The report is a survey of around 4,000 game developers that’s released as a snapshot of the industry ahead of the annual Game Developers Conference. There are positive signs for Linux as a platform in the responses.
The 2018 report consists of various questions posed to game developers about what they’re currently working on and their future interests. It’s worth reading through to get a sense of who is in the industry and what they’re generally thinking. Within our own penguin-focused interests, I’ll highlight some of the answers that mention Linux:
Which platform(s) was your *last completed* game released on?
The answer was that 8% of respondents mentioned Linux, which may not sound that impressive but the catch-all (and meaning Windows) “PC” category got 50% overall. Even popular consoles like the Playstation 4 only got about 23%. When you consider the sheer amount of games released last year, 8% is nothing to sneeze at.
“Which platform(s) are you *currently developing* games for?”
Now this is probably more telling than the previous question. 11% said that they’re currently developing games for Linux. Not only is this above the previous question’s percentage, but it’s also an increase from last year’s 7%. That’s a reassuring amount of growth which goes to show that there’s still momentum in Linux as a gaming platform. I have no doubt that better Linux support in various game engines and tools, as well as the continual-if-low-key push by Valve, has helped drive this positive trend.
Which platform(s) do you anticipate your *next* game will be released on?
As with the previous question, Linux holds about 11% here. So on the short and mid-term we can expect quite a few titles.
Which platform(s) most interest you as a developer right now?
8% answered Linux here. This was the type of question where developers could check every box that applied, so it may not be as impressive when you consider that. It's still something reassuring to have that large of an amount of the developer population interested in Linux as a platform. The more people that are interested and get used to Linux, the likelier it’ll be that we’ll get Linux versions of games in the future.
As for the other questions—the most relevant to us are probably the ones relating to VR. It’s not something that’s really taken off and interest among the developers in this survey seems to show that there’s still an uphill climb to get more games and developers to embrace it. Valve and HTC’s Vive remains the most popular headset and my gut feeling is that Valve has long-term plans that have yet to become obvious. The hiring and contracting of big names like Timothy Arceri, Timothée “TTimo” Besset and Keith Packard to work on Mesa, game engines like Unreal 4, APIs and all that isn’t just out of the kindness of their hearts but rather part of a business strategy. It wouldn’t surprise me if they did something in the future like relaunching their Steam Machines with bundled VR sets, banking on the capabilities of the Vulkan API.
I think it’s also worth noting the amount of game developers that are using publishers to help out with their games. Less of a quarter have partnered up with one, which I think is something of a mixed bag. At their best, publishers can provide teams with much-needed cash, QA and marketing which often result in better and more polished games. As an example, the recently released InnerSpace would probably not exist in its current form if not for Aspyr’s intervention.
The flip side to that, of course, is that some publishers are less about a vision than about a bottom line, often due to being answerable to shareholders. So you get a lot of resistance to any risky ideas, such as supporting less popular platforms like Linux. This is why I’ve always thought it’s important to campaign for ports not only directly to developers but their publishers, as getting them on our side will probably be the best way to get some of those much-coveted “AAA” titles some people clamor for.
Finally, the results here shouldn't be treated like gospel as it's just a limited sample of the developer population. Still, all in all, these are interesting results to see and worth keeping in mind when thinking of the growth of Linux as a gaming platform. GDC proper is scheduled for March 19-23 this year, and we’ll see then if there will be interesting talks and technical revelations in store for the Linux community.
Thanks for the tip, micha