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Linux users are hungry for commercial games

Game publishers take note: Linux users are clamoring for high-quality video games.

By Bryan Lunduke on Thu, 09/13/12 - 10:57am.

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 being 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." Without clear evidence (read: "case studies") of profitable game releases, Linux is not likely to see big-game publishers jump on board en masse.

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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. I'd like to take just a few moments to highlight these in the hopes of driving the point home for any game publisher that may be reading this.

The first big example is 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. Sure, the sales numbers for Linux were only roughly one-third what they were for Windows...but think about that for a moment. If Linux desktops account for, let's be generous, 5% of the overall desktop market, yet income from Linux game sales (via this mechanism) account for nearly 25% of the total sales, those are numbers that cannot be ignored.

The second example is Canonical's Ubuntu Software Center. Canonical publishes a monthly report on the top 10 paid software packages purchased through its still young software store. And these top 10 lists have been, month on month, consistently dominated by video games. In fact, there are only three non-game applications in the top 10 list for last month (August, 2012)...and one of those is an application that launches and configures a video game (Minecraft).

Which brings us to the third example: Valve's announcement that it is bringing the Steam store, and community portal, to Linux desktop (specifically Ubuntu). While this is still in the works and, as such, we have no hard numbers or results to look at, the reaction from every corner of the Linux-centric Internet has bordered on "wild, frenzied anticipation and excitement."

Linux users have, at this point, an almost unquenchable thirst for video games – and they're putting their money where their collective mouths are. Now, the big question I have is this: 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?