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Windows 8, once called a 'catastrophe,' is actually ideal for gamers

Despite Gabe Newell’s claim that Windows 8 is a "catastrophe," users of his Steam digital distribution service are adopting the OS at a decent clip.

A few months back, I wrote about an interview in which Valve co-founder and managing director Gabe Newell called Windows 8 a “catastrophe.” Just to refresh your memory, back then Mr. Newell specifically said, “I think that Windows 8 is kind of a catastrophe for everybody in the PC space. I think that we’re going to lose some of the top-tier PC original equipment manufacturers. They’ll exit the market. I think margins are going to be destroyed for a bunch of people. If that’s true, it’s going to be a good idea to have alternatives to hedge against that eventuality.”

All things considered, there should be plenty of concern for Microsoft. The PC’s future as we know it is uncertain, with the onslaught of mobile devices and alternative operation systems. But Newell’s concerns were coming from a different place, in my opinion. I believed Newell’s concerns had more to do with the potential competition from the Windows Store and Windows 8’s deep Xbox integration than an actual concern that Windows 8, in and of itself, would be a catastrophe for the PC market.

Ed Fries (left), Gabe Newell (right). Image Source: VentureBeat

Well, according to Valve’s popular Stream digital distribution service, gamers haven’t taken Mr. Newell’s concerns to heart. Steam’s most recent hardware and software survey put Windows 8 behind only Windows 7, as the most used operating system amongst gamers.

The data reported by Valve shows the combined share of 32-bit and 64-bit editions of Windows 8 at 9.63% and climbing, which was enough to overtake Windows XP. In case you’re wondering, that 9.63% was also enough to overtake all editions of Mac OS X, which came in at around 3%, all editions of Linux, and the much-maligned Windows Vista. Although, in all fairness, Valve just recently began supporting Linux, and Mac OS X is hardly revered amongst gamers.

The OS in the pole position - Windows 7 (both 32-bit and 64-bit, combined) - is still being used by over 69% of gamers using Steam’s service, but its share has been declining since the release of Windows 8.

Having used Windows 8 on my gaming system exclusively for months, I can say that it is a great OS for gamers. GPU drivers have matured nicely. The OS itself has a smaller footprint than Windows 7, and it uses fewer system resources. In fact, that second point can make Windows 8 a better option for gamers with low-end hardware since fewer resources are used by the OS. Dare I say the Start Screen may be more desirable for gamers too, since their favorite games can be easily organized into groups and be only a single click away upon starting up.

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