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A general guide for the best practices of buying Linux games

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Quite a number of people have asked me to talk about where to buy Linux games, how to make sure developers are supported and so on, so here I am.

First of all, I am fully aware there will likely be a small backlash in the comments on certain points. We do seem to have a small minority of very vocal people who like to boast about buying dirt cheap games from places like G2A, which makes me sad. We also have a few who like to advocate piracy, which is not only sad, but makes us look really bad in the eyes of developers. For the most part though, the people commenting here are fantastic to talk to.

To make this a point: I am not aiming to single anyone out, nor am I aiming to be hostile towards anyone. Read this as if we are all sitting around the table having a *insert favourite drink* and discussing the best way to support our platform. That’s what this is all about, everything I do is to help Linux gaming progress somehow.

To get this out of the way; I flat out do not recommend buying from places like G2A and Kinguin, Samsai already wrote about that here. Read that as a starting point if you please. Basically, don’t pre-order, don’t buy from random reseller stores.

While Samsai touched on some dubious stores in his linked post, I wanted to talk about Steam key resellers in general. I would completely steer clear of all of them, that’s the single safest option here. I actually already wrote about this before here.

As you can see, we’ve already written about all of this before in various places, so it’s time to bring it together under one roof. Instead of having the information scattered across various previous articles.

So, how do you know if your purchase is counted as a Linux sale? Most of the time it’s actually pretty simple. I’ve come up with some general guidelines and information for you, it’s your call on how to act upon it. I don’t want to seem like I am forcing anything on anyone, these are my personal thoughts as always. As someone who is a gamer at heart who firmly believes in supporting developers, as well as an editor.

Cheap games & Resellers
If you’re extremely strapped for cash, rather than go to some dubious key reseller, try to wait out for spring/summer/autumn/winter sales. Most major stores now do massive sales for each season like Steam and GOG do. Sales happen so often, you really have no reason to go to some random reseller where your purchase is not just likely to count for Windows, but feed the pocket of none of the actual developers or publishers.

Steam rather often does specific Publisher or Developer sales, weekend sales, free weekends to test games and more. You have so many chances to get legitimate cheap games. If money really is the issue, you’re just not being patient enough. You are in full control of your own wallet, be smart with it. There's nothing wrong with waiting for a sale, that's not the issue here at all.

I’ve seen so many people worry about how little Linux games sell in comparison to other platforms, and buying your games dirt cheap on reseller stores only does one thing: Weaken our sales statistics even more and reduce the possibility of future ports happening.

Seeing people say things about their financial situation, well, I have news for you, you’re not entitled to anything. It’s a shame if you can’t afford it (and I feel for you!), but why should that entitle you to pay sometimes 90% less than the rest of us from a store that supports no one but itself? You know what I do if I can’t afford something? I wait until I can, I don’t buy it for 90% off the price from the back of a truck. That’s essentially what key resellers do. Not all of them mind you, but most use dubious methods of acquiring their keys.

I admit there are reasons why you may want to seek other sources, like region locking, bad dubbing of the audio in certain versions and other reasons I haven’t thought of. I don’t mean to lump everyone under the same umbrella here. The same thing, sadly, still applies to you. You’re not entitled to it, it’s best to voice your opinion to the developer directly. By going to these questionable stores, you’re still possibly hurting Linux gaming.

I really hate the word “entitled”, it sounds terrible, but it’s an accurate way of portraying some of the attitudes I’ve seen. If this offends you somehow, you should realize it’s probably a perfect description of your attitude.

If you’re still going to buy cheap games from random places, remember who you’re supporting by doing it (certainly not the developer), and remember when developers and publishers talk down Linux ports, you’re probably at least a small part of the problem. This may sound a little unfair, but it’s the honest truth of the matter. A small amount of sales being cut down even smaller is good for no one.

To quote Edwin from Feral Interactive:
QuoteIf you buy from a third party and they don't explicitly say they are selling Linux or Mac keys then you've bought a Windows key. Bundle-star for example sell Windows keys.

