SteamOS 3.0's Potential: The Living Room PC Strikes Back

Ok so I always have too much to say so I figured this time I'll write it down!

The Steam Deck has a desktop mode, so everyone's excited to see that come to a new audience. However the living room needs the love too! As far as we can tell from piecing together what Valve has said about the UI, it's basically an updated version of Big Picture Mode. SteamOS 2.0 was not well maintained by the time Proton came out, thankfully ChimeraOS has been filling that void. ChimeraOS has grown into a cozy little community, people are starting to get more active, new people are joining the discord all the time, and interest in the project seems to have increased!

With SteamOS 3.0 being a reboot, assuming they nail the UX for the handheld, then they'd solve A LOT of the problems that caused Steam Machines to fail. SteamOS 3.0 sounds like a great mobile OS, but the more I think about it, the more it also becomes a better living room OS. I have three main points to make, other than the obvious ones. And they are important, but obvious, stuff like all that work into controller support, drivers, Proton, BPM, and all the previous OS work. All that stuff is important, but I was trying to think of other ones that we might not be thinking about. It really is  just a PC focused on being a console and Linux is good at being sculpted into certain use cases. It almost feels like an accident that the mobile stuff will make the TV use case more compelling. But I don't think it's a total accident, more of a two-birds-with-one-stone thing.

You get what is effectively the last two gen console's backcatalog

Including old games that were stuck in the 360 era, etc. Steam does have years of tags, so showing a curated catalog is possible. I use it every day, it is outdated sure, but it's still nice.

This is awesome. The living room is still so much fun!

There's such a nice fat curve of games that look great on lower powered hardware from the old console generations. You can now experience really great games from that era on a good machine. Dragon's Dogma, is a great example, it can finally be played with higher graphical fidelity and the 60fps that generation of consoles lacked. I still remember Witcher 2 on my Xbox 360, it was a hot mess, and that specific game is what drove me back to PC gaming in the first place. Now imagine that game finally being shown in all it's glory. And you just know when that Witcher 3 Enhanced Edition drops that you're going to want to see that on your big TV just as much as you want to see it on the desktop! All of this wasn't possible when SteamOS existed without Proton.

This all sounds like common sense because it is. It just wasn't realistic to bother doing a PC in the living room, but SteamOS solves the hardest part, the freaking software. If every gaming PC's 2nd job is a TV and it's still useful, then why not? If you have an old PC you want to give to a friend, this UX can be just as easy to use to them as a console. It's like, you get to give someone a gift without the inevitable "You're my Windows support guy now right?" curse. Win/win for everyone.  

The Steam Deck 15 watt device sets a baseline

It's an incredible feat, but there are still many PCs out there, if developers start to think about the 15w envelope, all of a sudden a bunch of old hardware becomes just a good a device as the Steam Deck. And even if it's worse hardware, there are plenty of great games that don't need that much graphical power. The software is the key here. A commercial-quality operating system based on Linux makes this a really powerful combo.

If your "never used Linux" gamer friend ends up liking the experience they're getting on the Steam Deck, then we're all hoping they'll try the desktop right? Well, bring the third pillar into place, the living room, the kick back user experience.

120 inch Home Theater. Yes, those are two subwoofers.

Boom ... you've nailed the three states of the modern gamer. Desktop, mobile, and literally sitting in a soft couch drinking beer and killing braincells. Three form factors, one unified experience! Sure, some things aren't perfect, looking at you unscalable UIs ... and  I know that sounds weird to hear from a Linux guy, but dang, if they nail this, this just removes so much complexity from my gaming life. What even is Linux anymore.

It unifies a ton of gaming subcultures

Ok, there's a lot of overlap here since we're all generally geeks but, look at the YouTube channels that are talking about the Steam Deck. Linux geeks, emulation geeks, mobile gaming geeks, Nintendo geeks, all of a sudden have a common OS that they can share, a cadence they can follow. They all gain the benefit of supporting this, and then they share the cost of getting stuff they don't want to care about out of the way.

If this sounds suspiciously familiar it's because that exactly how Linux got here in the first place!

I think it's great, I'm not big into emulation but I check in every once in a while, and seeing the work that you still have to do by hand to build a dedicated device! SteamOS could simplify this, and this time it's not just the Linux folks, now you have the emulation folks interested in fixing that problem. Now multiply that times the each section of the gaming community.

Everyone who's ever been a gamer will in some time have a machine they don't need, this will be just another phase. Like when your friend has a "raspberry pi phase" and they go deep into it. I guess unfortunately I'll be dragged kicking and screaming into my Arch phase. Sigh.  

Or it could suck, I really hope they nail it, and I'm cheering hard for them and continuing to support gamedevs that give us native games. Let's go!

Show Comments