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Businesses Linux Games

Are Commercial Games Finally Going To Make It To Linux? 242

Posted by Soulskill
from the yes-no-maybe dept.
colinneagle writes "Those of us who actively promote Linux as a viable desktop alternative to Windows are often greeted with the following refrain: 'Nobody will use Linux because there are no good games.' The prevailing wisdom is that the abundance of high-quality, commercial video gaming is a key factor in the market-share dominance that Microsoft Windows enjoys. And, in all reality, this is somewhat true. So, then, the obvious course of action is to convince the video game publishers and developers of the world that Linux is a viable (if, perhaps, a bit niche) market. And by 'viable' I mean one thing and one thing only – 'profitable.'Luckily, there have been three high-profile recent examples of Linux users going absolutely nuts over video games, forking over their hard-earned cash in the process: the Humble Indie Bundle (drawing in huge numbers of sales — for a DRM-free product, no less — with sales numbers by Linux users consistently beating out sales to MacOS X users); Canonical's Ubuntu Software Center (where video games make up the top 10 paid software packages); Valve's announcement that it is bringing the Steam store, and community portal, to Linux desktop (specifically Ubuntu). Will the indie game developers (along with Valve) reap the bulk of the rewards that releasing games on Linux is offering...or will some of the big publishers realize what they're missing out on and join in the fun?"
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Are Commercial Games Finally Going To Make It To Linux?

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  • Maybe (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Saturday September 15, 2012 @07:18PM (#41348727)

    It'll depend on two big things:

    1) The willingness of Linux users to pay for software. Big name games are not going to go OSS, they are not going to be free, they are not going to function off of donations. They cost too much money for that. When you sink $10-30 million in making a game, you have to have a way to make it back. Unfortunately I've met more than a few Linux users who think all software should be no cost, they are just unwilling to consider paying for something. Others will pay, but only a small amount. So we'll have to see how many people are willing to pay, if it is enough to cover the costs of porting and supporting.

    2) Linux getting a better graphics setup. Right now there's a real problem with regards to using modern features of GPUs. The binary nVidia drivers provide OpenGL 4.2 and are fast and stable, but that is about it. So if a game wants to use new technology, and more and more do, then there's a real issue with what you support. Ask Mozilla about the problems they had with GPU acceleration under Linux. It was a case of "It works well with binary nVidia, but has X crashing bugs with anything else." That isn't a setup that will be ok for many game companies, particularly if the expectation is that they scale things back or do tons of work and hacking to support various chips/drivers, since that'll increase the cost of doing it.

    It'll all come down to money, as it always will in business. The desktop Linux market is not that large so there isn't a huge amount of people to tap in to. Thus how with it it will be will depend on what percentage of people will pay, and what it costs to support. If a high percentage of people are willing to pay for the games, and ports are rather easy, then you probably will see it on the uptick.

    I mean if I'm running a publisher and the finance people say "For about $50,000 in development testing and support we can add Linux as a platform and even conservatively we can expect $500,000 in additional sales, and $1,000,000 is fairly realistic," well I'll do it. Why not? Even if I'm looking at $100,000,000 in sales on other platforms a small investment with a good reward is a great idea.

    However it is is more along the lines of "It'll cost us at least $500,000 to get everything working and there will still be bugs with AMD cards, and at best we could see maybe $600,000 in sales, but realistically probably half that or less," then I'll say no. It is not worth the risk of lost money for a small potential of a small reward. Just stick with the other platforms.

    So at this point, we really can't say. We'll have to see how Valve does, and in particular some of the Kickstarted games. The Linux people were very, very vocal so many games added a Linux port. However we'll have to see what it ends up taking to make, how well it works, and how Linux sales of it goes. That'll likely determine if those companies try Linux again, and other companies will see their success or failure and decide what to do.

  • Re:Valve thinks so. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by lowlymarine (1172723) on Saturday September 15, 2012 @07:23PM (#41348747)
    The problem is, the Source engine already exhibits a lot of really bizarre performance behavior. They say that on Linux with OpenGL they're seeing performnace improvements over Windows with DirectX (with no mention of IQ), but on Windows the OpenGL engine is slightly slower (~10%), and on OS X the OpenGL engine is about 65% of the speed of the DirectX implementation on Windows and has noticeably lower image quality. Source also has wildly different performance on otherwise comparable AMD and nVidia cards. I've even had systems that used to run TF2 just fine a year or so ago, and now are a stuttery mess with the same settings on the same maps with the same number of players, for no readily apparent reason. And of course we're dealing with framerates in the 300+ FPS range for the Source engine on high-end hardware these days, where huge differences can be the result of otherwise tiny factors, as actual GPU performance is marginalized next to things like driver overhead; that wouldn't be the case for, say, Unigine or UE4.

    I think if we're honest, Valve's big complaint about Windows 8 has nothing to do with "performance" or expected sales, it's more about "waah we were about to launch an application store but now thanks to Microsoft's we won't have a virtual monopoly on that for Windows."
  • Re:Sure! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DragonTHC (208439) <Dragon@gamerslST ... .com minus berry> on Saturday September 15, 2012 @07:31PM (#41348801) Homepage Journal

    here's the text for lazy people.

