Valve Corporation founder Gabe Newell has made no secret of his disdain for Windows 8. And now after more than a decade of developing games that run on every version of Windows dating back to Windows 98, Valve is "hedging" it's bets by accelerating its support for games that run on Linux.
Those gamers who use Linux heavily might be pinching themselves right now to make sure that this isn't a dream. Whether or not they choose to use Windows for day-to-day use, most gamers have run Windows by necessity; all modern PC games are written to run on Windows first if not solely. Drivers for the most high-tech gaming hardware (GPUs, controllers, 3-D displays, etc) are often only available on Windows. Mac OS and Linux are also-rans in this category.
And Valve isn't just the maker of some of the most critically acclaimed games of the past decade, they are the operators of the biggest digital storefront in PC gaming, Steam. And through the influence that they wield with other game developers, they can probably push to get lots of other games ported to Linux as well. Many of these are small independent developers who were supported through Steam's Greenlight program and would love a way to differentiate their offering from some of the bigger-name games on the market.
In addition, Valve has been rumored to be working on a set-top box affectionately dubbed the "Steam Box" by the community. This system is less likely to be a console than an ultra-compact PC with standardized hardware which can fit comfortably in a living room entertainment center and hooked up to a TV. In preparation for the move to the living room, Valve has been pushing Steam's Big Picture Mode which encourages gamers to play on large, TV-sized screens with controllers rather than on monitors with a mouse and keyboard. It is expected that if the Steam Box ever materializes, it will run a variant of Linux as its core OS. Not only could this mean competition for the forthcoming Ouya, but it could also mean a shorter and less expensive path for PC game developers to reach gamers on their sofas than porting games to the XBOX 360 or PlayStation 3.
But don't expect Microsoft to quietly cede control of the lucrative PC gaming market to Linux. When game developers balked at writing games for Windows rather than DOS, Microsoft gave them the venerable DirectX APIs. That move cemented Microsoft's position as the preeminent PC gaming platform. It only stands to reason that they would do something to assuage any fears that developers might have about Windows 8 as a gaming platform as well. Still, having more games that work well on Linux probably would not be a bad outcome for gamers regardless of what becomes of Windows 8.