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Valve’s love-in with the Ubuntu Linux distribution appears to be coming to an end. Following changes to support for 32-bit x86 applications with Ubuntu 19.10, Valve is pulling the plug on official Ubuntu support in Steam.
“Ubuntu 19.10 and future releases will not be officially supported by Steam or recommended to our users,” wrote Valve coder Pierre-Loup Griffais. “We will evaluate ways to minimize breakage for existing users, but will also switch our focus to a different distribution, currently TBD.”
It’s a move that’s sure to prove quite the upset for Steam and Linux users. Valve basically gave up on SteamOS long ago, but through the Proton compatibility tool, thousands and thousands of Steam games became playable through Linux, on Steam, without any official support required from developers. Ubuntu itself has thrown the metaphorical spanner in the works though, by announcing it will no longer support 32-bit applications.
Going forward, the lack of 32-bit support isn’t any particular concern. However, a vast chunk of Steam’s back catalogue runs on 32-bit packages and support will be broken by Ubuntu’s latest update. This causes a massive portion of the Steam library to be broken in an instant. Valve’s only course of action, then, is to pull and support for Ubuntu and point its users elsewhere.
For their part, Canonical Group, the team behind Ubuntu, appears to be taking this issue on board and has said it “will work with WINE, Ubuntu Studio and gaming communities to use container technology to address the ultimate end of life of 32-bit libraries”.
Whether this will be enough for Valve to change its mind remains to be seen but, for now, Valve is looking elsewhere in terms of Linux distro support. Perhaps it may finally be time to dust off SteamOS once more?