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Note: Article updated to better explain 1 or 2 points.

There were a few loud users complaining about a recent Linux release where you had to pay for the Linux version on Steam, even if you already own the Windows version. I’ve spoken to a few people and have some thoughts on it.

First of all: I fully agree porters should be paid for their hard work, that’s absolutely not in question at all. It’s a reason why I so heavily dislike grey-market key resellers. If you do the work — you should be paid.

I said at the release of the game that prompted this (Arma: Cold War Assault) that I was torn on the issue, as it’s a difficult topic to address. Difficult because I could easily anger every side of the argument and end up in some hot water myself. Not only that, but I am personally too used to just getting a Linux version for free just for owning a Windows copy from years ago. I purchased it myself personally, because I appreciate the work and because it is stupidly cheap.

Part of the issue is that Valve used to promote “Steamplay”, where you buy once and automatically get it on all platforms Steam supports. So, Valve are partly to blame for issues like this. While I like that system myself, it does have flaws when it comes to situations like this. Valve have actually removed any mention of Steamplay from store items, so perhaps over time people won’t expect to get all versions for free. It is a weird expectation in reality the more I think about it, to get something for nothing like that. I know you can argue all you like about free software and so on, but that’s a different argument for a different day.

It’s a very tough situation to be in for both a developer and a Linux gamer, since it could potentially put people off dual-booting or fully switching to Linux, if you have to pay for your games again. I don’t think there’s a one-size fits all approach here, since a lot of games may require little effort to bring over to Linux. Not all games should require a purchase per platform, but I think it should be an option at times and it should be welcomed. Even something simple like an upgrade option, that way we can still ensure the porter directly gets their due cut of the money for their work.

You could also argue that part of the hook of SteamOS and Steam Machines were that you got access to your library of games that supported Linux. An interesting point of course, but I think it’s also important that the games are just available there, even to buy again, at the very least. There’s also the fact that Steam Machines haven’t really taken off, so that’s quite a weak argument to have anyway.

I think paying essentially peanuts for a really old game that’s been slightly updated and ported to a new platform, well, yeah you should pay for that. You never paid for anything but the original version you got, so it would make sense to pay for something that is essentially different, wouldn’t it? We aren’t talking about a simple patch here, but a game ported to a different platform.

That goes for new games as well, not just older titles. Let’s face it, you don’t buy a game for a PlayStation 4 and demand an Xbox One version as well, do you? No, you don’t. That’s a hypothetical question: think about it even if you don’t own a console. It takes time, effort and many hours of testing to ensure it works correctly on each platform. Then you have the very real ongoing support overhead on top of that. The same can be said for ports of newer AAA-like Linux ports. They often take months, a year even to port and then you need to again add in the testing and support costs.

I thought about all the “no tux, no bux”, the “I only buy/play games on Linux” arguments and all the similar sayings people use that essentially gets thrown out the window if you suddenly refuse to buy a brand new (to Linux) game, just because you own it on another different platform, or because purchasing it won’t give you a version already available on a platform you apparently don’t care about.

I adore the work that Virtual Programming, Aspyr Media, Feral Interactive and others do in bringing games to Linux. They shouldn’t have to deal with a shit-storm every time there’s not a sale, or you have to pay to have it on your platform of choice. It’s the icing on the entitlement cake and it doesn’t taste nice, quite sour in fact.

Every time I see “will only get it on sale” or the instant “will it be released with a sale?!” posts I really do fear for our platform as gaming choice. Why is a Linux port worth so much less to you? It damn well shouldn’t be. We are gaming on a platform that has to prove itself to survive in what’s quite a hostile environment full of publishers with dollar signs for eyes. If we consistently pay less, create storms about small issues like this, then again, I fear for our future.

Faced with the option of paying extra for a Linux port, even if I have a Windows version I’m never going to use, over no Linux port, the choice seems obvious doesn’t it? If the original developer/publisher doesn’t want to deal with it at all, but isn’t averse to someone else handling all of it, then the only route to a Linux port could mean an entirely separated Linux version. I’m okay with that and I hope more people will be in time too.

If Bethesda turned around to a porting house and said “Okay, we will let you 100% handle Fallout 4 for Linux, but the contact is that you sell it yourselves separately to ours”. Would you turn away from it? I would embrace the crap out of that despite owning a copy for Windows (free with my GPU). Fallout 4 on Linux, yes please. I would enjoy metaphorically throwing money at my screen full price for that on Linux. That and a great many others. I'm not saying it should be the same price as the original Windows release, to be clear on that, since it is a port and not an entire new game.

