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Editorial: On paying for Linux games when you already have a Windows version

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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.
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Samsai 15 March 2017 at 10:59 am UTC
Obviously this wouldn't be a problem if people just stuck to Linux and Linux games. Shame on those that have bought Windows games! /s
Eike 15 March 2017 at 11:00 am UTC
I think it totally makes sense for such a game. It's old, and it's somewhat special. About everbody who's interested in it will already own it. There's no money to be made by a port except when asking for additional money. That said, some recognition for those who already own it, like a cheaper upgrade, would be nice.. On the other hand - it's so cheap in the first place...
qptain Nemo 15 March 2017 at 11:02 am UTC
You make a good case.

I do think what Steam does/did with Steamplay should be the default practice, however I also agree that it's acceptable in certain cases, and you have illustrated quite well when and why it is.

My only concern is if this practice became too widespread, people using other platforms won't be able to assume that everything they own which has been ported will be available to them when they switch to Linux, and that could become a yet another significant deterrent. But I don't believe it will become that widespread.


Last edited by qptain Nemo at 15 March 2017 at 11:07 am UTC
Kallestofeles 15 March 2017 at 11:10 am UTC
Fallout 4 on Linux - confirmed.
ajgp 15 March 2017 at 11:12 am UTC
I have no problem with paying again for old games I have leftover from my windows days, though I would prefer its not at original full retail!. Simply put I no longer play them, so without a port I would either never touch them again or resort to playing via WINE.

Its a moot point for new games! As for sales, I have so little free time that by the time i get round to games they are on discount anyway but in and of itself I have no expectation of a a game having to be on Sale for me to buy. in fact I have for a couple of titles actually waited til the sale ended to show my support by purchasing at full retail.


EDITED: Poor English corrected


Last edited by ajgp at 15 March 2017 at 11:13 am UTC
MaCroX95 15 March 2017 at 11:19 am UTC
Eventhough I am a HUGE linux supporter I do have a problem with that. Because it literally takes away what is awesome that I can use my games across all OSs as I like which is really awesome Steam feature and I wouldn't want to be stuck with only WIndows or Linux versions and it would be a mess, since there might be situations where I had to use other OSs or even Mac... there should be other ways to get porters paid, not charging seperately for the 2 platforms and it is on Valve and developers to find a more acceptable and proper way to make sure that Feral and other great companies get paid. So I am totally against locking things down, I'm always for openness, that's just my opinion.

And I'm primarily a consumer and then Linux fan. I like Linux for being so open and so awesome to its users. If that ever changes my opinion would probably change too.


Last edited by MaCroX95 at 15 March 2017 at 11:21 am UTC. Edited 2 times.
Ehvis 15 March 2017 at 11:23 am UTC
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I think you missed one aspect of the problem. With some porters being paid from the platform sales, there is the whole issues of "windows keys" on separate key stores. The whole separation may simply be a result of not losing a large portion of their income to key resellers that won't register the intended platform.

There is one issue I'm not too happy about though. The sales price would generally be a split between the original developer (for the rights to the content) and the porter (for the work on the Linux port). If you already have the Windows version and you buy the Linux version again, you'd basically be paying more than just the port. Looking at that, it would probably be fair to add a "DLC" fee for the right to the port. I suppose it's too complex to bother with for a 4 Euro game.

For me it would never be a problem though either way, since I only buy Linux stuff anyway.
ziabice 15 March 2017 at 11:28 am UTC
Some publishers, not to long ago, made an "Extended" or "Directoror's Cut" version of theyr games and asked the user a little fee for a short time period to upgrade (if I recall correctly this happened for "Hard Reset", "Dead Island" and "Metro 2033" games).
This, according to me, is the right way: I already own a game, you port it to Linux or enhance it in some substantial way, let me pay a fair price for a short period of time to buy the new version. Anyway, let me choose to upgrade or not.
A "fair price" to me is "not more than 10 euros", but "not more than 7 euros" would be better.


Last edited by ziabice at 15 March 2017 at 11:33 am UTC
silmeth 15 March 2017 at 11:29 am UTC
I fully agree with your post. But I have some related thoughts on what I’d like the gaming world to look like, which would probably change the picture a bit – but the world, unfortunately, isn’t the way I’d like it to be, so it’s pretty much meaningless thoughts, nevertheless I’ll share them ;-).

I’d like to live in a world where commercial games sell the content (story and art) while the game logic is opensource and works with the assets on every supported platform of your choosing, but that’s utopian and even hardly technically possible (as some of the game’s art is coded in game’s logic, shaders, etc.).

So in the era of closed gaming consoles I can live with pay-for-platform model, although, again I’d like to think about ecosystem such as Steam as a platform, and not about underlying Linux, Windows, macOS, nor about underlying x86, x86-64, arm, nVidia, ATI, …, hardware. In this model I’d buy a game for one single platform, but that platform would be Steam – and I’d be able to play it on any computer with Steam, or Xbox Live – and I’d be able to play on any modern enough Xbox console or a Windows PC, etc.

But that’s also hard because of technical reasons – operating systems and hardware platforms of those ecosystem-platforms vary and games need to be ported, tested and later supported. So more often the underlying OS or hardware is considered platform than the ecosystem-platform.

And, à propos, some argue that they agree for their PC game to be bound to the platform – PC – but they want to be able to play the game on that same hardware no matter what operating system there is – Linux, Windows, macOS – because it is the same box with the same metal in it, and not a console. Well, using this argumentation, one should also demand console games to work just the same on every PC, as the modern consoles are PCs with a different OS and libraries. They have the same GPUs you can buy for your PC, the same CPUs, similar motherboards, etc., only their drivers, input devices, OS and user interface differ.


Last edited by silmeth at 15 March 2017 at 11:34 am UTC. Edited 2 times.
Leopard 15 March 2017 at 11:29 am UTC
That is reasonable but i hope this approach won't be a tradition about other releases.That is against to platform freedom.

Most of the people came to Linux from Windows platform,including me.If people had to pay again their owned games again,that will change their minds.No one wants to pay twice.
If we need more users on platform (which obviously we need),that is a dangerous move if this turn into a normal thing.


Last edited by Leopard at 15 March 2017 at 11:42 am UTC
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