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Steam can run on the PlayStation 4 thanks to Arch Linux, a jailbreak, and old firmware

Running Steam on PS4 Linux
Remember when the PlayStation 3 had that “Other OS” option, which allowed owners to run Linux or FreeBSD on the console? That was a rather neat feature until Sony nuked it with the release of firmware version 3.21. And now that the PlayStation 4 is on the market and ditches that crazy PowerPC-based “cell” processor for x86-based hardware, owners are still itching to run anything they can on it, including games designed for the PC. After all, the PlayStation 4 is seemingly a PC running Sony’s operating system, right?

That said, one PlayStation 4 modder named OsirisX managed to get Valve Software’s Steam client up and running on the console by using firmware version 1.76 and a jailbreak, and installing Arch Linux.  The individual also compiled and installed both 64-bit and 32-bit patched Radeon libraries provided by homebrew group fail0verflow over on Github so that Linux games could run flawlessly.

About two and a half minutes into a video (shown above), you’ll see OsirisX log into Arch Linux on the PlayStation 4 console. The Steam login (via Big Picture Mode) appears four minutes into the video, and OsirisX progresses to show that users can access their settings and update the client, jump into their library and manage their titles, and launch Linux-based games on the platform.

For example, OsirisX loads up Bastion, an action role-playing game by indie developer Supergiant Games and published by Warner Bros. The game was released in July 2011 for a number of platforms including iOS, Windows, the PS Vita, the PlayStation 4, and Linux. Here, he’s obviously using the Linux version on the PlayStation 4, which is rather funny given the console has its own version.

Anyway, the game seems to run just fine. Unfortunately, there are no numbers indicating frame rates, but based on the video, the game runs smooth, allowing OsirisX to guide the character into Breaker Barracks and kill off all the floating, spiky blue orbs with a bow and arrow. The demo is short but proves that this “hack” actually works without a hiccup and performance issues.

Linux first reared its head on the PlayStation 4 back in December 2015 thanks to fail0verflow. The group said that even though the PlayStation 4 has PC-like components, it’s still not a PC. That meant Linux needed “extra work” to get it up and running on the console. However, because the PlayStation 4 operating system is based on FreeBSD and the web browser is based on Webkit, exploits are supposedly easy to find in both, which in turn can be used in a Linux loader.

“Linux on the PS4 actually makes a lot of sense, more than it ever did on any previous game console,” the group said. “It’s close enough to a PC that getting 3D acceleration working, while rather painful (as we’ve learned), seems entirely possible without undue amounts of effort (in a time frame of months, not years), to the level needed for real indie games and even AAA titles, not just homebrew.”

The first jailbreak for the PlayStation 4 reportedly appeared in June 2015 thanks to a team in Brazil that used a Raspberry Pi to copy the operating system and installed games of a “legal” PlayStation 4 to another PlayStation 4 console. Naturally, the exploits used in the jailbreaking process has since been patched by Sony (hence, the current need for firmware version 1.76), but there’s supposedly talk that a jailbreak is on the way for version 3.50 in the near future, too.

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Kevin Parrish
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Kevin started taking PCs apart in the 90s when Quake was on the way and his PC lacked the required components. Since then…
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