Naturally, I am delighted with the news of Steam coming to Ubuntu. While everyone is happy about getting their favorite games on Ubuntu, I think there is another subtle yet important gem in this announcement.
Creating a AAA title such as Left 4 Dead is an expensive and time consuming process. This expense is not only in the conceptualization, design, and development of the title, but also the associated support, community, marketing, and distribution services. This has got more and more complex in recent years with the abundance of platforms; it is not as simple as just creating a title for a particular platform…a studio now needs to bring cross-platform development in-house (with all the tool-chain and QA work required) to support these different platforms. While cross-platform development saves development time, it still requires extensive investment.
The gaming industry is one driven by volume. The sheer level of investment required to deliver these games means that they need to be assured that customers will buy the games. Assuring volume in the early days required having strong sales channels (such as gaming stores), but in recent years the push to digital delivery channels such as Steam has reduced the need for these brick-and-mortar sales channels. The challenge though is that while there are fewer bricks and dorky games clerks, there are more platforms and a greater demand for AAA titles.
So in a nutshell, games studios and publishers still need to sell a buckletload of games to justify their investment. I am sure that this is no different for Valve with Steam.
The announcement of Ubuntu as part of this platform is a testament to the growth of Ubuntu as an emerging gaming platform. Valve are not the first, EA have already delivered games in the Ubuntu Software Center, Carmageddon is coming, and we have an increasing number of Indie games (such as the Humble Indie Bundle) running natively on Ubuntu.
I know that Ubuntu’s continued focus on a beautiful user experience, growth in emerging markets (such as India and China), focus on wider device adoption (e.g. TV), and our evolving hardware and app developer relationships are all furthering the interest from publishers such as Valve and EA.
Valve bringing Stream to Ubuntu is another stake in the ground in the confidence of Ubuntu as a strong consumer platform. For many years our users have dreamed about playing their favorite games on Ubuntu and it is coming. How can you help? Vote with your feet…buy the games, enjoy them, share your excitement online, and this will help us to continue to grow Ubuntu as a strong gaming platform.