Linux will not become a gaming platform, it already is one

Why I cringe whenever I hear someone say "it's the year of Linux gaming!"

linux tux 2

The true measure of any great gaming platform is not the number of games available. Nor is it the need to have the same games as other competing platforms (the Playstation 4 doesn't need Mario games to be considered successful). And it really isn't even about how many total games are sold, though that certainly helps.

No sir. It is far more nebulous and subjective than any of that.

The measure of a great gaming platform is if people want to use it to play games on... rather than another platform. At least on occasion.

For example: The SEGA Genesis. That beautiful console sold substantially less than the Super Nintendo. But it was still an excellent console that people enjoyed playing on. Thus, a success.

By that measure – and that is the only measure I can think of that makes any sense – Linux qualifies as a successful (even, great) gaming platform.

(Bear with me here. This isn't a cheerleader article. This is going somewhere. Pinky swear.)

I've seen quite a few articles that have made the point, in one fashion or another, that Linux is becoming a viable gaming platform. Now, I'm a big advocate of Linux, and I've spent years in the video games industry. So these sorts of statements should get me excited... right?

Yet they tend to have just the opposite effect on me. Whenever I see an article declaring something akin to “Gaming on Linux has arrived!” it immediately reminds me of the last decade (two decades, really... plus some) of that similar declaration we have all heard so many times. “Next year will be the year of Desktop Linux!”

There came a point where I had heard that refrain so many times that hearing it instantly made me pessimistic, or, at the very least, compelled me to say something snarky.

When I hear something like “2014 is the year for gaming on Linux” I have the same reaction. Pessimism. Snark. That simple statement, as positive as it may be, can turn even the most exciting of news into something... far less exciting.

That's when I realized we need a way to actually determine if Linux is a legitimate, successful gaming platform. Then we can simply determine if it is or isn't, and stop making those sorts of (oddly un-compelling) declarations. After much thinking on it, I decided on the criteria I laid out at the top of this article, which I am not going to repeat now, because I am lazy. Also scroll-bar.

Once I figured that out, it became clear. Linux is a solid gaming platform. It has been for a long, long time. And, in recent days, Linux has only gotten even stronger as a gaming platform.

But it's not the year of Linux gaming. That already happened a long time ago.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go play Battle for Wesnoth.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.