A hidden section in Steam’s GUI files points towards new “compatibility tools” called “Steam Play”, which appear to be paving the way for Steam to make some Windows games work in Linux. This could have massive implications for SteamOS’s viability as a gaming platform.
There are 11 hidden interface options in total, reports ArsTechnica, which range from the mundane and self-explanatory (“SteamPlay Settings”, “SteamPlay FAQ”), to more exciting things like tools which “allow you to play games from your library that were built for other operating systems.”
It all sounds very promising. SteamOS was an interesting initiative that Valve first announced back in 2013 — the big idea was to break free from Windows by building a version of Linux built solely to run Steam, with an interface designed to be easily navigated with a gamepad.
It’s difficult to know why specifically SteamOS faltered, but the lack of big games that are Linux-compatible surely had to play a part. It’s a real chicken and egg problem, since without a big gaming audience on Linux, there’s going to be no money in developing ports, which would in turn attract an even bigger audience.
If Valve can somehow solve this fundamental issue, then SteamOS could turn from a fun curio into something that regular gamers might actually use.
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Sounds like WINE
But before you get too excited, this all sounds very similar to WINE, a piece of Linux software that’s been around forever that promises to allow Windows games to work on Steam. You need only look at its compatibility list to see how difficult a task this is.
So we’ve got a lot of questions about what form Steam Play could eventually take (if it gets a public release at all, remember this is Valve we’re talking about). Is Valve planning on integrating some kind of WINE support into SteamOS, or does it have its own compatibility software that it’s trying to get off the ground?
With the industry slowly warming to the idea of adopting the platform-agnostic Vulkan graphics API, Linux gaming is marginally more possible now then it has been before. It’s just going to take a lot more willpower than Valve’s been willing to give it in recent years.
Would you switch to Linux for gaming if you could run Windows releases? Let us know @TrustedReviews.