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2022 is officially the Year of Linux Gaming

By - | Views: 77,269

That's it, I'm done, finished. It's "mission complete" now is it not? 2022 is officially the Year of Linux Gaming. Yup, that's something I am now proclaiming and I'm also putting a flag down into February 25 (the Steam Deck release date) as Linux Gaming Day every year.

While the long-running joke of "Year of the Linux Desktop" might take forever to actually be a thing, Linux Gaming is now a lot more mainstream. Thanks largely to Valve of course bringing over Steam to Linux, and eventually producing the Steam Deck — putting the power of Linux and open source literally into peoples' hands.

Of course that's not to say it's all Valve. There's a massively long list of open source contributors who have helped to make this happen. From drivers to desktop environment upgrades there's so many different people, companies and organisations to thank. We wouldn't see the Steam Deck without open source and without the Vulkan API. I've said for years that we needed "hardware, hardware, hardware" with more vendors to properly jump in. It's not enough to have good marketing, or a good desktop, people needed a reason to use it to actually sway them over and clearly the Steam Deck is doing wonders.

If you follow the Steam Deck Reddit, you'll see a lot of people trying out (and actually enjoying) the KDE Plasma desktop mode on the Steam Deck too. Plenty of the fixes coming into KDE Plasma are as a result of people trying it out too, and finding issues, which then benefits all users. You only have to look at the regular This Week in KDE blog posts from developer Nate Graham to see how much effort goes into it.

The community building up around it is quite fantastic too, we've already seen a Plugin Loader come along which will be fun to see progress. We've seen multiple emulation tools appear like EmuDeck and RetroDECK, masses of developers moving to improve their games to add in gamepad support and better text sizing and the list goes on.

There's been times recently it felt like I woke up in a different world, when sites like PC Gamer told people to stick with SteamOS and not Windows and even LinusTT thought SteamOS did better overall. Never did I ever expect things like that to happen. Heck, even Jeff Grubb from Venture Beat said this in a recent Twitter post:

Steam Deck makes me want to puke from thinking about how stifled everything is by walled gardens. The community has already made Steam Deck so much better, and it all works together because it's open source. A better world isn't just possible; it exists.

Steam Deck, Linux and open source are finally starting to get through the cracks — it's incredible. After writing about it for so long, this really does feel like the "what a time to be alive" clip that came from The Simpsons and is now a fun meme for this sort of thing.

Heck, you even have Microsoft of all companies jumping in to repeatedly talk about their games on this Linux handheld, and even doing a guide to get Xbox Cloud Gaming to work. It might not be Game Pass on Steam (yet?), but who had any of that on their bingo card? I sure didn't.

More companies are even now looking to go with Linux like OneXPlayer because it's showing its worth, something sadly GPD don't see.

Even Epic Games are doing a little like making sure Easy Anti-Cheat can work easily on Linux, and getting Unreal Engine into a better state for Linux with Unreal Engine 5.

Obviously, this is heavily focused on the Steam Deck, but you need to remember that apart from the Steam Client, practically all of SteamOS is open source software and all improvements go on to benefit Linux Gaming everywhere. I think we're finally starting to hit that turning point for Linux Gaming as a whole thanks to this. Absolutely tons of people are now learning more about it, enjoying it and sticking with it — exactly what we want to see.

Now if you'll excuse me I'm off to go sit on my sofa and load up a AAA game on a Linux handheld.

While you're here go follow me on YouTube and Twitch.

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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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Raaben 15 Apr, 2022
I won't lie, I wasn't expecting quite this much of a bump in interest this fast from the Deck but it's damn nice. If the momentum keeps up, I think the future is looking bright. I am still wary of relying so heavily on one corporate entity but if we get traction, I hope it means more get on board with Linux itself (GoG Galaxy when now?).
dpanter 15 Apr, 2022
Linux Gaming Day marked in the calendar!
It happens to be my nephews birthday as well.
ExpandingMan 15 Apr, 2022
My take on the current situation:

Native gaming on linux has gotten basically nowhere (but this 1. doesn't matter too much and 2. will change; see below). (Please don't take this as a slight to any of the intrepid developers who are doing great stuff on linux native! It happens, it's just relatively rare.)

API/ABI compatibility for windows OS system calls and 3rd party DLL's is basically a "solved problem" and probably has been for longer than many of us realize. Yes, if you play enough you are likely to eventually hit some issue where a game refuses to run because of some kind of linking issue, but at this point this seems to be far more of a distribution problem and a problem with defaults than a technical one. It's getting easier to fix (I think eventually Bottles will make it truly easy), and importantly it is fixable by "mere mortals", meaning it takes mostly general computing knowledge to fix, not the PhD in a highly specialized fields such as...

The graphics API's are still a real problem. dxvk is truly amazing, I'm tempted even to apply the label "miracle", but it's not perfect and the people who can make meaningful contributions to it are very few and far between. I get the impression that it's become somewhat optimized toward unreal engine and unity, which I suppose was inevitable, the problems you tend to run into on more specialized game engines (especially the "in-house" engines of the big studios) get a lot weirder. I have found "Deathloop" to be an illuminating example (it seemingly has a large variety of subtle issues depending on the details of hardware and dxvk version, though it's encouraging that it seems to be "mostly playable" anyway).

While I don't think it matters very much anymore whether a game is linux native or windows native (a huge accomplishment to be sure), it still matters whether a game uses DX or Vulkan, and Vulkan adoption has been worryingly slow. Yes, all the major game engines support it, but games which provide it as an option are few and far between. Whether this will get better depends on the cause: I *think* it is the case that the main reason why developers choose not to provide it as an option even if they are using Unreal or unity and for them it basically boils down to a compile option is that these developers still care way more about old windows machines using graphics cards that can't support vulkan than they do about linux.

