Open Ballot: Will Linux become the next gaming platform?


Valve have announced that their upcoming release of Left 4 Dead 2 will run faster on Linux than Windows, and this got us thinking. Could Linux become the new gaming platform of choice?

This is not as far-fetched as it may first sound. The openness of the platform means developers can fix any annoying bugs they come across rather than having to implement tiresome work arounds, and the game developers themselves can take an active role in pushing the platform in new directions. The free (as in beer) nature of the system means that they can ship all the latest system software along with the games to make sure everyone is running the latest versions. The flexibility means that the Linux distro it's running on can shut down all unnecessary software and dedicate maximum resources to the game.

The success of Ouya on kickstarter has shown that there is a demand for open source gaming platforms on consoles. Could the same demand exist on PCs as well?

What do you think: Are we out of out tiny minds, or is our crystal ball providing 20:20 foresight?

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Your comments

Won't affect me as I really

Won't affect me as I really don't do gaming but why not? Linux is much better at memory management than Windows, or it was when I last looked, so games should run better.

A Stable API & Framework is all game devs want

If Steam or the like can pull off a nice intuitive API/Framework to allow developers build games and to have to worry about the boiler plate then there is no reason it can't be done and done well. The X360 has some nicely built in features, like voice chat, it comes for free, network tools too, don't have to keep reinventing it for each game.

That essentially makes it irrelevant what OS it sits on, with the added advantage the Linux can constantly improve the lower level unlike the usual glacial pace of consoles.

But just bolting OpenGL/SDL etc. onto a Linux Subsystem is never going to work...

Next gaming platform?

Probably not. Pity really.

What I think we might see is linux based steam consoles. I'm not sure if they'll do well, but I think there might be one or two sold.

Not that it bothers me that much. I'm still playing the Steam version of Fallout New Vegas under Wine!


Linux, you say? We only need one gaming platform. You can pry my SNES controller out of my cold, dead hands.

Nope, still can't happen ...

"The openness of the platform" we all like to talk about is also its biggest problem. Too many distros, too many sound APIs, too many different graphic drivers, ...

A developer needs stable environment - there is already too much work to do be done with game engine and he/she shouldn't mess with low-level stuff.

To overcome all this we would first need a Linux portable game framework, ala DirectX, and this is where the big boys come in. Maybe the correct question might be "Can Ubuntu become the next gaming platform?"

Keep it open!

Yes, Linux should technically be a much better platform for games especially if the graphic card manufacturers played nicer.

But I get more excited about things like FlightGear and Warsow and things like that bloody brilliant StuntRally that was on the disc a few issues ago. These show what open source is capable of. These are worth much more of our time and coin than proprietary games.

I most certainly do think so!

Excuse my english, but I would like to state here that I think that not only will Linux become the next gaming platform... it will become *the* next platform!

Just look at Ouya and what that already means for Linux: Android, also based on Linux ofcourse, *is* already one of the bigger players in gaming platforms. Now only on mobiles, maybe next year for televisions, but it is growing very rapidly.

Then look at iOS / OSX, which does not run Linux, but some BSD-like platform: People using Apples are already getting used to Bash-like shells, Linux-like stuff they must learn (automake / C / Python) and, more importantly, to develop for something freaking else than Windows.

Also take into account how many OpenGL-based games already exist for both these platforms, add to that the upcoming Steam for Linux and the sheer amount of OpenGL-based games already available for native Linux!

Then realize that Microsoft really thought DirectX (11) would be the only way to develop powerful games and think again about how many game developers would like to concur that fact since absolutely no code based on DirectX 11 will ever run on iOS / OSX / Ouya / Android / Linux!

So yes, Linux will become, in one way or another, the only logical choice for gaming. So there!

If you want, just take a quick look at Raspberry Pi, then at how many projects I have been developing the last 2 years profesionally with Android that should *replace* old Windows CE boards, how many servers and software I have delivered that actually run (on) Linux since it is just more stable, how many families and friends I have helped with a Linux Mint installation and are more than happy with that and never want to return to Windows anymore...

So yes, Linux will become, in one way or another, the only logical choice for just about anything, except for cooking meals.


Since L4D2 runs faster on Ubuntu than on Windows, it would be fun to see computer/gaming/graphics enthusiasts starting to benchmark games on Linux rather than on Windows.

If I were a game company and

If I were a game company and saw problems on the horizon with Windows I would pump all of my resources into putting my games on platforms millions of people already own, gaming consoles. Asking users to switch to Linux to play games is a stretch. You're asking users to embrace a largely foreign system when they could just pop the games into their PS3 or XBox.

In time, if Linux is a superior gaming platform, it could take off. However, for that to happen Linux would need to be standardized with greater driver support. Perhaps if the gaming companies got together and embraced and developed a single distro to their standards we could see Linux gaming take off. This would also serve as a catalyst for the creation of a unified Linux experience for the masses. The gaming industry largely drives the production of video hardware already so it could happen with software as well (drivers included).

In short, supply will follow demand. If there's great demand for games on Linux (as in rivaling demand on Windows) the makers will rise to the occasion. To reach that kind of demand we need more Linux users. With many Windows users stating the lack of games on Linux as their primary reason to stay with Windows we're in a tough spot. We need the gaming industry to embrace Linux whole heartedly.

I played flare yesterday,

It was ok.

The next platform but maybe not the best

I don't really play games anymore (not since my Amiga 500 days), but I cannot see any reason why Linux cannot become the next major gaming platform. I could not promise it will be considered the best, since there is much competition from console-like devices, but why not? I'd support gaming on Linux, even if I don't really do it anymore.

p.s. I submit that Anonymous Viennese Penguin, with a penchant for the SNES, may well be less anonymous than he thinks. Maybe MikeOS would make an awesome gaming platform?


