Although the Steam Deck(opens in a new tab) is an amazing piece of hardware, the software that powers it is equally outstanding. The Deck only functions because of a great deal of work by open-source developers, from enduring favorites like the Mesa graphics driver and the Vulkan API to Valve’s own Proton compatibility layer. Everything would be a giant lump of plastic without them.
Valve appears to be aware of this, as Steam Deck designer Pierre-Loup Griffais recently revealed that the business is paying over a hundred open-source developers to work on the many pieces of software that power the Steam Deck. However, Griffais didn’t mention macOS, which makes sense given the way Steam seems to freeze in panic whenever I run it on a MacBook. Valve has them working on things like Steam on ChromeOS and Linux, too.
Griffais asserted that Valve’s management of open-source programmers is a component of “a wider strategy to combine all these projects and create up kind of an overarching architecture” for gaming on Linux. That is to say, in order to make Linux a competitive alternative to Windows for PC gaming, Valve is leveraging its technological and financial muscle to herd the open-source development cats in a single direction.
As soon as I learned about it, I was shocked. Though working with—and paying—over a hundred developers to keep the Steam Deck’s open-source innards running smoothly certainly puts that devotion into perspective, Valve is undoubtedly dedicated to the Steam Deck. It was less of a shock to those who were more knowledgeable about Linux and open-source development. As numerous commenters on this Reddit thread(opens in new tab) confirm, Valve is currently involved in a staggering amount of open-source technology. Even the developer of the Linux kernel, Linus Torvalds, has publicly stated that Valve will “rescue the Linux desktop” (opens in a new tab). However, it’s important to note that he had some mixed feelings about it.
We have heard from Valve about other Deck-related news as well recently. An updated Deck(opens in a new tab) with a larger battery and a better screen has also been hinted at by the Deck’s creators, and the firm has stated its desire to bring back the Steam Controller. I have to be honest and say that the Steam Controller was genuinely wonderful.
It’s excellent that so many developers are getting paid for their contributions to the company’s projects, even if Valve’s commitment to Linux and open-source software is more about providing an escape route from Windows than a firm commitment to free and open-source ideas. In actuality, 2022 has been the year of desktop Linux.