In his keynote today at Linuxcon, Valve CEO and Founder Gabe Newell said Linux is the future of gaming and hinted about the announcement next week of a gaming box built on the open-source operating environment.
As proof of Linux’s bright future, Newell pointed to Steam, the company’s online platform. Since it launched last spring, developers have created 198 games on it.
He said it points to a future in which games will be nodes in a connected economy where the vast majority of goods and services will be created by individuals not companies.
The reasons for Linux’s rosy future dates back to the age when PC vendors ruled with proprietary technologies. By blocking competitors, open systems emerged and the proprietary hardware became less relevant. Today, PC gaming is where the innovation is occurring, with the most interesting developments coming from open communities.
He said proprietary systems create friction, which slows things down. Fo example, he said it took Valve six months to get an update approved by Apple for an iPad game. That’s antithetical to the open environments that come with Linux-based environments.
The PC market illustrates the impacts of such a strategy. PC sales today are showing significant year-over-year declines. On the other hand, PC gaming has been immune to the downturn and open-source, innovation-friendly environments that have emerged. This democratization of gaming is blurring the line between creators and consumers. For example, its Team Fortress community creates 10 times the amount of content as the developers at Valve.
Newell hinted at its move into the living room by using Linux to illustrate how it can be the underlying technology to abstract the complexities that come with using hardware that requires its own proprietary systems. He said that Linux can act as the universal unifier of mobile, the living room and gaming. People want their systems to be simple to use and not be tied into hardware that forces them to buy consoles, controllers and games that only work on one system.
It has long been rumored that Valve would launch a Steam Box, a gaming hardware systems. If it really is then it looks like Linux will be at its core.