When Valve first announced Steam, a service that allows gamers (and, recently, creative professionals) the ability to download software at high speeds from Valve’s servers, many people were skeptical. Especially when the company launched Half-Life 2 and both Steam and the game were rendered unusable for a number of days. Of course, Valve has turned things around since then, and over the past few years Steam has become the de facto face of digital downloads, offering both PC users and those who prefer Apple’s devices a solid reason to never physically visit a video game store ever again.
Now, that awesome opportunity for wanton laziness has been expanded to Linux users. Well, sort of. As of this morning, Valve has announced that Steam has entered a closed Linux beta test. The current beta version of Steam lacks many of the features you’d find in its PC and Mac iterations, but Valve certainly didn’t want to test its game distribution system without offering players actual games. Thus, beta testers are now able to download and play a special Linux version of Team Fortress 2. Further, the Linux Steam client also includes support for the Big Picture mode seen in the PC version of Steam that allows the software (and any games running through it) to expand its viewing area to properly fit on modern HDTVs.
Oddly, Valve’s announcement also claims that there are an additional “two dozen” games available for play on the Linux version of Steam, though all links the company has offered to an official list of said games seem to be defunct. Seeing this, we attempted to manually search Steam for any Linux-compatible games, and while we came up with this list of 25 titles (26 if you include Team Fortress 2) by searching specifically for Linux compatibility, none of them happen to mention Linux in their respective Steam store descriptions. We just sent off a message to Valve to see if we could get a bit of clarification on which games Linux users can expect to play, so hopefully we’ll have more info to offer soon.
Now, before you Linux users get too excited, know that there are caveats involved with this beta test. First, this is not a public beta. To be eligible for the test, you would have had to already receive an invite from Valve. According to the company, it received over 60,000 applications to take part in this test in the first week following its call for such people, and while no official figures have been released on how many gamers are involved in this beta, we expect the number to be quite large
Assuming you are one of these lucky invitees, the only hurdle left is making sure that your operating system is up to snuff. According to Valve, the Linux beta test is specifically for those running Ubuntu 12.04. Steam’s availability will expand to include other popular Linux flavors over time, but for now its Ubuntu or nothing. “An overwhelming majority of beta applicants have reported they’re running the Ubuntu distro of Linux,” said Frank Crockett, a member of the Steam for Linux development team. “We intend to support additional popular distros in the future; we’ll prioritize development for these based on user feedback.”
There is currently no word on how long Valve intends to keep this test running, nor how quickly we’ll see other popular titles appear on Steam’s Linux iteration, but we’ll keep you updated as new information rolls in. In the mean time, you Linux users are given permission to smugly boast about the new gaming capabilities of your favorite, less-than-mainstream operating system. Your friends who swear by Windows have had it coming for years.