Doesn't matter where you play the game on third party stores the sale is based on the steam keys they have purchased. Humble Bundle for example have a set of keys tagged as Windows, Mac and Linux and hand out the correct ones based on your platform so that the correct platform sale is recorded.

I've spoken to numerous other developers who all say a similar thing. I linked to this before, but Bundle Stars is a good example of this when I asked them if they have Linux keys or just Windows keys a while ago:
Bundle StarsHi Liam, Sorry for the delay in responding over the weekend. I can confirm that we have not been sent new keys for Shadow of Mordor since the Linux release and only Windows is mentioned on the page. However, where we promote games as being available for Linux, these will all activate correctly for the platform.

Steam - Buying directly from Steam on Linux is a Linux sale. That’s a fact, so long as the game has a playable Linux version. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t have a SteamOS icon, if it has a Linux version, the developers will see a sale for it.

It doesn't really matter what operating system you buy your game on when it's directly on Steam, the main thing that counts is where it's first installed and played on for the first two weeks.

If you buy a key from elsewhere and don’t activate it until that particular game gets ported to Linux, that’s still a Windows sale. Why? Your key would have been generated before a Linux version existed, it would be part of a set of keys designed for a specific platform. The developer may see a Linux download, but not a Linux sale. I’ve had this confirmed from multiple different developers.

GOG - My GOG contacts have been unable to tell me how Linux games are tracked. I refuse to believe in 2016 a store as big as GOG don’t have something in place, and I don’t take their refusal to be open about it as a “we don’t track them”, but more as they are a business not wanting to divulge private business information.

It’s most likely that they track the number of downloads per-platform for each game.

I’ve tried asking developers about their stats from GOG, but no one is talking about it. It’s possible GOG specifically prohibits this.

Humble Bundle/Store - Humble as mentioned above in our quote from Edwin usually have keys for each platform.

Humble track the platform that was used to purchase each game, which is how they do their pie chart. So, if you buy it while on Linux, it’s generally a Linux purchase. The same applies as before though, if you buy it on Humble before it has a Linux version, prepare to be a Windows customer.

I am unsure how buying it from a mobile will count, as that’s never been mentioned anywhere. They most likely have a default set on it, which would probably be Windows for mobile sales. It’s possible they may wait to see what desktop system tries to redeem them, but we can’t be sure here.

Originally, Humble had a checkbox to tick which operating system to be counted for, but that hasn’t been around for some time. I did some test purchases today for researching this and never saw anything like it. (updated)- A statement from their head:
QuoteWe don't have a metric to associated purchases to a platform. But we do monitor what files are downloaded with a purchase so we could calculate what purchases result in Linux downloads.

Games Republic - Their answer to me from last time:
QuoteWe work directly with developers & online retailers like Nexway, which work directly with publishers too. We got that information on our About Us page:

We sell only legitimate and authorized keys received directly from the publishers

Developers stores
One major way to support developers is to buy directly from their own store or website. Like the Feral store, Aspyr Media store, Virtual Programming store as some examples. That way, you are guaranteed to not only count as a Linux sale, but support developers directly with more of your money (Steam gets no cut then for example).

Final note, please try to remain respectful in the comments. There's no need to be rude or disrespectful to others. Disagreements are fine and part of life, insults and bad attitudes are not needed here.

With thanks to Samsai and Flesk for giving their input on this article. Article taken from
Tags: Editorial
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I am the owner of GamingOnLinux. After discovering Linux back in the days of Mandrake in 2003, I constantly came back to check on the progress of Linux until Ubuntu appeared on the scene and it helped me to really love it. You can reach me easily by emailing GamingOnLinux directly.
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buenaventura 6 Oct, 2016
I have to agree with a previous comment about bashing people who cannot pay. I have two small kids on one income, I cannot justify to myself buying any game at full price - I wait for sales, and even then it is a long period of anxiety and worries to part even with 5 dollars for a game I'm not even sure I will enjoy or have time for. At the end of every month, we have essentially always (including all our savings) 0 dollars in our accounts, and I am fully employed and not a hobo, just normal vanilla poor - we spend everything on good food and other bare necessities for the kids+rent+car, literally. Yet I LOVE games (and GNU/Linux)!