    Here is my prediction for the next big thing in PC games.
    live DVDs. You’ll get your game on a live DVD that runs a custom operating system or perhaps Linux to make it easy. A huge portion of the overhead costs for games involves support. If publishers could control the environment their software runs in, end-user support costs drop dramatically. The real hurdle to overcome? Driver support. Though, when publishers cross the live DVD bridge, I’m sure hardware manufacturers will jump onboard and sure up some unified driver technology like Nvidia and ATI already have.
    This all makes it much easier to play games and easier still to troubleshoot them. What about copy protection you ask? CD keys still work for online play. Why not have a game run its own operating system from a usb thumb drive? this allows the publisher to add dongle-type hardware to the usb thumb drive if they so choose to add that level of copy protection.
    You heard it all here first.

  • by moj0joj0 (1119977) on Saturday September 15, 2012 @07:39PM (#41348867)

    I began using Microsoft operating systems in the late 1980's. I used them every single day that I used a computer until about a year ago when I decided to give Ubuntu a try.

    I now use Ubuntu every single day I use a computer, I do reboot occasionally to use Windows for games, aside from that I do not use Windows at all.

    The only shortcomings I have come across is my dependence upon Photoshop (yes, I now run PS in wine) and that of my games. Aside from that, every other thing for which my computer is used, Ubuntu just works, and does works with more stability that Windows has ever shown in more than 2 decades of use.

    So when you say "runs circles around those same offerings on Linux" I will have to disagree, in fact, that statement is only partially true under some circumstances for specific applications, the exception rather than the rule. As a Linux n00b, I have more stability, better response, less overhead and an all around better experience than Windows.

  • Re:Valve thinks so. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by symbolset (646467) * on Saturday September 15, 2012 @09:50PM (#41349479) Journal

    No, they're porting to Linux as a hedge against the success of Windows 8. Valve has an app store they get a huge fraction of their income from. Since Windows 8 will have its own Windows Marketplace app store, Microsoft is unlikely to be friendly to Valve's store. In fact, Independent Software Vendors with valuable markets in Windows that Microsoft decides to want tend to start having issues running in Windows at all. Microsoft has decided they want Gaben's Steam marketing revenues - and probably the games money too now, and Gaben knows that once they decide that the party is over in Windows - they cannot be dissuaded, negotiated with, or convinced. He knows this because he used to work there.

    So Valve needs a new platform for their game engines, games and game store to run on because Windows 8 is not going to work. Since Apple has the same app store issues and Linux doesn't, Linux it is.

  • Re:Maybe (Score:5, Interesting)

    by symbolset (646467) * on Saturday September 15, 2012 @10:02PM (#41349541) Journal

    Gabe Newell used to work at Microsoft. He knows about Stac and Sendo, WordPerfect, Novell, Lotus, Aldus, Borland, Netscape and the entire litany of other companies Microsoft decided had had enough time to develop an interesting basket of customers to steal. He knows Microsoft has now decided to have his share, and he cannot defeat them while working on their operating system. That strategy always fails because Microsoft deliberately makes the operating system incompatible with their victims' software. Always. He knows he cannot win on Windows in the long term.

    That doesn't mean he's abandoning Windows immediately. Of course not. The money's still coming in and there's no reason to throw it away. But right here in this thread are the first trickle of "increasingly glitchy, unreliable, unstable..." that eventually will become a flood not because Valve suddenly forgot how to write code, but because the ware cannot transcend an OS that deliberately undermines it. It is just not possible . It's not Gabe that's going to take Valve on Windows away from you: it's Microsoft, who will make it work worse and worse until you uninstall it.

    So the man has no choice. It's this or fold your tent and retire to your private island.

  • Re:Valve thinks so. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sir_Sri (199544) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @03:16AM (#41350529)

    Even future Windows Updates will break Valve's game engine for no good reason.

    That doesn't even make sense. Much as I have been trying to persuade them, microsoft is not interested in making or selling game engines. There's a big difference between the directx API and a game engine, and MS isn't in the latter business at all, despite the fairly compelling case for there to be some serious software companies selling game engines at tiered pricepoints with tiered support.

    I can now safely say that Valve isn't going to get the early access to Windows 9 they would need to stay competitive.

    Again, that doesn't make any sense. Anyone who pays for MSDN access can get early access to windows 9, and, somewhat surprisingly, directx 8 code still works on windows 8, so there's not real reason to believe that source engine games are suddenly going to stop working any more than anything else could suddenly stop working.

    Except for anti-malware/antivirus vendors. Those folk really have nowhere else to go

    They're usually security companies, not just AV companies. There's still a market for intrusion detection, forensics, recovery etc. There is even a place for malware protection on linux and mac if they ever pick up market share, and there's a place for AV on mobile devices these days too.

    You're talking a lot of nonsense unfortunately.

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