The Steam game store has been available on desktop Linux for many years at this point, and with the addition of the Proton compatibility layer for Windows games, it has become an invaluable tool for gaming on Linux. Canonical, the developers of Ubuntu Linux, have now introduced a new way to use Steam on Ubuntu and other Linux distributions: a Snap package.
Canonical revealed in a blog post, “we’ve been working on an important quality of life improvement for Linux gamers and today… we are happy to announce the early access launch of the Steam snap!” Canonical is listed as the developer, so it seems Valve isn’t involved in the project.
The new package contains Steam and all of its dependences in one download, without the extra steps that are sometimes required for Steam on Linux (like enabling 32-bit libraries or Mesa drivers). Steam and its games are sandboxed from the rest of the operating system, so games can’t see all of your computer’s files — similar to the new Steam container on Chrome OS.
Snap is a containerized package system developed by Canonical, intended to make desktop Linux software easier to install, update, and use across different Linux distributions. Even though there are some advantages to Snap packages, especially for desktop Linux systems with fewer traditional packages available (e.g. distros not based on Ubuntu or Arch), the technology behind Snap has been criticized by some in the Linux community. Canonical controls the only Snap ‘app store,’ and Snap apps often take much longer to open than regular software. While Ubuntu switched the default Firefox web browser to a Snap package last year, Linux Mint struck a deal with Mozilla to keep a non-Snap version available.
Steam is available from the Snap Store, or if you already have Snap on your Linux system you can run “snap install steam –beta” (without the quotes) in your Terminal. Snap packages are available on Ubuntu, Arch, Fedora, Linux Mint, KDE Neon, Debian, and most other major Linux distributions.