Is Steam bad for Linux gaming?

Also in today’s open source roundup: What does Fuchsia mean for Android? And It's FOSS reviews Antergos Linux.

Is Steam bad for Linux gaming?

Valve has gotten a reputation for promoting Linux as a platform for gaming, and thus many people have a very positive view of the company. But is there a darker side to Valve?

One writer at Polygon is quite skeptical about Valve and its Steam gaming service, and he pulled no punches in a blistering article about the company.

Tim Colwill reports for Polygon:

This, then, is Good Guy Valve — a corporation which employs precision-engineered psychological tools to trick people into giving them money in exchange for goods they don't legally own and may never actually use while profiting from a whole lot of unpaid labor and speculative work ... but isn't “evil.”

This is the Good Guy everyone seems too afraid to call out, the toxic friend who is so popular that upsetting him will just make things worse for you, so you convince yourself he's really not that bad and that everyone else is over-reacting. Once the Good Guy illusion has disappeared, we're left with the uncomfortable truth: Valve is nothing more than one of the new breed of digital rentiers, an unapologetic platform monopolist growing rich on its 30 percent cut of every purchase — and all the while abrogating every shred of corporate or moral responsibility under the Uber-esque pretense of simply being a "platform that connects gamers to creators.”

A company which will spend what has to be millions on legal fees to avoid having to pay you $15 in refunds, but which isn't “evil.” A company which exploits, underpays, deceives, obfuscates and refuses to cooperate at nearly every turn, but would never be caught dead doing “evil.”

The imaginary Gabe, the one in our memes, is a cultural defense mechanism, a happy fiction we all invented to make us feel better about the fact that we were, and remain, willing partners in installing PC gaming's biggest, most opaque, exploitative monopoly — one which we know deep down doesn't care about us at all.

Maybe it's time for all of us to wake up.

More at Polygon

Polygon readers shared their thoughts in a long thread about Valve and its Steam gaming service:

BadFlounder: “I am always amazed to see people that don’t understand that companies/corporations exist to make money, above all else, and there is nothing wrong with that. They aren’t in existence to be your friend. Microsoft, Sony, Google, Apple…..Valve, etc. Some of them care more about their consumers than others. Vote with your wallet.”

RunTMCz: “This article just seems like a big rant.”

Graf1k: “Exploitative is up for debate as the people making items for Steam Workshop agreed to those percentages when they started selling items on Valve’s marketplace. Nefarious though, is a highly questionable statement. What about it is criminal? They created a de facto monopoly without price fixing, collusion, or breaking any antitrust laws as far as I am aware. They are the only place for people to make and sell digital goods for use in their games and some third party games, and as such, they set terms. It’s no different in any other field. Unless you are some uncanny talent, the average person does not go in and dictate their pay scale to the corporation they work for, and that goes double if you are a contract employee or freelancer who is technically ‘self-employed’.

The one salient point raised in this entire screed as far as I can tell is Valve fighting refunds. Obviously that is an anti-consumer practice and while it was (and debatably is) industry standard still for digital game sales, Valve as the market leader at the time should have been acted like a market leader and been at the forefront of offering refunds. I fully give EA credit where it is due for doing it voluntarily without being taken to court and I think it’s equally justified to criticize Valve for dragging their feet. That said, the reason Valve got minimal criticism for it is not because of gamer Stockholm Syndrome but because they still look like they are way ahead of the curve compared to Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo, the latter two AFAIK still have no universal refund program even in the works (Microsoft has it for beta firmware users last I heard).”

Jhoff80: “Honestly, I just have never cared whether they were ‘good guys’ or not. They make my gaming life more convenient, have the majority of the content I want, have great sales, and their DRM has turned out over the course of the past decade or whatever to be far less intrusive than the majority of the other alternatives out there.

I hated Steam at first along with everyone else when it made my life miserable (seriously, trying to unlock HL2 from a terrible campus network that blocked most content until the wee hours of the night was terrible)… but over the years it has developed from a negative to a huge positive. I can’t be bothered with any of the other ‘good guy reputation’ stuff.”

BlatantNinja23: “Steam is one of the best things that has happened to PC gaming, and as other companies try to compete it will only get better.”

