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Linux user share on Steam hits second highest percentage in years

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Valve have put out their usual monthly Hardware & Software Survey and it's looking pretty great for Linux overall. April 2022 showed a big boost to Linux gamers. After a few months of dipping down, it seems to have rocketed back up to be at the second-highest point it's been in years with 1.14%.

You can see how it has changed over the last few years on our Steam Tracker, with the current posted below. The previous peak being November 2021 at 1.16%, the previous second highest being October 2021 at 1.13%.

Going by the main combined numbers from Steam, these are the current most popular Linux distributions:

  • Ubuntu 20.04.4 LTS 64 bit 0.16% +0.03%
  • "Arch Linux" 64 bit 0.14% +0.02%
  • "Manjaro Linux" 64 bit 0.13% +0.01%
  • Linux Mint 20.3 64 bit 0.07% 0.00%
  • Ubuntu 21.10 64 bit 0.06% -0.01%

With the Steam Deck now shipping that uses SteamOS 3 Linux, it's perhaps not a big surprise to see a lot more interest in Linux Gaming overall now. Currently though, the Steam Survey is not included on the Steam Deck in Gaming Mode and only in Desktop Mode with the main Steam Client loaded so these numbers probably don't represent many Steam Deck users at all.

Thanks though to Proton and the Steam Deck, perhaps this is the start of a small shift over to Linux — one can hope but too early to tell anything really.

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
Tags: Meta, Steam, Valve
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41 comments
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Quinn 3 May
Quoting: kuhpunktI'm just curious how they handle people using multiple OSs.

Like plenty of people use Windows on their desktop, but switch over to Linux when they use their Steam Deck. How does that count?
If you buy a Windows game on Steam and play for a minimum of 14 days on GNU+Linux, it counts as a "Linux sale".

If you play the same game on a mix of Windows and GNU+Linux, then it'll count as a sale for the OS that notches up a consecutive 14 days of playtime first.

It doesn't matter which OS you're using when you buy the game either.
Quoting: tonyrhwow if this keeps going on, in a couple of years we will take on MacOS!
Yeah, I noticed that when another article on this brought my attention to it: MacOS is down to 2.55% this month. It was higher in the past, wasn't it, and I'm not just misremembering? I've had in my head for a while that it was "about 5%". Not surprising, of course, with how Apple seems to be doing its darndest to kill off gaming on it, but still. With Linux increasing and MacOS decreasing we could surpass it in size much sooner than I would otherwise have expected.
Quoting: QuinnBlame Gabe for Microsoft's continued dominance in the PC gaming space, he helped port Doom from DOS to Windows and practically ensured M$ would set the standards going forward.
Was Linux a worthy and reliable alternative to Windows back then? Were open standarts ie. OpenGL useful?
Quinn 3 May
Quoting: mr-victory
Quoting: QuinnBlame Gabe for Microsoft's continued dominance in the PC gaming space, he helped port Doom from DOS to Windows and practically ensured M$ would set the standards going forward.
Was Linux a worthy and reliable alternative to Windows back then? Were open standarts ie. OpenGL useful?

GNU+Linux could have been a worthy alternative to Windows in the desktop space back then if things had been different.

Alas, history is always written by the victors.


Last edited by Quinn on 3 May 2022 at 9:22 pm UTC
jens 3 May
  • Supporter
Quoting: LNX
QuoteThanks though to Proton
for killing native linux games development

I get your sentiment, but the hard truth is unfortunately that the AAA ports where already mostly dead or at least not sustainable in the long term. See this blog post from an insider https://mdiluz.micro.blog/2021/07/19/native-linux-ports.html and also this older blog https://www.gamingonlinux.com/2020/05/linux-gaming-ticking-clock/ from the same author.


Last edited by jens on 3 May 2022 at 7:09 pm UTC
tonyrh 3 May
How can people commenting here and even this site owner not realize that a platform without developers is destined to die? The ability to run other OSes applications is not enough to make a platform survive, it never was: look at OS/2, or if you prefer a story where Microsoft loses, Windows Phone: nobody was developing for it, Microsoft even had a project to allow WP to run Android apps (it was called Astoria). They realized the hopelessness of it and they killed it, preferring to abandon that market instead. Developers make a platform's fortunes, and Proton is shouting to developers "keep developing for windows".
ShabbyX 3 May
Quoting: tonyrhHow can people commenting here and even this site owner not realize that a platform without developers is destined to die? The ability to run other OSes applications is not enough to make a platform survive, it never was: look at OS/2, or if you prefer a story where Microsoft loses, Windows Phone: nobody was developing for it, Microsoft even had a project to allow WP to run Android apps (it was called Astoria). They realized the hopelessness of it and they killed it, preferring to abandon that market instead. Developers make a platform's fortunes, and Proton is shouting to developers "keep developing for windows".

Yes, a platform without developers dies. That's Linux gaming alright! You either have:

- Linux gaming dies out, or
- it lives with proton and maybe if it survives you have a hope of asking devs to target it

To use your own example, WP without the Android emulator was a *definite* failure. WP with the Android emulator was a *maybe* succeeds (which, thankfully didn't).

