Valve is dropping official support for Ubuntu 19.10 and future releases for its mega-popular Steam video game distribution platform, per Engadget, as the upcoming version of the OS will eliminate updates to 32-bit x86 components. According to Valve developer Pierre-Loup Griffais, the company will “evaluate ways to minimize breakage for existing users,” though it will also be focusing on “a different distribution, currently TBD.”
As Betanews noted, many developers were already displeased about Ubuntu producer Canonical’s decision to drop 32-bit package support, which will likely result in no new 32-bit software for Ubuntu and older software breaking over time. (Ubuntu is the dominant Linux distribution, though Canonical appears to be choosing to go after cloud customers.) The move is also all but certain to anger Linux gamers. Many Linux games on Steam run on 64-bit Linux distributions, “but only with the 32-bit libraries,” Betanews wrote, and abandoning support may also break Steam’s built-in compatibility layer that runs Windows games on Linux for 32-bit games.
According to Phoronix, the move has also sparked concern among developers of Wine, a software package that allows users to run programs developed for Microsoft Windows on Linux and that is used by many gamers.
Phoronix separately reported that amid lots of yelling about this, longtime Ubuntu developer and Canonical staffer Steve “vorlon” Langasek posted a clarification in the Ubuntu Discourse stating that the company intends to ensure 32-bit applications will continue to function on the upcoming 19.10 release and beyond:
I’m sorry that we’ve given anyone the impression that we are “dropping support for i386 applications”. That’s simply not the case. What we are dropping is updates to the i386 libraries, which will be frozen at the 18.04 LTS versions. But there is every intention to ensure that there is a clear story for how i386 applications (including games) can be run on versions of Ubuntu later than 19.10.
Regardless, this seems like it will generate some issues for Linux gamers, which Valve had been trying to court in recent months—though with limited success, with surveys showing less than one percent of Steam users actually play on Linux.