Valve has announced SteamOS, its own Linux-based operating system that’s based around its Steam digital gaming platform. The first of three announcements Valve has planned for this week, SteamOS is said to be free to download and designed for using Steam on “living room machines.” (That likely includes future Steam Box consoles.) Valve hasn’t given an exact release date for the OS yet, but says it’ll be available “soon.”
“Hundreds” of games are already running natively on SteamOS, according to Valve, with various other developers set to build titles for the platform going forward. The company claims that it has “achieved significant performance increases in graphics processing” with the OS, and that it’s currently working on improving its audio and latency performance too.
It’s also positing SteamOS as a free way for content creators — like game publishers and developers — to “connect directly” to their customers on the OS level, in contrast to the comparatively controlled ways of Windows 8 (an OS of which Valve boss Gabe Newell has been critical before). Valve says it will license SteamOS at no cost to device manufacturers making Steam-based game consoles.
Linux’s lack of compatibility with many Steam games stands to be the most obvious pratfall with any device based around the open source OS. Valve hopes to get around that problem, though, by giving SteamOS devices the ability to stream Steam games from Windows and Mac computers to your TV over your home wireless network.
Valve claims that SteamOS will have support for “many of the media services you know and love” when it comes to movies, music and TV content too, though it didn’t give any specifics. As you might expect, SteamOS will also be compatible with the Family Sharing feature that was announced earlier this month, and it’ll have support for parental control options as well. Valve says all of these things will be coming to the Steam client on Windows and Mac too.
Beyond all that, the OS will still support many of the functions that currently exist in the usual Steam client. Things like friends lists, in-game chat, Game Hubs, automatic game updates and saved games through the cloud, Steam Workshop add-ons, and the like are all said to be compatible with the platform.
Last year, Valve revealed a new “Big Picture” mode for Steam that was designed to make the gaming service more suitable for big screen displays. The company has already announced that it’s making a heavy push to transplant its brand of PC gaming to the living room, and now it appears to have unveiled the next major step in doing that. Valve is teasing a second announcement for Wednesday, which could bring us the first glimpse at the machines that will make use of this new software.