Valve, the game publisher and developer of the Steam gaming service for PCs, announced the first of three new products aimed at expanding the reach of the Steam gaming service beyond the PC and into the living room.
The SteamOS is Valve's Linux-based answer to providing access to Steam-based games outside of Steam's normal environment. The Steam gaming system is programmed to be used on Windows and Macintosh based PCs and must operate within the design constraints of those base operating systems. SteamOS will provide an operating system specifically focused on gaming performance.
In a comment on the SteamOS announcement page, Valve had this to say, "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."
New SteamOS Features
Beyond the benefits of allowing game developers access to more powerful processing in a PC application, Valve touted several other features provided within the new OS.
SteamOS adopters will be allowed to share Steam games with family members using the Family Share system. Family Share will allow multiple family members to play the same version of a game, at separate times and with separate achievements and Steam points, while saving progress in the Steam Cloud.
Along with the ability to share Steam games with family members through Family Share, will come the ability to hide or restrict access to certain games depending on the account accessing SteamOS at the time. Valve believe that this will provide "more control over what titles get seen by whom, and more features to allow everyone in the house to get the most out of their Steam libraries."
The SteamOS will also provide in-home streaming, designed to provide access from a PC Steam account directly to a TV and access to "Music, TV, and Movies" through the SteamOS system.
While the SteamOS sounds like an amazing opportunity for a gaming-focused company to provide a real alternative to the stagnate console market, there is a single, significant hurdle to overcome: the OS is based on Linux.
Most game companies program games to be played on three major platforms; Windows, Xbox, and PlayStation. Many game developers chose to focus on only one platform in order to keep the ever-growing production costs of game development down. Even a popular OS like Apple's Macintosh is overlooked due to limited market saturation and the high-cost of directed programming. As of right now, very few, if any, games are designed to operate on a Linux-based OS.
Will game developers designate resources toward Linux-based game development? Is it possible that this move from Windows and Macintosh based OS to the SteamOS will reduce the viability of the Steam system overall? Only time will tell.
Valve has scheduled two subsequent announcements that are tied to the SteamOS reveal. The first will be on September 25, 2013 and the follow-up is expected to be on Friday September 27, 2013.