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Valve Opens Portal for Linux Gamers

Valve Opens Portal for Linux Gamers

It's been a long road for gamers who use Linux, but this week Valve released the hit game Portal for users of the free and open source operating system. "We understand Valve's genuine concern that Microsoft intends to take Windows into a walled garden model that would inhibit the freedom of developers to create content for the operating system," said video game analyst George Chronis.

By Peter Suciu
06/27/13 5:00 AM PT

Online gaming service Steam announced on Monday that the popular shooter, puzzle-solving hybrid action game Portal now fully supports Linux.

The game had been available on the open source operating system in beta form since early May, but with an update released earlier this week, Portal was declared stable and ready for purchase by Linux users.

Gamers who had bought a Windows PC version of Portal can download the game to Linux for free, but it's also available for sale for US$9.99.

Steam maker Valve did not respond to our request for further details.

A Noteworthy Arrival

Back in May Valve had announced that Portal, along with the zombie apocalypse shooter Left 4 Dead 2, would be released on Linux. The fittingly named sequel Portal 2 will reportedly be available on Linux later this year.

Currently there are approximately 100 Linux games sold through Steam, but Portal is one of the biggest titles released on the open source platform to date.

In the game, players have a typically big gun that, instead of shooting bullets, can make portals that allow players to get through a mazelike world.

Trending Toward Linux

In many ways, Valve's decision to bring this hit game to Linux speaks volumes about its view of the gaming landscape and its long-term plans.

Indeed, earlier this year Valve CEO Gabe Newell gave an early indication of those plans when he called Windows 8 a "catastrophe" for game developers. That comment came not long after Valve had announced its plans to bring its Steam gaming platform to Linux, which had long suffered from the perception that it was not up to par for gaming purposes.

"Based on our reading of Gabe Newell's public statements, we understand Valve's genuine concern that Microsoft intends to take Windows into a walled garden model that would inhibit the freedom of developers to create content for the operating system, as well as benefit from that development, as they would normally expect," said video game analyst George Chronis, editor of DFC Dossier.

"Therefore, publishing to Linux can be considered a prudent endeavor to explore a viable alternative," Chronis told LinuxInsider.

Filling a Void

While Microsoft was once a major supporter of PC games -- and Windows was considered by many to be the gaming platform -- that view has begun to fade.

"Microsoft is destroying one of the major advantages of PCs over other platforms: its openness and minimal barriers for entry," said video game industry consultant Mark Baldwin of Baldwin Consulting.

"This is not only going to affect the PC platform," Baldwin told LinuxInsider, "but long term it will have an effect on all game platforms, since the PC has always been the platform for exploring new game ideas."

The Linux platform, however, could fill that void.

'Not Much of a Stretch'

Of course, with new console systems from both Microsoft and Sony on the horizon as well as numerous tablet options and even an open source gaming console from Ouya, there's no doubt Linux-based PC gaming faces competition.

Indeed, "the question at this stage should not be whether Portal on Linux drives revenue in any significant way, but whether Portal on Linux works from a user-satisfaction standpoint," Chronis suggested.

"It is not much of a stretch to see many of Valve's core community being capable and amiable to a dual-boot scenario," he added, "if a future version of Windows becomes too restrictive."


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