Linux users have been able to use Steam since 2013, but could a major improvement be on the way in 2021? The latest rumours on this subject suggest that this could be the case, with owner Valve mentioning some changes in the pipeline.
The Current State of Linux Gaming on Steam
Before we look at the possible changes that could be coming to Steam, this is a good moment to reflect on the amount of Linux gaming time that is recorded on the monthly Steam survey results. The latest details are for January 2021, and they show that Linux is close to the 1% mark again. This follows on from a drop of 0.16% in December that took it down to 0.74%. The first month of this year saw is climb up to 0.91%, recovering pretty much all of the ground lost in December’s dip. January’s numbers were led by Windows, with 95.65%, with macOS at 0.62%.
It is interesting to note that Linux still can’t get past the 1% mark that it reached when Steam was first made available on this operating system. The figure sat at between 0.8% and 0.9% for most of 2020, but the success of Steam Play and the VKD3D-Proton suggest that 2021 may see the 1% level breached.
What Could Valve Have in Mind?
The hint that something big is coming along for Steam users on Linux came near the end of Valve’s 2020 Steam summary. They pointed out that they are going to carry on investing in new technology to give greater game compatibility and better performance in Steam Play.
They went on to say that they are also looking at ways of allowing “prospective users to get into Linux gaming” to discover the improvements mentioned. No further details are revealed, leading to speculation among gamers about what this change might be and when to expect it. Some people think that they may be referring to an updated version of the failed Steam Machines project that kicked off in 2015 but failed to gain enough widespread support. The presence in the market of many top-quality Linux gaming computers means that this would be an extremely tough sector for them to break into now.
A further area that Valve could be looking at is simplifying Steam Proton. Five major versions of this compatibility layer have been released to date, but it is still relatively complex and not widely known about. A more simplified approach together with a solid marketing campaign could encourage more gamers to start playing in this way.
Comparison Using Linux
For comparison, we could look at how easy it is for players to access online Flash games using Linux. As these games don’t have to be downloaded, they can be entered directly using a browser that supports Flash games. This opens up the possibility of choosing from many different types of games in numerous genres, such as sports, strategy and shooters. This kind of approach to technology has also been utilised by casinos when it comes to developing online slots.
In terms of casinos slots, VegasSlotsOnline lists the most popular in-browser games including Starburst, Book of Dead and Rainbow Riches among them. There are thousands of titles like these that are free to play in this way in any suitable browser. Real-money games can then be accessed directly on casino sites such as Spin Casino and Gaming Club Casino. This industry has seen incredible growth over the last decade by making the most of in-browser games, as well as being easily accessible on mobile devices. There are even notable slot developers too, which are listed on this site.
A move that makes it just as easy to play any game on Steam would be extremely welcome. At the moment, the fact that there are various versions of Proton and that different games work better on certain versions currently makes this a more awkward way of playing. Playing on Steam with admin rights is possible, but not everyone is comfortable using Proton.
Another suggestion is that Steam may be added to smart TV sets, with only a controller needed for players to dive into cloud gaming sessions. With the number of gaming sessions using a controller increasing by 66% in 2020 according to Steam, this is an area that the company will be keen to see carry on growing.
What Can We Expect to See in the Future?
It looks as though 2021 could be an important year for Linux gamers on Steam. No matter what the big changes planned by Valve involve, there are some signs that we can expect to see the Linux share of the market grow in 2021.