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Next-generation Vulkan API could be Valve’s killer advantage in battling Microsoft

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Last week, we covered the announcement of the Khronos Group’s Vulkan API, as well as information on how AMD’s Mantle formed the fundamental basis of the new standard. Now that some additional information on Vulkan has become available, it seems likely that this new API will form the basis of Valve’s SteamOS push, while Direct3D 12 remains the default option for Microsoft’s PC and Xbox gaming initiatives. At first glance, this doesn’t seem much different from the current status quo. But there are reasons to think that Vulkan and D3D12 do more than hit reset on the long-standing OpenGL vs. D3D battles of yesteryear.

One critical distinction between the old API battles and the current situation is that no one seems to be arguing that either Vulkan or Direct3D have any critical, API-specific advantage that the other lacks. All of the features that AMD first debuted with Mantle are baked into Vulkan, and if Direct3D 12 offers any must-have capabilities, Microsoft has yet to say so. The big questions in play here have less to do with which API you feel is technically superior, and what you think the future of computer gaming should look like.

OldWay

For more than a decade, at least on the PC side, the answer to that question has been simple: It looks like Direct3D. OpenGL support may never have technically gone away, but the overwhelming majority of games for PC have shipped with Direct3D by default, and OpenGL implemented either as a secondary option or not at all. Valve’s SteamOS may have arrived with a great sound and fury before fading away into Valve Time– but developers ExtremeTech spoke to say that Valve has been very active behind the scenes. A recent report at Ars Technica on the state of Linux gaming underscores this point, noting that Valve’s steady commitment to offering a Linux distro has increased the size of the market and driven interest in Linux as a gaming alternative.

NewWay

Valve, moreover, doesn’t need to push SteamOS to encourage developers to use Vulkan. At the unveil last week, Valve was already showing off DOTA 2 running on Vulkan, as shown below.

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