One of my first articles of 2022 focused on the importance of making it easier to play Windows games on Linux to growing Linux as a desktop operating system. In that article, I noted that no single entity has done more in recent years to make more games compatible with Linux than Valve, the corporation behind the Steam game store and platform. We have seen a small increase in the number of Steam users running Linux thanks in large part to Valve’s Steam Deck, which I discussed here. On December 19, PC Gamer reported that Valve has been paying open source developers to increase the effectiveness of Proton, its main compatibility tool for ensuring that Windows games can run properly on Linux. The author of the post, Mr. Joshua Wolens, wrote the following:
Even if Valve’s dedication to Linux and open-source software is more about having an escape hatch from Windows than staunch dedication to free and open source principles, it’s great that so many devs are getting paid for their contributions to the company’s projects. Truly, 2022 has been the year of Linux on the desktop.
This is correct. Valve would not be investing in Proton and gaming on Linux if it did not believe that doing so aligned with its long-term business goals and financial interests. To be sure, there are still many things one can fault Valve for from a pro-user, pro-open source perspective, such as the fact that Steam is proprietary and that most Steam games are tied to Steam as a platform. But it is thanks to Valve’s financial incentives that gaming on Linux has seen unprecedented progress in the last several years, and it is entirely possible that the success of Proton will inspire more people to try Linux which may in turn incentivize developers to create native Linux versions of games that will not require Proton at all. Valve continues to be a net positive for the Linux desktop community. I hope that its investment proves to be worthwhile for Valve the corporation as well as Linux users.