Steam on Ubuntu could hurt gaming on Linux

Ubuntu doesn't need two software stores, and before Valve brought Steam to Linux, it already had one.

I love video games. And Valve makes some pretty doggone phenomenal ones.

So when we got the official word that Valve’s Steam (their software/game store), along with one of their games – Left 4 Dead 2 - was coming to Linux… let’s just say I was “pleased.”

But then I thought about it some more, and now I am less pleased.

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I’ve long been an advocate of the need for well-supported, commercial software on the Linux Desktop. Heck, I even base my livelihood on building commercial Linux software and games.

So seeing a big company like Valve throw resources into the Linux software world is a big win for all of us – certainly it qualifies as an excellent morale booster. And, let’s be honest, great video games drive platform sales. This is just as true for computers as it is for game consoles. While those of us who use Linux on a daily basis know, full well, that we can run video games built for Windows with excellent results using Wine (usually), most of the non-Linux-using world isn’t privy to that information and experience. Steam’s arrival helps to legitimize Linux as a platform in many people’s eyes.

“You make Steam coming to Linux sound pretty great, Bryan! How can that possibly be a bad thing?”

Solid question! Here’s the problem:

The Steam store is not coming to Linux in general. It is coming, specifically, to Ubuntu. But that’s not the problem. I have no issue with Valve only supporting one Distro at launch. The problem is that Ubuntu already has a software and game store – the Ubuntu Software Center (or “Software Centre” for you crazy kids on the other side of the pond).

Now, I’m not opposed to some healthy competition. Quite the contrary. But, in this case, I’m concerned. We don’t need two software stores. We need one that is highly successful and pulls in large-enough sales volumes to attract developers and publishers to the platform.

Currently, the Ubuntu Software Center is still in its early stages. It’s growing and improving, but is not yet large enough (in terms of individuals actively using and purchasing software) to make it truly enticing for publishers to invest the resources needed to port their wares to Linux.

My chief concern is that the arrival of Steam will simply serve to splinter the already small (relatively) user base of “people on Linux who buy software through a digital store."

I would prefer to see Valve release games, starting with Left 4 Dead 2, through the Ubuntu Software Center. That would help bolster an existing effort to build a Linux software store while still giving Valve access to a new base of users.

Unless, of course, Valve’s goal is to crush and destroy a source of income for the company that builds the distro into which they are porting and investing resources…which can’t possibly be the case. Because that’s just too goofy.


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