By Crystal Colwell / September 23rd, 2013
SteamOS might sound a bit like a futuristic idea in a time of mass confusion, but it’s not. It’s a real thing, so let’s break it down and see what’s what.
The tagline on the SteamOS website says, “Downloadable soon. Free forever!” Well, both of those are good things, but what is it? It seems to be exactly what it sounds like: a Steam operating system. It is being designed around Steam and promises to ‘deliver value’ to customers through “the rock-solid architecture of Linux” and “a gaming experience built for the big screen.”
The reason for this OS seems to be to allow gamers to play on their big-screen TVs. I thought we could already do that with the magic of consoles and cords that connect our computers to our TVs, but I’ll jump on this idea and see where it takes us. Like, how does it work?
SteamOS is a standalone operating system that Valve says will run on “any living room machine,” although what that is they don’t say. (Is it a computer in a living room? Is it something akin to the Steam Box?) But they do say that “hundreds of great games are already running natively on SteamOS,” and they invite gamers to “watch for announcements in the coming weeks about all the AAA titles coming natively to SteamOS in 2014.”
Valve also boasts about getting “significant performance increases in graphics processing” out of SteamOS and says they’re now tackling “audio performance and reductions in input latency at the operating system level.” They say developers are already tapping into these improvements for their SteamOS games.
SteamOS will also be able to stream games from your Windows PCs and Macs to your TV. (Unfortunately for Linux PC gamers, there is no mention of streaming games from Linux PCs.) You turn on your existing computer and run Steam, and then your SteamOS machine will stream the games over your home network to your TV. Plugging a cable into my computer and my TV still sounds easier, but there are supposed to be some great features that will make your gaming experience even better. If that is the case, count me in!
The people who are marketing this don’t seem to think you want to see your parents’ games in your library, so families will be able to control which titles are seen by whom. I’m thinking that is probably a better option for those of us who play ecchi or extremely violent games (or have someone in the house who plays them) and don’t want the kiddos or a family member who came over to play to see them.
In addition to the options for who can see which games, you will also be able to use Family Sharing to share your games with family members. You can take turns playing each other’s games and earn your own Steam achievements, as well as save your progress to the Steam Cloud. Music, TV and movie streaming options are supposed to be added in later.
- Steam Cloud—A cross-platform cloud service that pushes content and updates and stores game saves and settings
- The Workshop—A place to download and create add-ons and other “top-quality user-created content”
- “Openness”—Users can modify or replace “any” software or hardware component as they see fit
SteamOS will be available “soon.” It will be free for users and “freely licensable” for manufacturers.
I really hope the enhancements of this OS will offer maximum benefit for us. I enjoy PC gaming, and while the extra monitor I have hooked up to my laptop to game on is pretty, it’s small. If I can hook a better OS designed for gaming up to my big flat-screen TV and get an even better PC gaming experience (and for free!), I’m in. Will you be trying out this new SteamOS when it becomes available?