Steam Deck’s popularity could be getting more gamers to try Linux

Two players using the Steam Deck
(Image credit: Valve)

Linux usage is spiking upwards according to the latest stats from Steam, and it seems likely that this is down to the Steam Deck driving interest in Linux gaming.

The freshly released Steam hardware survey for July shows that Linux now represents a full percentage point of all those gaming on Valve’s platform. Now, 1% might sound like a tiny amount – and it is obviously just a drop in the overall gaming ocean – but it’s a telling milestone for Linux to reach.

As Gaming On Linux, which spotted this development, makes clear, this is the first time in a number of years that Linux has hit the 1% mark. Interestingly, the only time this occurred previously is when Valve first released Proton, its compatibility layer that allows Windows games to be run under Linux.

Which is, of course, the very same compatibility tool that’s being used with the custom version of Steam OS which powers the Steam Deck. So it’s not a big leap to draw a parallel here between these two occasions when Linux has reached the 1% mark.

To put the increase in context, in June, 0.89% of Steam gamers were running Linux, and that has increased by 0.11% to reach 1% this month. That’s a fairly impressive spike in the niche scale that Linux gamers represent on Steam. Remember that there are some 120 million Steam gamers, so therefore approximately 1.2 million on Linux now, and it sounds much more significant looked at from that perspective – with 130,000 or so joining the fold in the past month.

Analysis: Watch this space – and consider other factors

What’s going to be really interesting is to watch the next couple of months of figures for Linux adoption under Steam, in order to see if this upward trajectory continues. That’ll make it pretty clear that Valve’s Steam Deck is driving interest in Linux gaming, as folks start installing a distro and presumably playing around with Proton to see how Windows titles run under the compatibility layer.

If this uptick is indeed the result of those curious about the Steam Deck, then surely that’ll be their main goal – but test-driving Proton could be something of a double-edged sword at the moment. Remember that as it stands, Proton is bamboozled by a number of popular Windows games that use anti-cheat software, and there are other issues to be ironed out – so folks could stumble onto off-putting problems. Valve has promised it’s working hard on resolving these stumbling blocks, though, and we’d imagine this must be a big priority. But for now, perhaps what Valve doesn’t want is folks experimenting with Proton and finding more hiccups than they’d ideally like.

That said, it doesn’t seem like Steam Deck sales are suffering from any lack of demand – quite the opposite, and shipping times have been pushed out to ‘after’ Q2 2022 at least (though admittedly we don’t know anything about manufacturing capacity and intended production levels).

We should also consider other possible factors that might currently be persuading folks to have a look at Linux distros, namely Windows 11 being on the horizon – and suddenly telling users that their Windows 10 PC doesn’t fit the hardware requirements for an upgrade. Those disgruntled people may be looking at Linux rather than just sticking with Windows 10.

Via PC Gamer

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).