Boss Digital


This company aims to offer a new gaming OS to compete with SteamOS and Windows

Forward-looking: One of Steam Deck’s most significant achievements is proving that developers can contort a PC operating system to provide an accessible interface for compact handheld gaming consoles. Playtron hopes to build on Valve’s strategy to offer a gaming-oriented OS that supports multiple PC game stores and form factors, possibly starting with the Steam Deck.

Gaming startup Playtron is developing an operating system that splits the difference between Windows, SteamOS, and Android to provide a platform-agnostic experience. Aside from its description on the Playtron website, details on PlaytronOS are vague. However, the company is giving GDC 2024 patrons a sneak peek at the operating system.

Playtron describes its OS as similar to the Windows gaming ecosystem, except that it is extracted into a separate lightweight OS. Like SteamOS, it lets users play PC games with an interface conducive to non-desktop devices–in other words, it’s controller-friendly. PlaytronOS differs in its support for multiple game storefronts, including Steam and the Epic Games Store.

It’s unclear how the Linux-based system will run Windows games, but Proton – the key behind SteamOS’s extensive range of compatibility – is the likely answer. The clip above shows Playtron running various titles on a Lenovo Legion Go.

Currently, the operating system supports Arm and x86 architectures. The company plans to launch it for handheld gaming PCs later this year and for 5G mobile devices in 2025. PlaytronOS will eventually branch out to desktop PCs, TVs, VR headsets, data centers, and cars.

Playtron’s roadmap remains vague, but it may license its portable OS to companies like Asus, Lenovo, MSI, and GPD, which recently released Windows-based Steam Deck competitors. Although these newer Windows handhelds are faster than the Steam Deck, Windows 11’s desktop-oriented design holds them back.

Valve hasn’t begun licensing SteamOS, but Bazzite can clone it on various devices. Microsoft said it plans to address Windows’s problems on handhelds but hasn’t explained how it intends to do that without screwing up the desktop experience.

Playtron hopes to target the “core casual” audience, which it claims is underserved. The Venn diagram on its website indicates an aim to provide a single ecosystem stretching across PC, console, and mobile. Although PlaytronOS supports multiple storefronts, the company wants to improve discoverability for indie games with a community-curated “Playtron Select” showcase.

The team developing the OS has years of experience working with Google, Amazon, Sony, Samsung, Meta, and numerous other companies. Furthermore, the company plans to tap the Linux community extensively through hiring and community tools.

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