We should consider ourselves lucky to get a free Linux version for a years old purchase on Windows, not outright expect it and be hostile if it isn’t free.

Please Note: Our comments section is always open for debate, but manners cost nothing. I expect a certain level of decorum on hot topics like this. Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
Tags: Editorial
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rafebelmont 15 Mar, 2017
Personally, I don't see a problem in having the Linux version separate from the Windows version (I will always try to buy the Linux one anyway), although the Steamplay feature is awesome from a consumer point of view. However, I do think that people with the Windows version should get a price cut for an upgrade.
gojul 15 Mar, 2017
I think the best approach would be to require users to pay a small extra so that the porter gets paid. Everyone would be happy with this : the original game developer who gets its money, the porter who gets its money even though you owned the game for decades, and yourself to support the dev.

Now having to pay again a full game is something that tears me, even though I paid for Arma (I got the original one through a Humble Bundle)
AlveKatt 15 Mar, 2017
I agree with your point.

I just want to add that there is a different angle on the "Only buy if it's on sale" thing.

I actually think a game can be worth full price and often is, but that doesn't change the fact that some people can't afford getting games at full price. Don't assume it's always a question of bad attitude, it can just as well be a matter of your life situation.
WorMzy 15 Mar, 2017
How dare you think that porters should get paid for their efforts?! Rabble rabble rabble rabble!
miro 15 Mar, 2017
hm well, I don't like it. see it from the view of a typical microsoft games customer, and there are plenty with xbox:

you own GTA 5 for xbox 360, okay. you paid your 50€.
got a xbox one? fine. you have to purchase it again. another 50€.
want to play it on PC? sure, just buy yourself a PC version. there goes another 50€.

I have a friend of mine who has done exactly that.
Now, having such a game for e.g. linux or mac and windows, say if there was a port:

I paid once 50€, now I can play it on windows
I can also play it with my steamOS console on TV
I can also play it on linux on my PC/Laptop
I can also play it on a mac, if there is a port and if I had a mac LOL
TCO: 50€ vs. 150€ my friend paid.

I always told him how stupid I think this is, regardless of ms making tons and tons and tons of money with it with people buying and re-buying the same game, just for another platform. there is surely effort behind this, besides optimization for different controllers and adjusting settings and stuff, one may also have understanding for very old titles - but this must not become standard, I do not want to be like that friend of mine, that is one of the main features I enjoy with steam: buy once, play everywhere -and that without subscriptions like xbox live for another 50€ a year (makes a total of 200 btw.)

CDN/internet + your accound provided, you can easily download and play everywhere, as long as the OS is supported.


Last edited by miro on 15 March 2017 at 11:58 am UTC
ninjasftw 15 Mar, 2017
For older games, i'm perfectly happy to pay a 'porting' fee for something that I already own for Windows. Its fair that the porters get paid for it. Although the question is then what is the price for someone who doesn't already own it. Is the base Linux version the same cost as the Windows version or Windows version + porting fee?

For new games that come out with a promised Linux port but not on day 1 i'm a little more torn.
If I buy it now so that I can play it on release but intending to play it on Linux as soon as it is available then I don't really want to have to pay twice for it.

I'm also worried that if a developer knows that they can get the cost of the game plus a porting fee from us on a new release then i'm expecting that they will simply release two 'versions' of the game at different price points. This could seriously affect the platform future. How many people (especially people investigating Linux) will put up with a platform with a reduced selection of games, that run slower than their Windows counterpart and that cost more?
amk 15 Mar, 2017
Quoting: SamsaiObviously this wouldn't be a problem if people just stuck to Linux and Linux games. Shame on those that have bought Windows games! /s
I hope this is meant as a joke, otherwise I also fear for Linux gaming's future..

There are titles which are and will always be Windows only. But that itself doesn't make them bad games.
So I have some Windows only titles and I still play them from time to time. And so we have Wine, which is probably the best of Linux gaming available. I can still run Borderlands and a ton of other Win only games that I loved.

Your proposal simply means, put Linux before good gaming fun. That's not gonna happen, unless the person is a Linux zealot beyond repair.

