration with JJ Abrams will help them become a household name.

          • Volcanu says:

            “It’ll live or die by the support it receives from the hardware manufacturers and the game studios/developers…”

            I couldnt agree more. But to my mind, therein lies the big problem. I dont see how hardware manufacturers can compete with mainstream consoles on price. Any hardware manufacturer will need to make a decent profit for it to be worthwhile. And to offer comparable power to the PS4 and XboxOne they will surely have to charge considerably more than MS and Sony, who typically sell consoles at a loss or small profit and then make their money from a tail of software sales.

  16. honkskillet says:

    If access to devs is still closed and gate kept, as in the awful greenlight process, then screw Valve.

  17. Wedge says:

    If the streaming actually works (I have a downstairs computer hardwired to my network, so it should work as best as is possible), that would be lovely, as I could take advantage of my beefy desktop specs on my barebones media PC I have on the TV.

  18. Low Life says:

    If they haven’t done anything stupid like completely botched the OS to make it not support normal Linux software, I could see installing this to my server and using it to stream games. Currently my TV gaming is limited to running games on my laptop, and while it can run most recent games at least acceptably, it’s also really loud.

  19. joedpa82 says:

    Did everyone forgot that Valve hired an economist? Don’t you think that this was Valve’s idea in the long run.
    Stop with the tinfoilhat theory. Valve is actually doing us a favor by freeing us from the shackles of Microsoft.
    The only reason i’m still on Windows is because of the amount of game that i have.
    Think of all the good things that can come from SteamOS. The automatic updates for all of your hardware, games and softwares.
    I know that Valve seems going the dictator route but a benevolent dictator is much more better than a corrupt democracy. I know that analogy seems bad but but in this case we can rise and vote with our wallet.
    Gentlemen, we have the technology and the resources. We can rebuild our favorite past times, we can progress for the greater good. Why must we shackle ourselves to our gaming desk?

    Why are we fearing change? Change is what made PC gaming. If it is for the better, why should we not embrace it. Why must we reject it like its some scorned lover?

    People said that Jobs was crazy for dabbling in the world of mobile phones. Look where the iPhone is now. People said that the Wright Brothers were lunatics from dreaming of flight. Look at us zipping to and fro other cities and continents in a matter of hours.

    The examples above shows that just because something is not broken does not mean it should keep its status quo. By that reasoning, we should all live in a cave like the Croods.

    SteamOS will revolutionize the world of OS if this pulls through. Just because others have failed does not mean that they too shall fail.

    Try looking at the silver linings of the clouds instead of worrying yourself. We have enough shit happening in the world as it is.

    PS: 1. I’m not a steamfanboy.
    2. Read this comment in the voice of Sherlock Holmes from Elementary.
    3. I for one welcomes our new GladOSoverlord.

    • RProxyOnly says:

      Valve aren’t ‘removing’ the shackles from anyone… they’re just supplying their own.

      Linux is an OPEN platform… do you honestly think Gabe is going to invest in a platform he doesn’t fully control?

      SteamOS will be a closed ecosystem.. you won’t be able to mess with/add to it the same way you can mess with and add to a linux distro.

      TBH I think Gabe is trying to close off the openness of linux, at least in his small corner of it.

      • Lemming says:

        Maybe you should read the actual announcement?: ” Users can alter or replace any part of the software or hardware they want. “

      • Kageru says:

        … Valve is not competing with Linux or any equivalent Linux gaming console. Releasing patches and improvements back to the kernel or distributions means someone else will do the integration, testing and support of infrastructure Valve needs and do that work for free. In a lot of cases it’s win-win.

        The steamOS will probably be more locked down, to stop members of the general public getting into trouble, but I doubt it will be secured. We’ll see. It’s not really in Valves interest to restrict the market for the machines if it wants to lure the hardware guys to make them… they might actually make sweet little linux boxes.

    • 00000 says:

      They hired an economist because Valve accidentally created a massive virtual economy with perfect information about that economy. Thousands upon thousands of hats being bought and traded everyday are not just valuable to Valve, they are valuable to science in general.
      If you think Valve does anything for a reason other then hats, you’re mistaken. If anything, Valve is doing this because Windows is a terrible OS for a Living Room Hat Dispenser.

  20. baltasaronmeth says:

    And while everybody else is excited about this SteamOS Linux distribution, folks over at penguin land are already past the Steam on Linux hype, and got so used to it, that all you read about Steam on Linux by now is threads like “No sound with Steam+pulseaudio”, “Steam [multilib] segmentation fault”, “$GAME does not show up in Steam list” and “Announcement: Steam ncurse client (sort of…)”.

  21. KingFunk says:

    I live in a studio flat, therefore my PC already owns the living room. And the kitchen. And the bedroom. Plus all I needed was a 8ft HDMI cable, which is tucked neatly out of sight (well, almost entirely). Am I winning?

  22. DragonTHC says:

    I lay bollocks to your claim of predicting that and lay out my own published prediction from 2007.

    http://gamerslastwill.com/2007/12/12/the-next-big-thing/

    • KingFunk says:

      Hats off to you sir – you were not very wrong. Interesting comment on that from 2008:

      “I realize the post is old, but you linked to it from . Anyway, I agree with the idea of distributing a custom, stripped down Linux on DVD or USB stick. It certainly makes a lot of sense, and the OS can be tweaked to the game. Only problem is, Microsoft knows what a stranglehold they have, mainly due to gaming, and will continue to ‘partner’ with game companies, or buy the ones that do go with the Games for Windows crap. Good post though. Hopefully we see it soon. You essentially turn a PC in to a console”

      Seems this chap was a little optimistic about MS in the PC gaming sphere and particularly GfW…

  23. Scrote says:

    So it ends.

  24. soxism says:

    In the Picture at the top of the article. Can anyone tell me what the name of the game under Rome total war on the left is?