Online gaming platform Steam targets 'living room' with free OS

25/09/2013

Valve, the firm behind the popular online gaming platform Steam, is to release a free operating system as it looks to expand beyond its PC roots to appeal to ‘living room’ players in the console market.

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Following a countdown to the announcement, Valve announced the Steam OS engine this week. The system will be based on Linux and will be free to users and free licensed to games developers and manufacturers.

The console could potentially disrupt a market currently dominated by the Sony PlayStation, Microsoft Xbox and Nintendo Wii. Steam currently has about 50 million active users.

Linux is a open-source operating system - meaning people can freely build-upon and adapt its source code.

Crucially, there are no licensing costs involved, so manufacturers can distribute Linux-powered machines more cheaply than those running systems such as Windows.

"Thousands of games, millions of users. Everything you love about Steam... SteamOS will be available soon as a free download for users and as a freely licensable operating system for manufacturers. Stay tuned in the coming days for more information," said the firm on its website.

"As we've been working on bringing Steam to the living room, we've come to the conclusion that the environment best suited to delivering value to customers is an operating system built around Steam itself. SteamOS combines the rock-solid architecture of Linux with a gaming experience built for the big screen. It will be available soon as a free stand-alone operating system for living room machines."

Steam started in 2002 as a way for games maker Valve to make it easier for users to update games. It has since evolved into a channel for selling titles and a community tool for setting up multiplayer matches and other online events.

Valve does not release sales statistics for games sold through Steam - but estimates from consultancy IHS Screen Digest suggest it is responsible for 75% of PC game sales, bringing in about $1bn (£620m) in 2012. There are more than 2,000 games on the service.

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