Steam Machines "aren't exactly flying off the shelves" but Valve are sticking with Linux
The year of the Linux desktop
Steam Machines went nowhere, Valve have basically said (I'm paraphrasing a touch), but nah, don't sweat it, they are still committed to improving gaming on Linux. After shuffling Steam Machines deeper into the labyrinth of Steam's website menus, and the ensuing cybersquawking over Valve having done a thing, they've reflected a little on their PC branding partnership and the Linux-based SteamOS beneath it.
"Given that this change has sparked a lot of interest, we thought it'd make sense to address some of the points we've seen people take away from it," Valve's Pierre-Loup Griffais said. Internet, eh?
The Steam Machine is Valve's scheme for dinky little gaming PCs that sit in a living room, like a console, ideally paired with Valve's Steam Controller. While Valve are behind SteamOS, the Linux-based operating system running on Steam Machines (Windows works too, obvs), they don't make any of the actual computers themselves. That's done by folks like Alienware and Scan, computer manufacturers who get to borrow the Steam name. The first Steam Machines launched in 2015 and... that was the last time anyone really talked about 'em much. They're just expensive little PCs.
Valve recently removed a link to Steam Machines from the front page of the store's website (the section itself is still up), GamingOnLinux noted last week, then tongues started wagging. People are weird about Valve.
That link was "removed from the main navigation bar based on user traffic," Griffin explained. I am unsurprised to hear that's not a popular section. But while Steam Machines seem to be at a predictable dead end, Valve are sticking with Linux.
"While it's true Steam Machines aren't exactly flying off the shelves, our reasons for striving towards a competitive and open gaming platform haven't significantly changed," Griffais said. "We're still working hard on making Linux operating systems a great place for gaming and applications." And the whole process has been helpful.
"Through the Steam Machine initiative, we've learned quite a bit about the state of the Linux ecosystem for real-world game developers out there. We've taken a lot of feedback and have been heads-down on addressing the shortcomings we observed. We think an important part of that effort is our ongoing investment in making Vulkan a competitive and well-supported graphics API, as well as making sure it has first-class support on Linux platforms."
They've helped bring Vulkan support to Mac, meaning that developers can build games on it for all the main PC operating systems. Valve are "continuing to invest significant resources in supporting the Vulkan ecosystem, tooling and driver efforts", he adds.
"We also have other Linux initiatives in the pipe that we're not quite ready to talk about yet; SteamOS will continue to be our medium to deliver these improvements to our customers, and we think they will ultimately benefit the Linux ecosystem at large."
Great. Lovely. Thank you. Please continue to do that. I'm still firmly on Windows myself but am glad to see alternatives improve. Same goes for alternatives to the Steam store, of course (warmest regards to GOG and Itch.io).
I suppose, as with a lot of Valve's efforts, there's a dream to mourn. Valve had initially planned to make and sell their own Steam Machines (they stalled at prototypes), they talked about using biometrics in controllers, and it got minds buzzing with the possibilities of how Valve might be able to transform and spread PC gaming. They are one of the few companies with the interest and influence to affect change. Then Valve scaled their plans back down to something bland but achievable. Steam Machines are small, smart, pricey PCs with the Steam name - niche products with a big brand. But that's fine. I don't look to Valve to do and be everything.