As for what I predict for the near future: I'm not really that worried about gaming getting sucked back into the Windows prison entirely. There's too much going against Windows these days, including other powerful parties with huge financial interests in making sure the clock doesn't get turned back (e.g. amazon and google). What I think is far more likely is that we will continue to see a fragmentation and the situation on PC's will start to more closely resemble what game consoles looked like 10 or so years ago. There will continue to be (significant numbers of high profile) games that can't be run in linux because they are using some kind of anti-cheat that refuses to run on anything but windows, or the developers have released it inside some MS proprietary nightmare store, or whatever, just as there will be games which only release on platforms which make it far more likely they can be run comfortably on linux.

Well... that post was way longer than I intended... but the TL;DR is:
You can mostly just run games on linux now and not worry about.
And to that there can be no response other than
henriquecarioca 15 Apr, 2022
This moment is important, but it has been built for a long time, important projects were:
Vulkan : a more modern API
Android : despite not guaranteeing compatibility with Linux Desktop, it made important engines like Unity and Unreal support Vulkan and the Linux kernel

and this moment will be perfect when most new games are native , with proton serving as a kind of backwards compatibility

and I think the more projects using linux and vulkan the better, initiatives like Steam for Chromebooks and Stadia are also important to make Linux an important and relevant gaming platform for the industry.
slaapliedje 15 Apr, 2022
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I've come to the conclusion the reasons that it isn't 'Year of Linux on Desktop' is mostly because of Microsoft and their methods of locking down people to needing Windows. Much like back in the day, what the corporate space uses, is what people end up mostly being stuck using at home. If we can get more penetration into the corporate workspace, then maybe one day we'll have the 'year of linux on the desktop'.

Really looking forward to getting my Deck, maybe they'll let me throw my money at them next week....
akselmo 15 Apr, 2022
I never thought I would see this happen. But here I am, playing games I like on Linux without having to worry about compatibility (too much at least).

There's still much to work on. But we are, and have been, on the right path for long time.

I am excited to see what the future holds for Linux gaming.
Viesta2015 15 Apr, 2022
very happy days
Philadelphus 15 Apr, 2022
QuoteIt might not be Game Pass on Steam (yet?), but who had any of that on their bingo card? I sure didn't.
Hey, I did! But I also got "Steve Ballmer buys a Steam Deck", so probably no bingo for me this year.
Raaben 15 Apr, 2022
Quoting: ExpandingManWhile I don't think it matters very much anymore whether a game is linux native or windows native (a huge accomplishment to be sure), it still matters whether a game uses DX or Vulkan, and Vulkan adoption has been worryingly slow.

I fear that second bit is directly related to the first, which is one reason I am against the 'who cares if native' camp. As long as devs keep getting told it doesn't matter or that we don't want or need native versions, they're not likely to spend the time and money to switch their tools and environments to use Vulkan or other APIs that would make both native or Proton compatibility better; unfortunately even Valve seems to be selling Proton as 'just continue with DirectX and MS APIs'.
SkyGuyWhy 15 Apr, 2022
Quoting: denyasis
Quoting: setzer22Currently, the only comfortable way to game on the deck is to go via the Steam interface, and even things like emulators need to be wired as non-steam games or they simply won't work well. We need more Lutris, we need more sc-controller, and we need more of whatever is to come that will help us make our Decks less "Steam" gaming machines and more "Linux" gaming machines

I also agree, but I'm a little less skeptical than you. I'm probably in between you and Liam Dawe.

Valve is definitely in the Extend phase of EEE for Linux and wine, and I can see at some point they may consider making the jump to Extinguish (pairing steam off of Linux into it's own thing), but I don't see that as likely or feasible.

1). They lack the resources. Valve is 100% dependant on the free labor of the open source communities. While they've done great work, most of the heavy lifting was done long ago by others.
2). Linux being open source, it simply can't be tossed out, the way Microsoft or Apple can get rid of stuff since it's all in house.

Linux will be just fine.

Quoting: Liam DaweI actually agree there too, which is why I cvM37x2bjoTnEsqontinue to hope the Deck pushes Linux Gaming forwards, so that a bigger market opens up so more stores and vendors take notice :)

I would love to see more Linux support, I hope more games target native/wine in the future.

By chance, are there indicators on how well the deck is doing? I don't read much gaming news elsewhere, and it seems it's doing really well in reviews from what I can tell.

If by "How Well the Steam Deck is doing" you mean sales, then it is doing *very* well. By unofficial estimates orders are booked out all the way to mid 2023, Valve is selling literally as many as they can make and then some. On the Steam Deck reddit they're tracking how many orders have been filled relative to when people made their reservations. Supposedly there are so many people in line, that since February they've only fulfilled the first 12 _minutes_ of reservations made after they went up.

Given that I guess it depends on your perspective - if you're Valve, it's a massive, unprecidented, completely unexpected success, they have an order of magnitude more interest than expected. It could not possibly be any more successful, they literally can't make units fast enough to sell. But from another perspective aside from Valve's, say you're watching market share and hoping for Linux to overtake windows? Then it's a drop in the bucket, sales are heavily constrained by Valve's supply. Not a great success by that metric yet, but that metric is obviously unrealistic, IMO it's more impressive than disappointing that you could consider it through that lens at all.

In summary, Steam Deck is doing fabulously, far beyond all expectations, but isn't big enough to take on the Sonys and Microsofts and Nintendos of the world yet. Give it a few more years, it'll get there. Maybe by Steam Deck 3, assuming Valve can count that high.
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