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Steam's top releases of May show why Steam Play is needed for Linux

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Valve have put out a news post to highlight some of the top games put onto Steam in May and it's another reminder of why Steam Play is needed.

In this blog post they start by listing 20 games that had the top revenue earned in the first two weeks following their release. Without looking, take a guess at the number of games in that list that actually support Linux.

Did you take a guess? The answer is a rather sobering two: Rise of Industry and Total War: THREE KINGDOMS. What happens to that number if we include those that can be run with Steam Play, with a "Platinum" rating from user reports on ProtonDB? That brings it right up to nine, which is far more impressive. It would be even higher, if Easy Anti-Cheat and BattlEye worked with Steam Play and since both said they're working on it (Sources: EAC - BattlEye), things can only get better.

They also went over the top five free games, measured by peak player count within the first two weeks following release: Conqueror's Blade, Splitgate: Arena Warfare, Minion Masters, Eden Rising and Never Split the Party. Of those, only one supports Linux which is Never Split the Party. If we take "Platinum" Steam Play games again, that only rises to two.

Note: The top free games list has two entries that also appear in the top revenue list.

Without popular games, Linux gaming won't grow to a point where it will be noticeable. Once again, this is a big reason why Steam Play is going to help in the long run. First we get games, then we get players, then we hopefully get developers wanting control with their own supported Linux builds.

What's interesting though, is this only takes into account the first two weeks in both cases. Taking a look myself a bit closer, out of the top 20 games most played on Steam right now (players online) only one of those games Valve listed in the blog post actually make it at all, which is Total War: THREE KINGDOMS and that does support Linux. Going even further, out of the top 100 games on Steam for player count, from Valve's list, only currently Total War: THREE KINGDOMS shows up.

As a quick additional and interesting measure for June: Looking at the top 20 by player count right now, how many in total support Linux? A much healthier 10, so half which isn't so bad. Stretching it out even more, from the top 100 by player count, 43 of them support Linux.

So while we don't get the "latest and greatest" games, keep in mind that we do have a lot of games that stay popular supported on Linux, so there's at least a silver lining of sorts there.

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Nevertheless 29 Jun, 2019
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Quoting: Avehicle7887The situation with Wine has always been 2 sided, it is both beneficial and damaging to Linux, which in many cases has been the former. While Steam Play/Wine helps users switch to Linux without sacrificing their favorite games, meanwhile from the devs end, they get to piggyback and profit from a platform they don't support.

In all fairness, I can sympathize with small companies where they lack the resources or the experience for Linux and Wine becomes the better than nothing solution. The large companies on the other hand, they have the funds but don't want to invest in Linux and id Software is a prime example of this.

I think developers tend to be quite pragmatic thinkers. They might not easily understand why someone would demand a native version when there is a Proton version that runs without issues. They may even think it's esoteric or amusing.
Natedawg 29 Jun, 2019
It's nice to not have to dual boot into Windows as much when I want to play a game that works with Proton. Also, it's nice to know there's an indicator that the game was purchased as a Linux sale even if it wasn't an actual Linux game.

Another interesting thing is that some games that have native Linux ports work better when using Proton, especially with a multi-monitor setup... I'm looking at you American Truck Simulator :)

I was a bit skeptical at first but am now convinced that Steam Play is a good thing for Linux gaming.
Swiftpaw 29 Jun, 2019
Quoting: Nevertheless
Quoting: Eike
Quoting: Nevertheless
Quoting: Eike
Quoting: aldyIf they see that their games are selling well on Linux then they'll consider porting games.
They're already buying, why invest money?
You will know as soon as your game is not Proton compatible and therefore will not sell to Linux users.

So you're with me it's no incentive to port...
(And the incentive to do larger changes, like using Vulkan instead of DirectX, wouldn't be bigger.)