I think most gamers (me included) would be quite happy on Linux if their games ran there, especially when Windows 8, which is not a good PC gaming platform, comes out.

I suspect there'd be less resistance to installing Linux amongst gamers than amongst normal desktop or business users since gamers are used to fiddling and customising and installing weird things to get other things to work.

If Valve were to release a Linux based console running Steam at some point in the future, which wouldn't surprise me, then it'd really blow things open.

I hope Linux becomes a decent gaming platform. I know of a lot of people (again, me included) who only keep Windows around for games.


I think it likely that it will, let's face it there are already plenty of games being sold for Android so it's just a matter of time. (Yeah, I know that's not what you meant, but it is what you asked! :o) )

There's no technical reason why desktop Linux* can't be the next gaming platform of choice, if Nvidia (for all their faults) can provide a driver that installs and runs on just about ever distro under the sun than I can't see why a games company can't do the same.

Another advantage of Steam coming to Linux is (much as I hate to say it) it will demonstrate that a form of restrictions management can be made to work - and be accepted - on top of a free OS, which should reassure a CEO or two.

*"Gnu/" omitted for brevity.

Game Cartridges for PCs?

If I were releasing games for Linux, I'd be sorely tempted to go down the route of USB sticks with a complete live disto on that auto-runs your game when booted.
Consumers are (were?) familiar with the idea of putting a cartridge into a game console, and love something physical that they can get for their money (as opposed to downloading an intangible file to your PC).
Not only that, but the security of a distro on a physical device is a lot easier to implement - sure, the source code of the live distribution must be made available, but the actual game code does not. The game developers would then also see Linux as a bonus, by being better able to protect their revenue stream and prohibit copying.

Not the best way to advertise Linux, as it's hidden inside the USB stick that you'd buy (much like an Android phone) - but as we all know, the Penguin moves in mysterious ways.

So yes, I think Linux can become the next gaming platform, but only if the enhanced possibilities that the OS provides are utilised, like in my example above. The question is, do the gaming companies have the Linux expertise on which to capitalise?

(My CV is available on request if not ;o) )

Only on consoles

The desktop is dying. Deal with it!

Pretty soon we'll all be interacting with each other via consoles that are specialised by function - or even via chips embedded in the skull - read Willian Gibson for how that might look. Also, to open up the market to young kids who are operating on pocket money budgets, the price of such consoles needs to be sub-$100/£100.

So yes Linux defitely has a chance to become the gaming platform of choice, but only if there is take-up by the console manufacturers at a low price point - so goodbye Pandora and EVO, and hello Ouya!

BTW I'm not a gamer but my kids are and I can see what kind of stuff they prefer - definitely consoles over PCs!

Games Machine OS

Anything that helps GNU/Linux to get an edge over Windows.


@Derkhan Blueday

While console ownership has certainly been on the rise, the desktop PC is still a bigger gaming market (both in terms of numbers and revenue, I think (may be mistaken)).

More importantly they're just have different characters. The PC is where innovation and creativity happens for the most part, it's where indie devs try out new ideas. It's rapid and cheap (free, even) to produce and distribute on and developers, if they choose to sell their games, tend to end up with a much bigger cut than they do on consoles.

Related to that, games are much much cheaper on PC. You also have access to mods and are generally free to mess around with your game as you like (within reason).

Console gaming is fine, it's certainly easier. But for me PC gaming is far more ineresting, exciting and open.

@Félim Whiteley

Steam isn't a gaming platform it's just a content delivery system (like an app store). Providing the APIs and such isn't really Valve's job with Steam (though they do provide Steamworks which includes basic things like voice chat, netcode, cloud saving, stats/achievements, social stuff etc. for developers to hook into if they wish).

Valve do make the Source engine but that's sort of a side issue since only a handful of the games on Steam run on the Source engine (most of them Valve's own). There are plenty of frameworks for producing games for both Windows and Linux, perhaps nothihg quite as easy/quick as XNA (though Unity comes close) but I think part of the hope is that the presence of Steam on Linux will encourage such things. Plus a decent number of the games available on Steam already have Linux ports.


No. People are too unwilling to switch to a Linux distro because they're afraid of the unfamiliar. Valve building Left4Dead2 on Ubuntu is fantastic news for Linux users. However, the majority of consumers make a beeline for Windows, and the rest want Macs. Unless Linux gains attention for being simpler and more user friendly than competitors, the likes of Red Hat, Debian, Arch, Slackware, and Gentoo will never see the light of day because most geeks don't leave the house.

Bring it

There will never be a better opportunity for linux on the desktop. Hardware manufacturers are staring the doom and gloom of the whole "Post-PC" era hype. They want to keep selling hardware and a free desktop will become more attractive as tablets gain more traction.

Windows 8 is not enjoying much acclaim, especially from power users including the gamers/overclockers. The gamers/overclockers like to buy expensive hardware and are not afraid to tinker. The only thing that has kept these types of users from Linux is the lack of games and that seems like it's about to change.

Will Linux take advantage of this opportunity? It's off to a good start with 2 major game engines and at least Valve's major titles coming on board.

Me personally, I don't mind W8 but I really have no need for any version of windows except for games and testing Internet Explorer for work. I welcome a revival of PC gaming and a renaissance for Linux on the desktop. I hope it happens and have my wallet ready for Valve.

Linux needs games before it becomes a gaming platform

I have never played any of the latest games on Linux before.

Come to think of it I have never played any of the latest games full-stop.

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