Windows 98/ME support ending this July
Strings for two new system requirements were added to
steamui_english.txt in Monday’s platform update. One warns that unspecified games will “within the next few months” no longer be able to run on CPUs without SSE (presumably relating to Source’s multithreading), and the other regards Steam itself:
Support for Steam on Windows 98 and Windows ME operating systems will end on June 30th 2007. This means you will no longer be able to run Steam.
In order to continue running Steam on this computer, you must upgrade to a newer version of Microsoft Windows.
An automatic update increasing the requirements of a game (let alone the platform itself!) was one of the first fears to develop when Steam was released to the public. While it’s true that according to the Valve Hardware Survey only 1 631 or 0.14% of all Steam users still have Windows 98 (Windows ME isn’t listed), those one thousand and six hundred people, a few of whom are complaining on the forums, will shortly have their currently perfectly functional software rendered useless unless and until they upgrade their systems.
Single-player gamers with pre-Steam boxes will be able to continue running their Half-Life 1-era titles, albeit with very outdated builds, or try to remember never to start Steam while online. Online players and everyone who bought the game in stores after its Steam re-launch, or on Steam itself, will have no realistic choice but to buy a new operating system.
While a more significant 11 876 or 1.03% users don’t have SSE, it isn’t unreasonable to assume that most of them will be playing Half-Life 1-based games on very old systems — SSE being a standard feature in all even vaguely modern processors.
Of wider interest is what could be happening on 30 June to actively exclude older operating systems. Vista support comes to mind: Microsoft’s recent code libraries have many features unsupported by pre-NT versions of Windows. A new authentication system is another possibility, although relying on OS components would almost certainly break Steam’s long-maintained — and in this age of rootkits and hardware layers thoroughly commendable — OS-independence.