Valve appears to be working on a set of “compatibility tools,” called Steam Play, that would allow at least some Windows-based titles to run on Linux-based SteamOS systems.
Yesterday, Reddit users noticed that Steam’s GUI files (as captured by SteamDB’s Steam Tracker) include a hidden section with unused text related to the unannounced Steam Play system. According to that text, “Steam Play will automatically install compatibility tools that allow you to play games from your library that were built for other operating systems.”
Tools that let users run Windows apps in Linux are nothing new; Wine has existed for decades, after all. But an “official” Steam-based compatibility tool, with the resources and backing of Valve behind it, could have a huge impact on the Linux development space that could reach well beyond games. Assuming it worked for a wide range of titles, the Steam Play system could also help ameliorate one of SteamOS’ biggest failings—namely, the relative lack of compatible games when compared to Windows.
With all that said, some caution is warranted before getting too excited about these possibilities. For one, we don’t know what specific form Steam Play will take. Valve could simply be preparing a wrapper that lets users run existing emulation tools like Wine and DOSBox on top of SteamOS without actively advancing the state of that emulation directly.
Submitted by: Arnfried Walbrecht