The Steam Machines have been announced! Rejoice! Gabe Newel came down from the mountain with his tablets announcing a wide range of hardware running SteamOS. For a few hundred dollars (or 6000, depending on your needs), you can enjoy PC gaming in your living room! Except of course, you can’t play that many games. As Ben Kuchera pointed out on Polygon, the main drawback of the Steam Machines is that they run a Linux-based OS. So that means it only runs games that run on Linux. And there aren’t that many games that run on Linux.
Gaming on Linux is more of a bonus than a feature
Gaming on Linux is more of a bonus than a feature. It’s a given that if you’re on Linux, you have a much smaller game selection. With 283 out of Steam’s 2326 titles supporting Linux, the OS has a share of roughly 12% of Steam’s own library. 12%?! Why would we go out and buy Steam machines if it barely runs any of the games that are actually on Steam? And you know what’s worse? Steam has been a pretty active player in promoting gaming on Linux, so as you can imagine, the numbers are probably even lower if you factor in games that are not on Steam. So you can forget about League of Legends, Minecraft, Diablo and World of Warcraft (not to mention the hundreds of indies that are still campaigning to get on Steam).
What’s more, you can probably forget about AAA games. Out of Steam’s Linux games, around 78% are indie titles, so indie games are the ones that are being ported to Linux most often. Around 40% of those were featured in the massive Humble Bundle sales, so nearly half of the indies on Linux were created because the developers had the promise of income from these sales as incentive. As you may know, Linux users were the most generous, putting in the biggest individual contributions on average. So a notable chunk of the Indies that are now on Linux ended up there because the developers were promised a big payoff.
Bear in mind that this ‘big payoff’ usually amounts to a couple hundred thousand dollars at most. I mean, for a small studio trying to pay its rent, that’s awesome, but AAA studios don’t exactly get hard-ons over that kind of money. If a AAA game sells 2 million copies it’s a gloom and doom scenario where they failed miserably and everyone gets fired.
I mean, to begin with, game companies treat the PC like it’s some kind of awful, shitty chore they got stuck with. They drag their feet, put out half-assed ports and in some cases avoid the platform altogether. I mean, do people expect them to release for a market that’s even smaller than the Windows one with no promise of success? On top of that, do people expect them to release on a platform that constantly advertises how It’s open it is? They hate open! They love the consoles because they’re very, very closed platforms. Their wet dreams came true when Microsoft told everyone it wanted to check if we were stealing shit every 24 hours.
It’s like we’re going up to them and saying ‘Hey, you know how you hate releasing games on PC because you have to deal with like 1000 different systems and nobody actually pays for the games? How would you like to release your games on a smaller and more obscure platform that gives you almost no control and prides itself on not charging for this?’