Incendy: “I don’t see them as a ""good guy"" I just see them as having the best overall gaming services and store practices at the time.”

Chad_Sexington: “The steam UI is terrible (I am a UX/UI consultant and steam drives me insane). Steam makes literally billions and puts nothing back into their service. They take and take and take and return nothing in quality of service, upgrades, quality customer support etc. Literally the only customer support steam has is their refund policy, which they only instituted because if they didn’t Australia was going to ban their service from operating in Australia.

Steam is a terrible company. Yes they have a decent platform, but its only good because its so popular. It’s poorly designed, it’s expensive, and its exploitative.”

Shmee: “What they need is competition. Finally GoG and Twitch seem ready to give it to them. Heck even the Window’s Store will have some major Microsoft created games. Once there are plenty of other options Steam will be forced to get better to keep their giant piece of the pie.”

Redking315: “The comments here, replies on Twitter and on Facebook are literally just proving the point. People are defending a monopoly because its gets them cheap stuff, and somehow that makes Valve better.

These responses are troubling.”

Thegreenmonkey69: “There is nothing wrong with being a monopoly, and nothing prevents it, Especially if that monopoly provides the best service around. When that monopoly starts manipulating the market is when things get dicey. If the monopoly in question follows standard business practices and doesn’t use it’s weight to prevent others from doing the same sort of business then there is no issue. The Apple V. DOJ case proved that.

Nothing that Valve does prevents others from entering the market, there is EA’s Origin(a sub par service in my opinion), there is GoG and their new marketplace (and as much as I like GoG they don’t really have too many new titles on their platform, but they do offer a decent product with no DRM). And they all offer the same terms essentially.

Valve has been good for consumers to date, although I agree they could do better.”

More at Polygon

What does Fuchsia mean for Android?

Google has been quietly cooking up its new Fuchsia operating system for a while now. Many people have been wondering if Fuchsia will ultimately be a replacement for Android. A writer at TechRepublic has some interesting speculation on that very question.

Jack Wallen reports for TechRepublic:

My suspicion is that Google's big plan for Fucshia is to create a single operating system for all devices: Smartphones, IoT, Chromebooks. On the surface, that sounds like an idea that would bear significant fruit; but if you examine the struggles Canonical endured with Unity 8/Mir/Convergence, you cringe at the idea of "one platform to rule them all".

Even so, should that be the plan for Google, I would caution them to look closely at what befell Canonical and Unity 8. It was an outstanding idea that simply couldn't come to fruition.

I could be wrong about this. Google might be thinking of Fuchsia as nothing more than a replacement for Android. It is quite possible this was Google needing to replace the outdated Linux kernel and deciding they may as well go "all in". But considering Armadillo (the Fuchsia UI) has been written in the cross-platform Flutter SDK, the idea of crossing the platform boundary starts to fall into the realm of the possible.

Or, maybe Fuchsia is simply just Google saying "Let's rebuild our smartphone platform with the knowledge we have today and see where it goes." If that's the case, I would imagine the Google mobile OS will be primed for major success.

More at TechRepublic

It’s FOSS reviews Antergos Linux

Arch Linux is one of the geekier distributions available for users. While some love Arch and swear by it, others have found it difficult to install and configure on their computers. Antergos is a version of Arch that is geared toward making installation and configuration easy for any user.

Aquil Roshan reports for It’s FOSS:

To begin with, Antergos is one of those distros which I recommend with an air of upbeat confidence. And it has never let me down. I, being a distro hopper with an average of 3 distros per week, have found the love of my life in Antergos. It’s the marrying kind.

Antergos is an Arch Linux based distro. Not a GUI based Arch installer but an Arch based distro (there’s a difference). It’d be not wrong to say, Antergos is to Arch what Linux Mint or Ubuntu is to Debian.

Antergos is a polished and an elegant distro. It caters to the OS needs in an effective and efficient way and at the same time being stupidly simpler.

While Arch has the reputation of being ‘experts only’, Antergos makes it easier for less experienced users to try out Arch Linux. Manjaro and Apricity OS do the same but since Apricity OS has been discontinued, it is up to Antergos and Manjaro to make Arch Linux accessible to everyone.

More at It’s FOSS

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