I'll admit to buying Kentucky Route Zero on g2a since it was silly cheap and I've wanted it forever yet it never drops below 10 dollars even on sales. I will however, when my money situation improves (as it bloody well should SOMETIME RIGHT?), go and buy that game on gog full price again, deluxe edition even, as it is awesome. If I never get a stable income, I'll eat the rich. If any of you rich kids do that though, then GOD WILL JUDGE YOU!

Giving information about how your purchase counts is very welcome, but cut out the moralizing - one has to trust each person's morality to some extent, and the best way to make people make informed choices is by informing them (like you do) - but bashing people is probably counter productive and elitist. I feel bad and guilty enough about spending money on games as it is, thanks. I don't even blame people for piracy - I am sure they will come back and pay back somehow sometime, if not, then I am sure the poor poor developers will survive without that one (digital nonetheless) copy.
Eike 6 Oct, 2016
Quoting: cxphergmailcomI actually practically kicked smoking to support the Linux games initiative.

Now that's collateral benefit! :)
Hori 6 Oct, 2016
I think that OS statistics for games should not be counted by which system was used to buy the game. On Steam (and other platforms as well that count play time) it could be much more accurate by checking which OS was the game played most on in the last month or so... so if you are a Windows gamer and two years after buying game A you switch to Linux and you play the game on Linux at least 51% of the time then you will be removed from the number of Windows customers and added to the Linux ones.

Of course, there should be a minimum playtime required to make the switch valid (because I could play the game for only one single minute in one month and get switched... it would't be fair and accurate at all, as it could be heavily abused)

It also would be nice if we could see piecharts (like on GoG) for each game to see different statistics, like what OS people use to play it - again, by playtime not by purchase os)
Eike 6 Oct, 2016
Quoting: Horiso if you are a Windows gamer and two years after buying game A you switch to Linux and you play the game on Linux at least 51% of the time then you will be removed from the number of Windows customers and added to the Linux ones.

In the end, it's about money, and the money must flow in the first weeks after the sale. It doesn't get them more (or different) money if you decide to play it on another system years later.
buenaventura 6 Oct, 2016
About entitlement, most would agree that I am entitled (as a human being) to food, shelter, and meaningful cultural participation in society. It should not be based on income. If anything, there is no right to extreme excesses of income, and thus I think we should make culture, food and housing free for everyone, paid for by cutting of any income above say 5000 dollars per month and spending the excess on those common needs (also known as tax).

Thus, anyone with a substantial excess income, do pay for ye games. Anyone without, in the meantime (until justice prevails and it is free for all), do what you must to participate culturally in society, and taketh no shiet from the rich kids.
kingofrodeo 6 Oct, 2016
I just wanted to say this:
I own about 300 games for Linux on Steam and about 50 more on GOG. I only buy and play games on my Linux machine (the only pne I own other than am Android tablet). Currently I can afford to buy games... hell I even buy games I know I won't play.
I used to pirate when I was young and poor, and that's why nowadays I like to support many developers even though I have little time to play. I don't feel ashamed really. What was I supposed to do? All my friends were playing with the cool stuff, so should I be looking at my room's white walls just for the sake of it?
Sure, if you can afford but pirate or buy stolen keys then you're a prick.
buenaventura 6 Oct, 2016
Quoting: kingofrodeoSure, if you can afford but pirate or buy stolen keys then you're a prick.

Hear hear!

Last edited by buenaventura on 6 October 2016 at 8:00 am UTC
Maweki 6 Oct, 2016
"Buying directly from Steam on Linux is a Linux sale." Does this also mean through the browser on Linux?
Eike 6 Oct, 2016
Quoting: Maweki "Buying directly from Steam on Linux is a Linux sale." Does this also mean through the browser on Linux?

Cannot find a source for it, but as far as I know yes, they parse the browser's user agent for this.
catskinsox 6 Oct, 2016
Hi Liam,

I have used cdkeys to buy some games recently. After reading this article, I am stopping that practice, as I want to support the Linux developers.

Thanks for the info.

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