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The real problem blocking Linux support for apps and games

GOG.com announced that it won't support Linux for its games, and the community's reaction does nothing to help change their minds.

The Open Source and Linux ecosystems (and the various communities within them) are, in general, pretty awesome – providing advancement and support of a wide array of software to everything from consumer-oriented cellphones to battle-hardened, enterprise servers.

But there are a few problems...a few kinks in an otherwise rather straight hose.

A great example of this is GOG.com’s recent announcement that it will not be adding Linux support to the games they sell any time soon.

From Trevor Longino, GOG.com's head of marketing: "The architecture of Linux with many common distros, each of them updating fairly often, makes it incredibly challenging for any digital distribution company to be able to properly test the game in question, and then provide support for the release-all of which our users are accustomed to."

GOG.com's Piotr Szczesniak added: "Until we can figure out something like a better way to automate testing and building games for GOG.com, there's no way that the economics of Linux support make sense for us. That said, we do know that there are plenty of people who want to be able to play their games with Linux-native support from us, and we continue to look for ways where we can automate this until it reaches a point where it is something that we believe we can do and not lose money at it."

They're not wrong. And they're not saying Linux is bad – quite the contrary. This is a company showing that they're interested in finding a way to be able to actively support and sell Linux versions of the games they offer. They simply haven't figured out a way to do it that ensures they don’t lose money.

This isn't a new issue. Sales of commercial applications and games built and packaged for Linux distributions have been, in general, incredibly low. This isn't because Linux is "bad," and the folks at GOG.com certainly aren't saying that... they simply haven't been able to find a way to fund development and support for Linux while earning a profit.

So there’s a problem there. It’s not really a huge deal, as no ecosystem is perfect. If we want to rectify the issue, we need to come up with good, well-documented methods companies like GOG.com could use to support Linux and, at least, break even.

This is where another problem within our greater open source/Linux community rears its ugly head - whenever someone talks about having a hard time figuring out how to support Linux without losing money, the mob tends to get angry and hurl insults at the speaker.

If you look through the comments you'll find many along the lines of "their argument is just stupid," "It's bull**** and they know it," and "they just want to be a-holes is all." There are not a lot of constructive ideas or suggestions on how to achieve profitability by packaging and targeting for Linux desktops.

These two issues join forces to create a sort of "super-problem."

Companies can't figure out how to effectively and profitably support Linux. They turn to the community to discuss that issue. The community shoots them in the face for talking about the issue, thus making other companies afraid to even try.

GOG is not the problem here. Neither is Valve, Desura, Canonical or any other company that would seek to sell digital goods to those of us running Linux.

The problem is us. Our reaction. Our ability to recognize that our operating system, desktop environments and software ecosystems of choice may not (brace yourselves) be 100% perfect in every way.

Again: I love Linux. I've hung my hat on the metaphorical Linux hat-rack. But just because I love it, that doesn't mean that it couldn't use some improvement here or there.

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