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How Steam Computes Linux Sales

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If you are a regular visitor of this site, you probably want your Steam purchase to be counted as a Linux sale. But how does Steam actually consider you to be a Linux buyer? It's trickier than you think.

The described methodology comes from Defender's Quest Steam sale results blogpost from Lars Doucet, who asked Valve about this. There doesn't seem to be any official information posted about this anywhere, but there's no reason not to believe the blogpost. The methodology is:

QuoteMac/Linux sales are based on platform of purchase; or after 7 days, the platform with the most minutes played.


As you can see, there are several things to keep in mind, if you want your sale to count towards Linux purchases:

  • Always try to buy the game from Linux, either Steam client running on Linux, or a web browser running on Linux. The platform of purchase is the default indicator of which platform the sale was intended for. So, for example, instead of buying the game from work (using Windows), wait and buy it at home (using Linux).
  • The number of minutes played on each platform is evaluated 7 days after the purchase was made, and the platform with most minutes played is considered the final platform of sale. This step is ignored only if you haven't played the game during the week at all (all platforms have 0 minutes played), in that case the platform of purchase decides. Otherwise, the platform with most minutes played wins. This is very good to keep in mind especially if you decided to play this game on Windows instead of Linux (e.g. the Linux version doesn't work well on your system). If you want your purchase to count as Linux, Linux needs to have the most minutes played after 7 days. So you either need to wait a week before spending a lot of time in this game on Windows, or come up with some other solution (leaving the game running in the main menu in order to bump up the played time on Linux counts).
  • On the 7th day after purchase, the target platform decision has been made, it's final, and it won't be ever changed. So, as the blogpost states, if you buy the game, play a few minutes on Windows just to test it, and then invest 60 hours on Linux into it after a few weeks... sorry, still counted as a Windows sale.

This was also echoed by Icculus earlier this year:

QuoteInstall and play it on Linux for the first week after you buy it and they consider it a Linux sale.


Source

I hope this helped people a bit to understand how the platform sale numbers work in Steam. I think we possibly lose quite a few Linux sales in statistics because people are not informed about the methodology. It certainly happened to me in the past, e.g. buying the game from Windows and then playing it on Linux a month later. Hopefully, more informed Linux gamers could mean more accurate statistics in the future :-)

Editorial Note

While this is how Steam calculates sales and certainly how porting houses like Feral or Aspyr are rewarded, some smaller developers may look at things like number of players or number of downloads and use this information as a basis on the market potential that Linux has for future ports. That said, it's never a bad idea to buy games after the Tux icon appears.

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51 comments
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Eike 10 December 2014 at 1:08 pm UTC
Now that's interesting!

About the sales counting for Linux, it seems you can "heal" a Windows buy by playing on Linux - wouldn't recommend that, though.
dubigrasu 10 December 2014 at 1:10 pm UTC
So, what if I buy Skyrim on my Linux and just leave it in my account? (no playing no nothing)
Will this count after a week as a Linux sale although is a Windows only game?
ripper 10 December 2014 at 1:11 pm UTC
EikeNow that's interesting!

About the sales counting for Linux, it seems you can "heal" a Windows buy by playing on Linux - wouldn't recommend that, though.

Yes, but it needs to be done in a week after the purchase (the "most minutes played" rule). So you cannot do anything about a game that you owned for a long time and it suddenly received a Linux version.
ripper 10 December 2014 at 1:15 pm UTC
dubigrasuSo, what if I buy Skyrim on my Linux and just leave it in my account? (no playing no nothing)
Will this count as a Linux sale although is a Windows only game?

Actually, there are some indications that it really does :-) Stanley Parable's developer claimed on the forum he could already see some Linux purchases, even though there's still no Linux version available. But this use case is most probably very rare. But yeah, it seems to work this way. On the other hand, it sends the message "even though I run on Linux, I'm willing to buy and play a Windows-only version of this game" (i.e. Wine or Windows in dual boot), so I'm not sure whether it incentivizes developers to provide a proper Linux version.
FutureSuture 10 December 2014 at 1:18 pm UTC
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dubigrasu 10 December 2014 at 1:32 pm UTC
ripper
dubigrasuSo, what if I buy Skyrim on my Linux and just leave it in my account? (no playing no nothing)
Will this count as a Linux sale although is a Windows only game?
Actually, there are some indications that it really does :-) Stanley Parable's developer claimed on the forum he could already see some Linux purchases, even though there's still no Linux version available.
Yeah, I remember about that one, it would be interesting to work that way.

But I was scratching my head about another one:
Suppose I have a Windows somewhere in the house (or in the dog's house) and I also have a SteamOS Machine in my room.
So I purchase whatever game (possibly Windows only to make things more complicated) from the SteamOS Machine and play it only there (using streaming) for few weeks. (I don't even touch or see the Windows PC).

What kind of sale is this, a Linux or a Windows one ?
Maelrane 10 December 2014 at 1:42 pm UTC
dubigrasu
ripper
dubigrasuSo, what if I buy Skyrim on my Linux and just leave it in my account? (no playing no nothing)
Will this count as a Linux sale although is a Windows only game?
Actually, there are some indications that it really does :-) Stanley Parable's developer claimed on the forum he could already see some Linux purchases, even though there's still no Linux version available.
Yeah, I remember about that one, it would be interesting to work that way.

But I was scratching my head about another one:
Suppose I have a Windows somewhere in the house (or in the dog's house) and I also have a SteamOS Machine in my room.
So I purchase whatever game (possibly Windows only to make things more complicated) from the SteamOS Machine and play it only there (using streaming) for few weeks. (I don't even touch or see the Windows PC).

What kind of sale is this, a Linux or a Windows one ?

I'd say the host system decides, so if you stream it from a windows machine, it's a windows game, no matter where you stream it to. It's running on a windows machine.

Just my logic tho ^^
Metallinatus 10 December 2014 at 1:52 pm UTC
Wawawait, so if I buy, say, Skyrim on Linux and don't play the game for the next 7 days it will be a Linux purchase?
If the game ever gets ported by a porting company they won't game the money because the purchase was before the port, of course....
But still, will it count as Linux sale?
dubigrasu 10 December 2014 at 1:53 pm UTC
SeredI'd say the host system decides, so if you stream it from a windows machine, it's a windows game, no matter where you stream it to. It's running on a windows machine.

Just my logic tho ^^

I'd say that this is the most likely scenario...but at the same time "I AM" playing it and purchasing it on a Linux machine...but then again...but...oh, screw it.
OZSeaford 10 December 2014 at 1:57 pm UTC
Excellent post.

Now, what happens if I buy my games (windows and Linux) via my Android App? If it is a windows game and I never install it, it stands to reason that they will make it count towards a Windows purchase.

However, if it is a Linux & Windows game , and I install more than a week later on the linux platform, I surely hope that it will count as a Linux Purchase.

Also, what is the stand on DLC?
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