Aug 3 2012 4:00pm

Gaming Roundup: The Ramifications of Windows 8 on PC Gaming and Linux

Windows 8, in all its mobile-revolution promotin’, touch-screen totin’ glory, is due to hit PCs everywhere in late October, and represents a major departure from previous Windows iterations in several respects, including interface and, in what promises to be a hot-button issue for game developers everywhere, a closed platform designed to promote the use of Windows apps. Valve and Blizzard execs took the past week as an opportunity to chime in and explain the potentially hazardous landscape Windows 8 could present for gamers, as well as the possibility of the rise of Linux.

Valve head Gabe Newell didn’t pull any punches, calling Windows 8 “kind of a catastrophe for everybody in the PC space.” Newell considers Microsoft’s movement toward a closed platform a direct threat to game development, due in no small part to the temptation for Microsoft to take complete control of any and all applications that can run on Windows via their own Apps store, which could restrict game industry options in terms of direct distribution. It is speculated that Microsoft could take as much as a whopping 30% cut of any and all software sold through their own Apps store.

Blizzard exec Rob Pardo also chimed in, tweeting his solidarity with Newell earlier this week. It’s easy to foresee other gaming developers jumping aboard in the coming months.

So where does Linux fit into the picture? The direction of Windows 8 is reportedly a major reason why Valve has taken significant steps in bringing mainstream gaming to the Linux platform, which allows gaming to remain on an open, accessible platform for developers and players alike.

Newell elaborates: “We have to start finding ways that we can continue to make sure there are open platforms. So that involves a couple of different things. One, we’re trying to make sure that Linux thrives. Our perception is that one of the big problems holding Linux back is the absence of games. I think that a lot of people—in their thinking about platforms—don’t realize how critical games are as a consumer driver of purchases and usage . . . so we’re going to continue working with the Linux distribution guys, shipping Steam, shipping our games, and making it as easy as possible for anybody who’s engaged with us—putting their games on Steam and getting those running on Linux, as well.”

Could this be Linux’s big break? Several iterations of Linux operating systems (Red Hat, Ubuntu, among others) have been on the cusp of mainstream use for some time now. The emergence of Linux as a legitimate option for gamers (along with the unbeatable price of FREE for Linux-driven operating systems) could very well give open-source OSes the final boost they’ve been missing for quite some time. We welcome your thoughts below, dear reader.

In other gaming news this week, steampunk Xbox controllers, GTA V goes viral, Diablo III receives a story critique, and Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford accuses the gaming industry of fostering rampant plagiarism. Read on!

  • Like steampunk? Of course you like steampunk. How much would you pay for your very own steampunk Xbox 360 controller? Have to admit, this is pretty badass — beautiful worksmanship.

  • Has Bethesda acquired the rights to the STALKER franchise? Nothing official yet, but rumor has it...
  • Rockstar has begun their viral marketing campagin for GTA V in the form of a new religion: the Epsilon program, which should be familiar to longtime series fans.
  • A Hollywood writer examines the flaws in Diablo III’s story, raising some valid points and ignoring some others. Stay tuned to for a comprehensive critique of the game in the near future.
  • Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford recently talked to IGN about rampant plagiarism in the gaming industry. We suppose that’s eventually inevitable in an industry where a specific handful of genres are targeted.
  • Finally, Hitman: Absolution debuted 17 minutes of footage at Comic-Con. Gameplay seems tight, intense, and in-line with prior series offerings, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

If there are games you’d like us to cover or blogs you think we should be following for more news, please let us know @tdelucci or @pritpaulbains.

William Carter
1. wcarter
But...I don't want this to be Linux's big break.

No one wants their favorite Indy band to sell out and go mainstream (and yes I know Linux is actually huge, but that doesnt matter).

Linux and BSD having small desktop user bases internationally has always made me feel special in some way.

It's given me a reason, deserved or not, to consider myself somehow better than the legions of Apple fans paying 2-3 times more money for laptops with software that was derived from what I already had--for free.

As for windows, well...I don't need to make fun of Windows and Microsoft. Steve Ballmer does a good enough job of that whenever he tries to sell it.

