Steam on Linux: everything you need to know

Taking Linux gaming up a level

The idea is that you toggle the mode in your Steam client and then connect a USB controller to the PC and hook it up to your HDTV via HDMI cables. But before Valve can enter the hardware game, it needs a platform it can tweak and customise for its purposes. And we all know there's only one platform that allows such customisation.

In an interview with The Verge, Newell confirmed that its PC package, popularly referred to as a Steambox, will run on Linux. Behind the scenes, the company is also working with Nvidia, AMD and Intel to write better drivers for Linux, and it seems to be paying off. According to the company, Valve's own games are running faster on Linux than on Windows.

Talking of gaming consoles, the Android-based OUYA console is now available for pre-order. The $99 console was funded entirely via Kickstarter, and managed to pull in more than one million dollars on the inaugural day of the campaign. It'll be powered by a Tegra 3 quad-core processor and have 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal flash storage.

The OUYA developers have tied up with the game streaming company OnLive, and have announced an in-house game title for the console in addition to Final Fantasy III. Expect a lot more titles once it starts shipping, since the console will also serve as a development kit for developers to write new games.

Although they aren't the most critical of software, games have historically helped popularise a platform, and pushed hardware vendors for better support and drivers, which eventually makes its way into other critical areas of desktop computing. Valve is working with Nvidia to write better drivers for its cards on Linux, and other developers are working on other aspects of the Linux desktop to make it a better gaming platform, in effect improving performance for all users.

Beyond Linux gaming

And don't forget that Steam isn't limited to games anymore. In October 2012, Valve began publishing non-gaming software on Steam. It offers a limited selection of software, such as ArtRage Studio Pro, CameraBag 2, GameMaker: Studio, 3D-Coat and 3DMark 11, and these are only available on the Windows platform. But if game studios can see users on Linux and, more importantly, an additional revenue stream, surely app developers can too.

These developments, along with reports of enterprise users thinking of giving Windows 8 a miss, have given the entire open source ecosystem another shot at the Linux desktop.

Get Steam on Ubuntu

Follow our guide and install the Steam client


Now that the Linux Steam client is open to the public, you too can help Valve polish the final product. The system requirements for running the client are fairly low. You need a processor newer than a Pentium 4 1GHz, or an AMD Opteron with upwards of 512MB RAM and 5GB of hard disk space.

To enjoy the modern games, make sure that you have a decent graphics card. As per Valve, if you are an Nvidia user make sure you have a Series 6 or newer card. Similarly, AMD users are recommended Series 5 or upwards, although older cards - such as HD 2400 Pro - should also work. If you don't have either of the above, you need at least powerful on-board graphics, such as the Intel HD 3000 or newer.

However, the one thing that you do need oodles of is internet bandwidth. Most of the games that have so far been made available for download on Steam for Linux are several gigabytes in size, and most are multiplayer games, which need an active internet connection - dial-up just won't cut it.

Step-by-step: Get started with Steam

1. Upgrade drivers

step 1

Make sure you have the latest drivers for your graphics hardware. To get the best performance for newer cards, you'll have to install their proprietary drivers.