Valve recently pulled its home page links to Steam Machine listings, which led many of us to speculate about the end of that initiative. Now, Valve developer Pierre-Loup Griffais claims Steam Machines are not dead, and the company has big plans for gaming on Linux and the associated hardware platform.
Valve kicked off the Steam Machine initiative in 2013 when it announced SteamOS. Many of the top gaming PC manufacturers intended to launch hardware, but most of those plans fizzled. Developers have been slow to support the Linux-based SteamOS, and Steam Machines have proven too expensive considering the limited game support. Even those games that do work tend to perform poorly compared with the Windows versions.
So, it’s no surprise that there isn’t much interest in Steam Machines right now. They’re expensive and game support is still severely lacking compared with Windows. Valve’s landing page links to several systems that are no longer available, and at least one other actually runs Windows 10 instead of SteamOS. According to Griffais, the link was pulled from the home page because traffic was extremely low. That doesn’t mean Valve is giving up, but it’s not exactly great news either.
In Griffais’ post on the Steam Community board, he says Valve is working to address the shortcomings in SteamOS and the existing Steam Machines. A big piece of the puzzle is support for the cross-platform Vulkan graphics API. Most Windows games use DirectX, but SteamOS launched with OpenGL. Vulkan support showed up in mid-2016, and Valve just recently rolled out Vulkan support for MacOS and iOS (via the MoltenVK driver). Valve also released shader pre-caching for Vulkan, which speeds up load times and makes rendering smoother. By making Vulkan well-supported on all platforms, Valve hopes it can get developers to build more games on Linux.
The post also includes a teaser of upcoming initiatives from Valve. Griffais says the Linux gaming exosystem as a whole will benefit from what Valve has in the pipeline. The company will also continue developing SteamOS to deliver those advances to its customers.
Griffais doesn’t have any specific news on Steam Machine hardware, though. With the prices of GPUs still astronomical, this probably isn’t the time to push low-cost PC gaming systems. While Valve might not be done with Steam Machines, there’s no major change on the horizon to make these systems worth your time. Maybe one day you’ll game on Linux, but not today.