Yes, I think right now it is no incentive to port to Linux natively, with a big BUT.
I think Proton made a big number of games availlable to play on Linux. It made and will still go on to make large portions of peoples libraries availlable to play on Linux. I think the percentage of new released games playable on Linux is higher than ever. Although the percentage of native releases might/will decrease, and although we will never know if the percentage of native games would have risen significantly without Proton (which I strongly doubt), I really do think Proton is the only hope for a rise in Linux user percentage. This rise should make developers at least look for Proton compatibility, which is achieved by using Vulkan and non Windows exclusive content. That would make native ports much easier, and that might rise the number of native ports and again Linux users in the long run.
It's a hope, yes, but I know of no other mechanism to reach that goal.

You show your own faulty logic by saying "that might rise the number of native ports and again Linux users in the long run." What will increase the number of Linux titles is an increased demand for Linux titles. If the demand for Linux support doesn't increase, there's no reason why developers would give more Linux support. Gamers have to come over to Linux and demand Linux support in order for us to have more Linux support. GOG,, etc need to grow with more Linux support, too.

Demand for Linux games won't grow if Linux gamers are demanding Windows games by buying Windows games. That will just mean more Windows games. Will some of those gamers demand better and demand Linux games instead and show that by buying Linux games? Yes. And that's what we need more of. But if they buy more and more Windows games, that means more and more financial support for developers who decided to not give a shit about Linux.
Salvatos 29 Jun, 2019
Which ultimately doesn't matter if the games work fine on Linux anyway and the user base has grown enough that the devs are willing to provide said support via Proton when something breaks.
Swiftpaw 29 Jun, 2019
Quoting: gradyvuckovicSo many people here keep saying that Proton supports the Windows ecosystem, but I don't think anyone here seems to have seen that actually Proton is more like EEE: Embrace, Extend, Extinguish. But it's not Microsoft using EEE this time, it's US!

Proton Embraces DirectX/.Net/Win32, then Extends those APIs to Linux, by creating an abstraction layer that converts them to Vulkan/Linux/POSIX/etc.

But how does it Extinguish those APIs?

When a gamer is convinced by Proton to switch to Linux because '90% of the games I'm playing work on Linux', you shouldn't underestimate the mental size of the barrier to switching back to Windows. Sure it's something that could be done in a day, but most users are not like technical Linux users and enjoy switching OS all the time. Most like to set things up once, get them working, and then leave things the way they are. And the longer you spend on Linux, the larger that barrier will become as you start to get more cozy and familiar with Linux.

So after switching from Windows to Linux, as long as the user never gets up the mental energy to switch back to Windows, they should remain on Linux. So, unless something terrible happens and they never lose access to an important piece of software, chances are that gamer is going to make decisions on what to buy based on how well each game will run on Linux.

So that gamer won't likely buy exclusively Linux native games, but they will be unlikely to buy games that won't at least run through Proton, and chances are, most importantly: They are less likely to go back to Windows.

But! Think about what that is going to do to the Windows ecosystem as more and more people switch to Linux because of Proton.

Proton starts to alter developer behaviour. Those developers will notice that their Proton compatible games make more sales than their Proton incompatible games. And for absolutely minimal work! Work so easy, they've often done it by accident! Suddenly developers aren't developing for "Windows", they developing for "Windows + Proton". By following a few simple rules for what Windows APIs to use and which ones not to use, the developers can gain some extra sales with minimal work and almost zero investment.

Suddenly, Proton is dictating which Windows APIs are used, as targeting Proton/Windows means targeting the lowest common denominator of both.

When that starts to happen(we shouldn't expect to see that yet, games take years to develop, it's only been 10 months), it will mean more games will work via Proton on purpose instead of by accident, which will mean more gamers will be able to make the switch to Linux and have even more games available to them to buy than before. The number of 'truly Windows only' games will get smaller and smaller as a result.

Thus it creates a cycle, of creating customers who will prefer Linux native, but will buy Linux compatible games. Which in turn will encourage more developers to make their games Linux compatible, until the number of customers becomes large enough to justify Linux native games as well.

