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Is Valve’s Steam Box a giant mistake?

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Take it all with a grain of salt, but according to German tech site Golem.de (via PC Gamer), we’ll be seeing that oft-rumoured “console” from Valve later this year, by way of an announcement – possibly at GDC or E3. It also sounds like it could be a giant mistake.

It should come as no surprise to anybody who followed Gabe Newell’s vitriolic rants about the future of Windows as a gaming operating system that Valve’s Steam Box – a living room PC – will run on Linux. so says Valve’s electronics engineer Ben Krasnow, who spoke at the EHSM 2012 conference in Berlin last month, apparently confirming the rumours.

While I have no problems with Linux as an operating system, and Valve’s recently added a touch of native Linux support to Steam, it just isn’t the best operating system when it comes to gaming. Most Pc games utilise Microsoft’s rather windows-centric developer API, DirectX, for games and getting them all to work under Linux just doesn’t seem worth the effort. sure, you could utilise windows emulation using something like Wine or derivatives like CrossOver, but there are performance and stability hits involved.

Right now, just 38 of the 1815 games on Steam support Linux, and that’s unlikely to change dramatically any time soon, unless every game developer in the entire world switches over to Open GL or Unity.

The single benefit of a Linux-based living room PC though would be the complete lack of OS licencing costs, bringing the price down. I’m not certain, however, that the lower cost outweighs the probably lack of triple-A blockbuster games though. It will probably be a pretty big boon for Indie games though.

I’ve been intrigued by the idea of a Valve console – but I have to say that it running Linux kinda has me losing interest. I think I’d rather just build my own little small form-factor HTPC.

Last Updated: January 7, 2013

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