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.
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.