Go, read. I’ll wait.
Oh, Look! Valve got a mention by the mighty Stallman!
He asks what good and bad effects can Valve’s release of a Steam client for Linux have? Well, it might boost linux adoption, and that’s good. But…
Nonfree games (like other nonfree programs) are unethical because they deny freedom to their users. If you want freedom, one requisite for it is not having these games on your computer. That much is clear.
Hang on a minute… If I want freedom, I’m not free to run these games? huh?
IMHO, having freedom means having the freedom to choose to run nonfree software if I want to. I’d rather play Half-Life or Portal than any open source game (It’s not that there are no great open source games, it’s just that Half-Life and Portal are better than all of them).
Stallman goes on to discourage Linux distros from offering the software to users – i.e deb packages for steam, and says:
If you want to promote freedom, please take care not to talk about the availability of these games on GNU/Linux as support for our cause.
Which is totally…fucking…insane.
I’ll be promoting freedom – freedom from Windows: “You don’t need windows anymore – Steam is available for Linux!”. I’ll be promoting the freedom to finally run good games on my chosen OS without any fucking around with wine. I’ll be (gasp) buying a bunch of games. Because a Steam client for Linux would be totally fucking awesome – I think it’d be the biggest event in gaming since Id released the source code for Doom. Just watch the Linux market share grow after the release.
Stallman says that Linux adoption isn’t the primary goal. That the primary goal is to bring freedom to users (But apparently not the freedom to run games they love). But I think that adoption of Linux at this point is more important than sticking to this (silly, BTW: nonfree != evil) principle – The more adoption we see, the more the community will grow, and the better the software will get. While this happens, more people will be exposed to Stallman’s (unrealistic) philosophy.
Stallman does concede that “My guess is that the direct good effect will be bigger than the direct harm”.
Direct harm? Really? I can finally delete that old windows XP partition, and you’re talking about Direct Harm? You think there’s anything at all bad about Valve’s monumental decision to embrace Linux?
You’re fucking crazy. Even distros that your foundation doesn’t endorse (Prepare to be amazed), like Ubuntu, go out of their way to tell the user that they’re about to install nonfree software. It’s always optional. It’s just been made easy because not everybody is as nuts as Stallman – some people, like me, actually want to use nonfree software. I should be free to do that, but apparently that’s not OK with the so-called “Free Software Foundation”. Apparently software should be free, but not people.
(Update: Late 2013: Valve refuse to give me a refund for the nonfunctional game Fez, in violation of Australian Consumer Protection Laws. They try to tell me that the laws don’t apply. I lodge a complaint with the ACCC and stop buying things on Steam. Maybe Stallman isn’t that nuts after all. No company can be trusted.)
(Update 2: 2014: The ACCC Sues Valve for violation of consumer protection laws. I love those guys.)
(Update 3: Jun 2015: Valve announces that they now allow refunds. This is because they’re really good, caring people, and has nothing at all to do with an Australian judge being about to hand out a $10,000/day fine)
(Update 4: comments disabled on this post due to spam bots following the link here from my squee when steam for linux was announced)