Update (2019-06-25): Ubuntu will continue shipping select 32-bit packages
Canonical dropped a proverbial bomb
earlier this week by announcing that, starting in Ubuntu 19.10, there will be no more official support for 32-bit. This doesn't just mean no more 32-bit distro variant, it means that there will be no more i386 packages available from the package manager. This has serious implications for gamers because 32-bit applications are still very much a thing in gaming. Many games released in the past few years are 32-bit and would become unusable.
Canonical has this to say about possible solutions for Steam and games without 64-bit alternatives:
"It may be possible to run 32 bit only games inside a lxd container running a 32 bit version of 18.04 LTS. You can pass through the graphics card to the container and run your games from that 32bit environment."
That reads to me like a complete dismissal of the problem. Discounting the performance costs of doing this, few users will be willing to go through such lengths to play some Warhammer or Dota.
Ubuntu will not be the only distribution affected either. Because of the large number of other Linux distros based on Ubuntu, many other projects will feel these changes. Distros like Pop!_OS and Linux Mint will need to make some tough decisions about how they want to continue their projects.
The Wine team has naturally already expressed some concern
over the situation. Without a 32-bit build of Wine, it will become incredibly difficult to run classic Windows games on modern Ubuntu installs.
And to top if off, Pierre-Loup Griffais of Valve, posted this on Twitter
where he says that Steam will no longer officially support Ubuntu 19.10 and beyond. What distro Valve might land on is still up-in-the-air but an astute Reditter posted a few Discord screenshots
showing that Arch and Debian are likely ruled out already.
On first read, Canonical's arguments about dropping 32-bit are sound. It represents a very small percentage of all users and 32-bit only hardware is very old already, I bought my first 64-bit CPU in 2004. But they downplay the impact on gaming to the point of almost dismissing the issue entirely and an announcement this big should not
be made mere months before implementation.
As an Ubuntu user for over 10 years, this may be the time I finally move away for good.