Last week, Steam users spotted mention of the Linux client in the Steam database records . Now, Linux is an official tag to search by on Steam Greenlight . We all know that Steam for Linux is coming, but it's increasingly likely we'll be seeing it very soon - at least in beta form. To see what kind of games could be available, and ignoring anything people may be porting right now, check this list.
When will we be seeing the Steam beta? No specific date has been announced, but barring disaster, it'll almost certainly appear in some form before October 26th - Windows 8's launch day. Like a number of industry figures, Gabe Newell has not been subtle about his dislike for both Microsoft's new operating system or its attempt to take more control over the PC platform, to the point that some have suggested Valve might simply switch allegiance. This is incredibly unlikely to happen, at least with Windows 8. While Steam doesn't necessarily fit with its shiny Metro/Modern/Windows 8/Those Tile Things new world, you do still have access to the Desktop, the ability to install programs that haven't had Microsoft's official approval, and everything else Steam needs to work and stay independent.
However, Windows 8 does present one massive advantage to any company looking to start that shift. Unlike previous versions, it's a completely different style of OS, interface and approach, meaning that the learning curve of a polished Linux distribution like Ubuntu isn't going to feel as dramatic a shift as usual. It's different, yes, but it's still more traditional than what you'll get in Windows 8. A solid set of games and a Steam client could at least get people to give it a shot before shelling out - and at least establish a base to work with. It's not the kind of thing that will lead to a mass exodus of course, but it'd have far more impact than than if Valve had done it last year, or waits until Windows 8 and its new store have a few months to bed in. Even a solid beta would be able to get started there.
The keys of course will be driver support and game availability - two things that Linux has traditionally... well, sucked is quite a strong word, but sucked at. To be clear, that's not always its own fault - hardware manufacturers and game publishers have simply never given that much of a damn about it. However, the same was historically true about Mac, and while that's still slowly climbing out of the hole, it's at least making solid upward motion. There's no reason Linux couldn't do the same.
For Valve, the real key isn't so much dealing with Windows 8 - it's not much of a threat - but that if it succeeds, there's no reason for Microsoft not to lock down Windows 9 even further. At that point, anyone who sells games could be in deep trouble if they don't have a secondary market. Linux is the obvious one to go with, lacking any form of official gatekeeper that might get in Valve's way. Moving attention over to it makes perfect sense. Whether the rest of the game industry will go along with such a jump though... that's a much harder sell, even for the guys who brought us Steam.