I've been exclusively using some flavor of Linux or BSD on my laptops since 2006 after I first witnessed the nightmare that was Vista. I've helped people make the switch and spread the gospel of FOSS on more than one occasion and yet, for some reason I cannot stand the idea of Linux going mainstream.
Alan Courchene
2. Majicou
@wcarter: "Nerd angst," that dread that the quasi-obscure, niche things you love and champion could become--gasp--popular (see LOTR, GoT). If everyone embraces something nerdy, then we perceive it as being no longer truly nerdy. Although we don't like being outcast, on a deep level we also fear becoming just part of the crowd. To a nerd, the sudden popularity of his particular obsession is the negation of his very identity.

Or something.

Anyway, if Windows gaming becomes the walled-garden crap that is X-Box Live, I'll leave. Really. As a gamer, at least, I'll follow the games I want to play, and since the fact that Windows is currently the most open and wide-ranging gaming platform is the thing that keeps me using it... well, you can do the math.
3. Megpie71
I recently had to upgrade laptops (as in, the old one died just as I had two assignments due for uni). I therefore went from using Windows XP, which I quite liked, to using Windows 7.

My new laptop has the nickname "Orac", and anyone who knows their early-1980s BBC science fiction will immediately be able to guess how I feel about Windows 7 as a result. Orac is fussy, picky, hides things in odd places, doesn't have half the options I was used to with Windows XP (I mean seriously, I liked the "My Recent Documents" menu - why for that go bye-bye?), treats me like a complete nincompoop, doesn't trust me to administer my own system ("are you sure you want these things - for e.g. the Java virtual machine - to update?") and gives me less screen real estate (on a screen with a greater pixel density) than any Windows system I've had since I last used Windows 3.11 back in 1999. It may be powerful, but I have my doubts as to whether it's worth the hassle.

I've toyed with the idea of switching to one of the Linuxen for years, but never really given it serious thought because Windows wasn't really bad enough to give up on it. Let me tell you truthfully - Windows 7 is probably going to be the straw that breaks this particular camel's back. I'm not going to stick around for Windows 8.

For those who don't, I loathe Windows 7.
William Carter
4. wcarter
Megpie, of you are seriously considering switching, I suggest downloading a live dvd of either Linux Mint or PC-BSD. Either one gives you a lot of personal control while still being user friendly and you can run them in live mode off the disk to see whether or not you like them before you install.
William Carter
5. wcarter
Megpie, of you are seriously considering switching, I suggest downloading a live dvd of either Linux Mint or PC-BSD. Either one gives you a lot of personal control while still being user friendly and you can run them in live mode off the disk to see whether or not you like them before you install.
Brent Longstaff
6. Brentus
Valve and Blizzard have their own distribution systems, which Windows 8's app store competes with. It looks more like a conflict of interest than a legitimate concern for gamers. And it's nonsense anyway, because Steam and Blizzard downloader work just fine in Windows 8, so it's not like it restricts anything. It's just as open as Windows 7, but with an additional available app store. Now if MS actually banned third-party software distribution programs, Steam and Blizzard would have a point. But that isn't that case and would be insane, as breaking all Steam/Blizzard game compatibility would kill Windows 8. MS isn't going after Steam with its app store; it's going after the iPad.

If there is any danger to gaming, it would lie more in that the app store will bring casual games like Angry Birds to the desktop, pulling people's time and money away from the non-casual games.

As for Linux catching on for consumers, I doubt having more games will help very much to convert more people. There are many more fundamental issues with Linux for regular consumers. Linux is great for the people who use it, like developers and computer-savvy people who understand the tradeoffs they make using Linux instead of Windows or OSX. But it is lacking in too many areas to be suitable for ordinary consumers (or even other computer-savvy people who want a polished out-of-the-box experience without a lot of fuss). But for those who do use Linux and like games, it's great that Valve is doing this.

