Steam Makes it Easier to Play Thousands of Windows Games on Linux

Steam Wallpaper

It’s no secret that the Linux gaming library offers only a fraction of what the Windows library offers. In fact, many people wouldn’t even consider switching to Linux simply because most of the games they want to play aren’t available on the platform.

At the time of writing this article, Linux has just over 5,000 games available on Steam compared to the library’s almost 27,000 total games. Now, 5,000 games may be a lot, but it isn’t 27,000 games, that’s for sure.

And though almost every new indie game seems to launch with a Linux release, we are still left without a way to play many Triple-A titles. For me, though there are many titles I would love the opportunity to play, this has never been a make-or-break problem since almost all of my favorite titles are available on Linux since I primarily play indie and retro games anyway.

Meet Proton: a WINE Fork by Steam

Now, that problem is a thing of the past since this week Valve announced a new update to Steam Play that adds a forked version of Wine to the Linux Steam clients called Proton. Yes, the tool is open-source, and Valve has made the source code available on Github. The feature is still in beta though, so you must opt into the beta Steam client in order to take advantage of this functionality.

With proton, more Windows games are available for Linux on Steam

What does that actually mean for us Linux users? In short, it means that Linux computers can now play all 27,000 of those games without needing to configure something like PlayOnLinux or Lutris to do so! Which, let me tell you, can be quite the headache at times.

The more complicated answer to this is that it sounds too good to be true for a reason. Though, in theory, you can play literally every Windows game on Linux this way, there is only a short list of games that are officially supported at launch, including DOOM, Final Fantasy VI, Tekken 7, Star Wars: Battlefront 2, and several more.

You can play all Windows games on Linux (in theory)

Though the list only has about 30 games thus far, you can force enable Steam to install and play any game through Proton by marking the “Enable Steam Play for all titles” checkbox. But don’t get your hopes too high. They do not guarantee the stability and performance you may be hoping for, so keep your expectations reasonable.

Steam Play

As per this report, there are over a thousand Windows games that are playable on Linux. Follow this tutorial to learn how to enable Steam Play beta right now.

Experiencing Proton: Not as bad as I expected

For example, I installed a few moderately taxing games to put Proton through its paces. One of which was The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and in the two hours I played the game, it only crashed once, and it was almost immediately after an autosave point during the tutorial.

I have an Nvidia Gtx 1050 Ti, so I was able to play the game at 1080p with high settings, and I didn’t see a single problem outside of that one crash. The only negative feedback I really have is that the framerate was not nearly as high as it would have been if it was a native game. I got above 60 frames 90% of the time, but I admit it could have been better.

Every other game that I have installed and launched has also worked flawlessly, granted I haven’t played any of them for an extended amount of time yet. Some games I installed include The Forest, Dead Rising 4 and Assassin’s Creed II (can you tell I like horror games?).

Why is Steam (still) betting on Linux?

Now, this is all fine and dandy, but why did this happen? Why would Valve spend the time, money, and resources needed to implement something like this? I like to think they did so because they value the Linux community, but if I am honest, I don’t believe we had anything to do with it.

If I had to put money on it, I would say Valve has developed Proton because they haven’t given up on Steam machines yet. And since Steam OS is running on Linux, it is in their best interest financially to invest in something like this. The more games available on Steam OS, the more people might be willing to buy a Steam Machine.

Maybe I am wrong, but I bet this means we will see a new wave of Steam machines coming in the not-so-distant future. Maybe we will see them in one year, or perhaps we won’t see them for another five, who knows!

Either way, all I know is that I am beyond excited to finally play the games from my Steam library that I have slowly accumulated over the years from all of the Humble Bundles, promo codes, and random times I bought a game on sale just in case I wanted to try to get it running in Lutris.

Excited for more gaming on Linux?

What do you think? Are you excited about this, or are you afraid fewer developers will create native Linux games because there is almost no need to now? Does Valve love the Linux community, or do they love money? Let us know what you think in the comment section below, and check back in for more FOSS content like this.

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  • To answer why Steam is (probably) still betting on Linux… Gabe N has already gone on record saying (hope I am paraphrasing it right) that he suspects MS is looking to become the single-source Windows software provider via their MS Store by deprecating Win32 to push everyone to UWP, which they would be able to lock down like iOS. This would make Steam, Origin, GOG, etc., go the way of Netscape.

    Betting on Linux isn’t about the love of free (libre) software for Steam, as Steam exists to distribute non-Libre software, including Valve’s own closed-source titles, including some heavyweight DRM. It’s not about love for Linux or its users, either; Steam is a business, after all.

    What I think Steam is doing is protecting their game sales (whether they be on Windows or not) by making sure MS will never have the leverage to push people into their nascent walled garden. I have no doubt that MS would do it in a second if they thought they could get away with it. If Linux is a legitimate gaming OS, MS will not be able to pull it off. MS can only do it if people keep thinking they NEED Windows and must put up with anything MS dishes out because there is no alternative.

    The irony is that forward-thinking software publishers like Steam/Valve don’t need to have significant Linux sales to justify the added cost of developing for Linux. If it lets them develop the software they want and sell it how they want, whether independently, through Steam, or whatever else they may want, it protects their bottom line. If they don’t want to toe Microsoft’s line the way mobile devs must to develop for iOS, it makes sense to make sure that there’s competition.

    There are a lot of people out there who would love to switch to Linux, but they’re held in Windows prison because something they feel they must have won’t work in Linux. A lot of them are gamers, and a lot of them have said that it’s only their gaming that keeps them tied to Windows, as the other stuff for which people use PCs work fine natively in Linux with the programs Linux has already. It’s hard to have faith in “build it and they will come,” but I think there’s more than a kernel of truth in that in terms of Linux software development. Linux is not just an enclave of people who think all software should be free in both senses of the word– a lot of us are just users who want to use PCs and for whom Windows 10 is just not going to cut it.

    If software devs don’t want to develop for Linux natively, at least I’d hope they’d consider developing a Windows game that also works with WINE or Proton by design (instead of just developing for Windows without any concern for Linux and letting the WINE/Steam devs worry about whether it works in Linux). Expanding their potential market is good, right?

    I for one have sworn off buying any Windows software that won’t work in Linux. I prefer native Linux software, of course, but if it works nicely with WINE or Proton, I’ll take it. I’ve bought more games in the last year than ever before, all of which work on Linux, most natively. I have one on Proton and two (of the ones I bought within the year… there are more that I bought before that) WINE right now, and I will surely be adding many more. So much for the idea that Linux users never want to pay for anything!

  • Elder Scrolls 4 is a terrible game to use to test the stability of non windows machines because it randomly crashes on windows. That game is buggy as hell.

  • Thanks for the tip! Now that I can play ALL the Steam games I enjoy, my conversion to Linux is complete! I cam now overwrite the W7 PC I was keeping as a backup, and install more games!!