Jun 18, 2012

What's behind the growing number of game ports for Linux?

I saw that Electronic Arts is offering game packs for Linux now. Frankly, I was a little surprised by this, I didn't think there was enough of an install base on desktops/laptops to make it worthwhile for a large, mainstream publisher like EA to publish for Linux. Until recently, I've generally had to use Wine, and run games using it as a Window emulator. Think we will see more Linux games releases from the "big boys"? Is there now sufficient market penetration to make it economically feasible to bring games directly to Linux machines?


That's awesome, and I'm glad to see cross platform support.  One thing about it though, the games that EA and others have made available for Linux are (1) ports, and (2) relatively simple.  The EA games in particular are HTML based, so there wasn't a lot of effort required.  That isn't to say they some of the games available to Linux users aren't awesome.  For example, both World of Goo and Braid are fantastic games.  They aren't the type of games to push hardware to the limit, though.  World of Goo was a WiiWare download title, which if I recall means a max size of 40MB.  Braid was first released on X360 Arcade, and while not necessarily a "better" game that World of Goo, it is bigger and more beautiful in art style.  I'm not trying to be negative, anything but, just pointing out that these are not the games that cost tens of millions of dollars to produce.  


I suspect one reason that Linux is become more attractive to developers/publishers is the nature of the community.  Linux users have embraced open source and tend to be supportive where it counts, with their wallets.  I read an ars technica piece recently that the amount Linux users voluntarily paid for games compared to Windows users was something like 30-40% higher.  That would certainly make it worth considering Linux support, especially if, as I suspect, a higher percentage of Linux users would be likely to use your gaming software in the first place. 

Linux will probably never challenge Windows for desktop dominance, or even OS X. But it does have a very loyal following and user base around the world. So it's probably worth game companies trying to tap into that market.

I don't know how successful they will be, but I'm very glad to see it. The Windows monopoly on computer gaming has been really bad for everybody. There needs to be competition and alternative markets for game companies. It's never a good idea for one company to have so much control over computer gaming.
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