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Valve Steam Play Now Lets You Play Windows Games on Linux

Valve introduced a new version of Steam Play at Gamescom this week. The latest iteration turns rumor into reality by letting you to play Windows-only games on Linux-based PCs. 

Valve is one of the biggest proponents of gaming on the Linux operating system. In 2010, the company announced the Steam Play compatibility layer, which gave users access to Windows, Mac and Linux versions of their games with a single purchase. Valve expected Steam Play to inspire developers to support the open-source operating system, and by and large, they did. Developers have added Linux support to more than 3,000 titles on the Steam platform since the introduction of Steam Play.

Valve wasn’t satisfied with the volume of Linux supported games, so it sought out a new solution that would relieve game developers of the burden of support. Valve is now working on a compatibility layer that would enable almost any Windows game to run on Linux or Mac computers.

Which Games Are Supported?

Valve’s eventual goal is the enable support for as many games as possible. The new version of Steam Play should be compatible with almost any game, but Valve is limiting the game selection during the beta test period. However, you can enable support for any title by toggling a switch in the Steam client settings.

As of now, there are 27 back-catalog titles on Valve’s whitelist that support Linux via Steam Play. Most of those games are several years old, such as 2007's Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl and 2011's Payday: The Heist, Mount & Blade: With Fire and Sword and Tropico 4.

The initial list of compatible games also includes a handful of recent titles, such as the latest installment of the Doom franchise, Bandai Namco’s beloved fighting game Tekken 7 and Square Enix’s NieR: Automata. It also includes a bunch of classic games, such as the original Doom and Quake games from the mid-90s and the 2005 version of Star Wars: Battlefront 2. Most surprisingly, the compatibility list also features a few virtual reality (VR) titles, including Doom VFR, Beat Saber and Google Earth VR.

What Do Developers Need to Do?

Valve’s new Steam Play software does most of the heavy lifting, taking the burden off game developers’ shoulders. Plus, if Valve whitelists their games, developers are under no obligation to advertise Linux support.

Valve recommends building games with native Vulkan compatibility and to avoid third-party DRM middleware to ensure compatibility with Steam Play. The Proton compatibility layer should handle the conversion.

Kevin Carbotte is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He writes news and reviews of graphics cards and virtual reality hardware.