Ultimately I see Proton as EEE, it Embraces, Extends, then Extinguishes the vendor-lockin of Windows APIs. Unpicking the Windows monopoly one API at a time. Using Microsoft's requirements for backwards compatibility with their huge software library against them.

Translation: Gamers who switch to Linux will demand Linux games, even though you give examples of Linux gamers supporting Windows games instead, but that's okay because they're still going to support Linux games even more.

Our demand for Linux games increases when more gamers start demanding Linux games, but if Linux gamers are buying Windows games instead, doing that is the opposite of helpful if the buying of Linux games slows down. You're saying Proton/Wine will increase the number of Linux gamers and end up increasing the demand for Linux games, and laying out your reasons for thinking that. I hope you're right, obviously, and that's what the discussion has always been around: is Proton/Wine helping or hurting?

So far I'm not seeing an increased in the demand for Linux games, though, when looking at hard evidence and the actual numbers.

Last edited by Swiftpaw on 29 June 2019 at 4:22 pm UTC
Linuxwarper 29 Jun, 2019
Linux_gaming suscribers is on the rise. I'd argue its because of Proton:
Swiftpaw 29 Jun, 2019
Quoting: LinuxwarperLinux_gaming suscribers is on the rise. I'd argue its because of Proton:

Numbers of Linux gamers or subscribers to whatever website increasing has no effect on Linux games if the demand for Linux games isn't also increasing.
Linuxwarper 29 Jun, 2019
Quoting: SwiftpawNumbers of Linux gamers or subscribers to whatever website increasing has no effect on Linux games if the demand for Linux games isn't also increasing.
I wasn't arguing that it does. But it clearly shows that Valve's involvement with Linux is working to bring users to the platform. And it will only go up when they further polished Proton and Linux desktop and make anticheat work with Proton. Proton is still not complete. But even in it's incomplete state it has persuaded alot people to stay on/switch to Linux. Infact, I might have changed back to Windows if it wasn't for Proton.

If there is one thing I agree with you on, it is that you should ask for Linux port. But you should direct it at developers supporting Stadia and indie devs. Indie devs because their game is easier to port because of scale of the game. Stadia developers because Vulkan is used and Paradox has said there are also other aspects that Stadia shares with Linux. Vulkan and Linux similarity reduces cost for the port. Asking or demanding a port from devs that won't be using Vulkan is futile. They can use the money instead to make a dlc and get more returns from Windows.

Last edited by Linuxwarper on 29 June 2019 at 6:26 pm UTC
Eike 29 Jun, 2019
Quoting: SwiftpawSo far I'm not seeing an increased in the demand for Linux games, though, when looking at hard evidence and the actual numbers.

Am I right to assume the release date you're using is the first Steam release? Then I figure the curve looks similar to this for a long time, as we often do not see first day Linux releases...
Natedawg 29 Jun, 2019
Quoting: SwiftpawGamers who switch to Linux will demand Linux games

I believe this is a good argument! However, the flip side of it is getting them here in the first place so that they'll be in the position to demand the games. If we don't get them here in the first place then the increased demand will never come. If a person's primary use of their computer is gaming then, pre-Steam Play, Linux looks like the worst possible option for them both catalog-wise and performance-wise. They'll never switch.

Steam Play is what got people like Linus at Linus Tech Tips to take a second look at Linux as a viable gaming platform after having brushed it off on several occasions over the last few years. So, because of Steam Play we now have had several Tech "YouTubers" doing marketing for us, which in turn gets users, which in turn gets sales, which translates as demand for Linux.

Post Steam Play, while Linux still doesn't live up to the catalog of Windows games, it at least looks like a far better option than macOS because the catalog of playable AAA games is probably 2 or 3 times larger than macOS, maybe more. So, if the user is looking for an alternative to Windows, there is something they can go to where their gaming compromise isn't as huge of a hump to get over.

I suppose my ultimate argument can actually be presented as a question. If you had to choose, do you prefer more people switching to Linux, or more games that have native ports, because I don't believe we can have both at this point. :\ We have to pick one or the other. I choose the former.
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