@3, jump lists made recent documents available on a per-app basis. It's usually more convenient than the mixed recent documents XP had, IMO. I also thought the Win+# task switching and universal search for getting to settings and launching apps alone make Win7 way more convenient than XP.
7. RyanReich
@1: Oh, you can always use Gentoo or Arch. No one mainstream will ever touch those :)

@6: "Linux" is so huge that you can't make a generalization about that. Since while no one mainstream will ever use Gentoo or Arch, it is entirely possible to use Ubuntu as a functional drop-in replacement for Windows (sans games, naturally). Or Mac; it's unclear which OS they are aiming to imitate.
Sven Hesse
8. DrMcCoy
What makes him think we GNU/Linux users want Steam, an icky closed and proprietary thing, on our FLOSS OS?
I mean, it's nice and all that he's against Windows closed and walled crap, but Steam isn't exactly any better in that regard...
Walker White
9. Walker
This is an empty bluff.

While Linux has ruled in the server space for years, it has never made it on the desktop and it never will (even Slashdot gave up posting "is this the year of Linux on the desktop?")

The GUIs are all horribly designed and maintaining them (what, you mean that global preference is stored on an application by application basis?) takes a massive amount of work compared to everything else out there. The package managers are unusable by anyone not tech savy. And no, the average user will not edit text preference files.

Even most scientists who need to use Unix these days use OS X as their desktop. In fact OS X is what really killed Linux on the desktop; and the market share of that OS should show you just how small that market is anyway.

If Windows is abandoned, this is essentially the death of PC gaming. What is much more likely is that gamers will stick with Windows 7 and refuse to upgrade.
Walker White
10. Walker
One more thing.

We actually have a lot of experience with Linux gaming now. It is called the Android. And game developers hate it.

Lots of work to make sure it runs on a bunch of different hardware. And it is hard to make any money on it because Android owners spend so little money on apps, prefering free software instead.

Every game developer will tell you that you develop for iOS first. Then, if you break out and make enough money, port it to Android.
William Carter
12. wcarter
@8 DrMcCoy

What Majicou said about "nerd angst" certainly applies to me on some levels, I think you hit the nail on why I truly find it insulting...I don't want using linux to peddle a bunch of closed sourced DRMed crap.

As for anyone who thinks Linux cant be user friendly, well I would just like to point out that Linux evolves at a much faster rate than Windows plenty of distros haven't been difficult for even novice users in years.
13. Lajtor
Gabe was saying PS3 will be a 'total disaster' and now he's trashtalking Windows 8. Hm...
Michael Maxwell
14. pike747

Maybe he should take his own inventory, I would really like to play a new half life game!
15. RandolphF
"Even most scientists who need to use Unix these days use OS X as their desktop." But as Apple increasingly becomes a media-device firm, we may not be able to continue this.

If Google and the gaming firms can come to an agreement, this might be a big opportunity for the Linux-based Chromium or Google Chrome OS.
Pritpaul Bains
16. Kickpuncher
FWIW, the Ubuntu distro is pretty user-friendly and borrows some look/feel from both Mac OS and Windows; conversely, Windows 7 also borrowed some elements from Ubuntu as well.

For those looking for an easy, intuitive desktop alternative, it's a pretty worthy choice.
17. Rivyn
Well the solution is simple,

BOYCOTT microsoft >>

IF you dont want your gaming affected, dont buy Window's 8 and spread the word as far and wide as you can across the interenet.

Quite frankly it seems like Window's 8 will be another Vista, a big friggin flop that they'll have to create a new OS to make up for it .
19. ArthurG
This is a very interesting development, and I do think it will be helpful in making linux in general (and Ubuntu in particular) more popular.

I'm a very happy user of Ubuntu, which I--as a non-technical user--find very easy to install and use. I switched to it from Windows about 6 years ago, and it has continuously gotten better and easier to use. The latest version of Ubuntu is particularly awesome and has an excellent user interface. There are many reasons to love open-source software, and I have enjoyed seeing it become more mainstream over time.

I highly recommend Ubuntu for people who want to try linux but are not very technically-inclined users. There is a thriving online community that is very helpful in resolving any problems that arise. I would also highly recommend the company System76, which produces excellent computers with Ubuntu pre-installed. They have great customer support.
21. Suraj Ramnani
This has opened up a very good opportunity for linux to make its mark lets see how windows 8 performs.Windows 7 still has issues with compatibility of a few applications wonder how that will be fixed in windows 8

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