So we need proton if we want to have a chance of existing.


Last edited by ShabbyX on 4 May 2022 at 12:00 pm UTC
Quoting: tonyrhHDevelopers make a platform's fortunes, and Proton is shouting to developers "keep developing for windows".
I think it's more Linux's <2% market share that is shouting to developers to invest their finite time in ~98% of their potential customer base. Once Linux market share rises to a "large-enough" amount (and the number of games still coming out for Window + MacOS suggests that number doesn't actually have to be all that huge, but is larger than ~1%), developers will naturally start investing in it. But the previous decade or two have definitely shown that people aren't going to adopt Linux in droves if they can only play <1/10th of the games available on Windows. I didn't come up with the analogy, but Proton is Valve's Trojan Horse against Windows: show people that yes, they can switch to Linux without giving up most of their already-purchased game libraries, and eventually some will start to switch (helped by the Deck giving people a taste of Linux in a gaming context). We're still in the transition period (which might yet prove to be years or even decades long) where the Linux market share is quietly rising while there's still no sign of increasing native ports (yet), but the early stages of spring often still look a lot like winter.


Last edited by Philadelphus on 4 May 2022 at 4:57 am UTC
Quoting: tonyrhHow can people commenting here and even this site owner not realize that a platform without developers is destined to die? The ability to run other OSes applications is not enough to make a platform survive, it never was: look at OS/2, or if you prefer a story where Microsoft loses, Windows Phone: nobody was developing for it, Microsoft even had a project to allow WP to run Android apps (it was called Astoria). They realized the hopelessness of it and they killed it, preferring to abandon that market instead. Developers make a platform's fortunes, and Proton is shouting to developers "keep developing for windows".


Developers that want their games to work well with Proton have to engage with Linux at some level, especially with the Steam Deck. I had 2 different Windows phones back in the day. Everything about them was great...except for the lack of android apps. I am sure they would have had far more success if on launch they had a way to seamlessly run even the top 100 most popular Android apps. That's what MS promised btw, that within some amount of time right after launch, the top 100 most popular android apps would be fully supported on Windows phones. it never happened though.

Proton is already in a far FAR better place than that with the Steam Deck, and the sales numbers so far seem to indicate that.

People keep talking about Linux native gaming being "killed" by Proton, but the hard truth is Linux native gaming has never been alive. Unless you played a super specific set of games that were released as Linux native titles, you were screwed. Sorry, but Super Tux Kart and all the plethora of Quake/UT clones don't count as a thriving gaming community, and that's coming from somebody who enjoys and plays those games native on Linux.

Native Linux gaming has existed for 20+ years and there have never been a large number of devs/studios interested in creating games for it. I wish there were, and I think Proton is the only hope for that. It actually gets Linux gaming in the hands of people to see what all the fuss is about. It actually can start having streamers and content creators that are more in the general world of gaming instead of deep within Linux/FOSS communities.

Seeing that Linux is viable for high-end AAA gaming will attract more devs and studios, especially if over that next several years Linux gains a few more percent of the market share. Then the platform looks better and better for devs to spend their time on.
Marlock 4 May
On Proton's early days, even Windows games that could use Vulkan instead of DirectX, and adopted SDL2, had an easier time running on Proton than proprietary stacks...

Meanwhile a game like Planetary Titan: Annihilation had a linux port go completely broken on linux for AMD GPUs because of a proprietary lib they used for desingning their UI in HTML, despite the lib being available officially for linux when adopted.

This to say:
1) yes, there is a noticeable difference between native linux games and using proton, but being better than proton is as much about

2) proton is complex and frail itself so it's nice to have but not a perfect solution... years of helping people out in the Steam for Linux discussion forum on steam have shown just how much fixing proton back to help can look hopeless for the unlucky, while others can have a flawless out-of-the-box experience... it's great to have, but it would be better to have it as plan B instead of all your plan

3) running well on proton in its early days was curiously tied to the same characteristics that made other games run well as a native linux game: using opensource crossplatform libs and standards... which is waaaaay easier if done from the ground up when you first start developing a game than on after-the-fact porting (which also frequently skips that movement and entails using bundled translation layers akin to dxvk, but frequently worse... like Valve's horrible toGL or PT:A's deathtrap of a proprietary UI lib)


to me that means even if some devs only start to care about making their already released windows games run over proton instead of making them run natively on linux, there is a small step forward for them in acknowledging the platform and in possibly acknowledging the importance of crossplatform opensource libs...

then there are devs who will go for native ports after-the-fact and get burned by their original choices of proprietary libs and standards while porting (in-house or hiring external porting companies)...

some of those have taken from this experience that linux is horrible and not worth it and they didn't give up on much then because linux share was <1%, but if it's >5% it will sting to loose it due to lib XYZ that didn't behave well enough, and next game they make might start differently...

and some already develop their games as cross-platform but didn't care much for opensource libs because they only had proprietary-first ecossystems in their radar like Win10 + Xbox One series + PS4/5 + Switch + Mac, but with linux appearing on their radar they might find it now makes sense to use the opensource stuff that covers more of those platforms at once
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