Linux and the whole GNU stack is not directly connected to gaming, especially not to closed source and even Steam DRM-driven gaming, that's nonsense.

If people like Linux for it's technical advantages and GPLed code and just hate anything closed source and with DRM inside, I don't understand why would they be bothered with Linux gaming in general, apart from those few good OSS games.

With this kind of thinking I may even start bothering myself with stuff like whether or not to buy GOG version where it may not be counted as a Linux buy, or buy the Steam version with DRM I really don't like, but to have the Linux purchase counted. Geez. No, I get the GOG version immediately, because I don't trust Valve in their relation to Linux at all, plus having any authority to let me kindly activate the license and having the need to use their client software just to run it still almost feels outrageous to me.

PS4 was mentioned. Well, it's actually great for gaming and for getting rid of similar problems.
No driver issues, no activation on some third party servers for boxed versions and some exclusives are really great games. Unless one really gets into Bloodborne, gaming is slipping through their fingers. ;)

So my opinion is the opposite. If you like some Win only game, just go ahead and buy it. Linux doesn't stand on gaming, it's primarily used for completely different activities.

Good day and luck with defeating Blood starved beast. :D


Last edited by amk on 15 March 2017 at 11:58 am UTC
g000h 15 Mar, 2017
Does anyone have stats on this issue? How many Steam games require you to make multiple purchases if you want to own them on more than one platform?

Personally I am not happy with buying a release per platform. Well, I guess it is okay to follow that scheme, but you need to chop the game price down to suit. £30 game = £10 for Linux version, £10 for Mac version, £10 for Windows version.

If I've been desperate to get my hands on a game, and it is currently only on Windows with no Linux version on the horizon, then I will be tempted to buy it on Windows. (This happened last year for me - DOOM.) BUT I wanted to buy it on my platform in the first place. So then, if that game comes out 6 months later on Linux, it would feel like I am getting ripped off by the game company if I then need to buy it again. Given the option, I would have bought the Linux release on Day 1 (assuming the game is released on all platforms on Day 1).

I hope the vast majority of game releases (on Steam and elsewhere) keep offering all platforms at time of release, and generally add the extra platforms when they become available "for free".

Here's another idea, but it probably wouldn't work - *IF* the game company releases per platform (on Steam), and later on adds another platform, then it would be good if the purchaser could switch the release to the platform they prefer.

Also, it would be good when you make purchases/claim keys on Steam, GOG, itch.io if they implemented a system to inform the game companies the preferred platform of the buyer. (That way, even if you grab the Windows version, you're letting them know that you wanted the Linux version.)
lucifertdark 15 Mar, 2017
If someone paid £40+ in the past for a Windows only game that gets ported to Linux it's a bit unfair to expect them to pay the same price again, a discount for existing customers that goes 100% to the porter is the only sensible way to go, new buyers pay full price for whichever version they want.
Corben 15 Mar, 2017
Yeah it's difficult.
You could also argue, you are buying a game, like you would be buying a movie on BluRay (but can play it on TVs and with players from different companies)... and a PC (which can have more than one OS) is not like a console from different companies with a different architecture. Especially people who are dualbooting will see the advantages of this feature formerly known as steamplay.
E.g. Company of Heroes 2. If you want to play it with your friends, you maybe have to boot Windows (depending on which OS your friends are using), but for single player you would go for the Linux version. So what to do? Would you really buy it twice or then probably stick with the Windows version as you will have more players there?

I really appreciate the steamplay feature and really love it, as I'm one of those users who even have all three operating systems in use. Mostly I'm using Linux for gaming, but for some games I use Windows and even for others I use mac OS (but that are very few). When it would become common to pay per OS, my variety and freedom of choice would be limited.

On the other hand I do understand that developers want to be paid for this work. And I've already bought several games more than once. Be it initially on release somewhere, and in a bundle again elsewhere, or for example on gog again, as my original disks aren't working anymore.

So the best for devs would be to have little to no additional effort when creating a game. Ideally the engine would totally take care of creating the versions for the different operating systems. But that's probably not gonna happen soon, even though the engine devs are working on this.

So maybe the best is, to see the complete development including the effort for all versions, and demand one single price for the game then working on several platforms.

Though creating a version afterwards with additional effort is a different story. Maybe asking for an upgrade price, if you already own the version on a different platform is a good way.

Yeah, it stays difficult.
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