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Some thoughts on Linux gaming in 2019, an end of year review

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2019 is coming to a close, it's been a pretty wild year for Linux gaming that's for sure! Here's some thoughts on the year and what to expect for 2020.

Firstly, let's look over all the games that came to Linux in 2019. As usual, very little AAA support but that doesn't mean we don't get awesome experiences. We've had a huge amount of quality games, which is the important thing. Not including those currently in Early Access, here's a few random picks we've had released this year for Linux: Abandon Ship, AI War 2, Shadow of the Tomb Raider Definitive Edition, DiRT 4, Total War: THREE KINGDOMS, Sky Racket, Rise to Ruins, Indivisible, Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones, Jenny LeClue - Detectivu, Police Stories, Overland, Devader, Dicey Dungeons, Oxygen Not Included, Streets of Rogue, Mosaic, The Eternal Castle: Remastered, Mindustry, Slay the Spire and so on.

Listing "good" games released across a year is always highly subjective of course, your list will be vastly different to my own and there's plenty I will have completely forgotten about. Tons that arrived in Early Access too throughout 2019 that are worthy of mentioning like Jupiter Hell, Monster Sanctuary, Wildermyth and Volcanoids.

Watching how stores evolved over this year has been interesting. Epic Games have been throwing out free games constantly, pulling in plenty of exclusives but they still have no plans to support Linux. Epic did throw us a little bone by giving Lutris some funding, that was great for them, but a drop in the ocean for Epic overall.

The other side is Valve with Steam, still continuing to put resources into making Linux gaming better. Not just with Steam Play Proton, but the recent Steam Runtime Container system which should eventually help reduce QA time/cost for developers who do want to support Linux. The ACO shader compiler (original announcement) for AMD GPUs is another big Valve project to make gaming on Linux smoother again.

The elephant in the room is of course the Linux gaming market share, at least when looking at the available percentages that Steam offers in their monthly hardware survey. We're still small, we are a niche market and we're going to remain that way likely for some time. Silver lining there though, somewhat, is that the Linux market share is mostly stable. How can we push it further? Marketing. We need more marketing and better marketing. That, plus Linux being available on more machines at top vendors. Those two things really are needed to help push it.

Sadly, this year we saw a few games drop Linux support entirely with Rust, Natural Selection 2, Forager and Throne of Lies. Not many, but even one dropping support is not good.

However, don't get too down about the above point. There's a huge amount of moving pieces, certainly when it comes to the future of Linux gaming. Right now, if you truly don't care about any details and just want to play games on Linux—you've never had it better. We have Steam Play, enabling Proton (and other tools like Boxtron) to run games through Steam not designed for Linux like Halo: The Master Chief Collection, No Man's Sky, Elite Dangerous, Deep Rock Galactic and plenty more. Wine also came along tremendously and when paired with DXVK/D9VK, even more games can be played easily on Linux like Overwatch.

I don't personally think Steam Play Proton/Wine should ever replace proper support, to make that clear. The last thing we need is more lock-in because developers end up seeing less of a point in using cross-platform tech and open APIs. For now though, while we're a niche, Steam Play Proton and Wine fill a big gap and they're definitely important for that. The most important part of Steam Play Proton, is people not losing access to their older Windows-only library when moving to Linux. Eventually when more people try out Linux and enjoy the experience and the market share rises as a result, then we can look to get proper support from more developers. Until then, be sure you keep supporting those who do put out Linux versions of their games.

We also have the rise of streaming platforms like Google Stadia further taking away barriers to playing bigger titles on Linux. There's also whatever Steam Cloud Gaming turns out to be, that's going to be very exciting to find out more on. Hopefully Valve won't keep us waiting too long on it. Streaming platforms still have a long way to go though, and they have their own barriers of entry (especially internet speeds and bandwidth).

Various other fun things were released this year too! Shadow of Mordor got a Vulkan Beta from Feral Interactive which gives some fantastic performance on Linux. A ton of great open source software came along nicely this year too like Lutris for managing games, vkBasalt for some fun extra post-processing, Godot Engine for game development, OBS Studio for recording and livestreaming, pyLinuxWheel and Oversteer for managing Logitech Wheels and so many more awesome projects had tons of improvements this year.

It's going to continue to be exciting to watch things grow and change over 2020. Thanks to many indie developers supporting Linux, the Unity Editor at some point will properly support Linux and when Unity has IL2CPP support on Linux with Unity 2019.3 it will be easier for developers again, Steam Play Proton and Wine will continue to mature, distributions and desktops will keep getting better and so on. There's always something improving somewhere.

We will be here to follow it all! What are your wishes for 2020? Do let us know in the comments.

This was also the busiest year on record for traffic and content here on GamingOnLinux!

2018 was already a big jump over 2017 but in 2019 we pushed things even further to bring you even more news! We're closing in on 2,300 articles posted this year. See some other stats on this page.

If you wish to support what we do, you can find out the various ways to do so on this dedicated page any time like Patreon, Paypal, Liberapay, Flattr, Twitch, Brave BAT, and Ko-fi. We also have partnerships with GOG and Humble Store/Bundles, if you use our affiliate links when you buy games we earn some pennies.

This year, our livestreamer Sin has decided to do a little holiday livestream on December 24th so be sure to come join in if you're stuck, alone or you just want to have some Linux fun with us: Twitch Channel.

A super-massive thank you for all the support this year, here's to an awesome 2020!

Personal note: I will be completely away on December 24th, December 25th and again on December 31st/January 1st for some rest and relaxation to prepare for another year.

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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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dvd 16 December 2019 at 8:56 am UTC
TheRiddickYes the windows automatic update system is dogs balls, and how they have settings now in these new style windows which can be difficult to navigate or get to the guts of what you want.

But lets just clear the water here, from a gamer perspective and desktop power user....

Try getting VRR working on a dual monitor setup, can't.
Try getting VRR working without odd blinking or other issues, can't.
Try getting a game from MS Game Store, can't. Not supported.
Try getting a game from GOG for Linux and install it without command line, can't.
Try getting a game from EGS for Linux, you can't. Not supported.
Try getting Steam to scale correctly on high resolution screens, can't.
Try getting many of DE to scale UI on all apps seamlessly, you can't. (I hear deepin might tho).

There is loads of things, I could go on forever you know..... But bottom line is, these issues shouldn't just be shelved and ignored, they need to have serious thought into howto resolve them! (apart from the storefronts not working under Linux, that is just an annoyance)

I have tried Cinnamon, Mate, Gnome, XFCE, Plasma, they all have issues of varying degree, I find Plasma5 oddly enough to be less problematic, or at least most things can be resolved.

Just keep in mind, if you think MSGS/EGS/GOG-Galaxy not working for Linux is a non-issue, then you ARE NOT A GAMER. You see under windows loads of people remain using it because it gives them access to the games they love and play, NO is not a option.

Thus until Linux developers can grasp these issues and work on resolving them, Linux usage will not grow significantly (if only we could get to %3 or %7, that would make a HUGE difference).

"Linux" only grows as a result of a community effort, be it development or market share. Capital owners have no interest in promoting anything of the sort, they just co-opt it to make more revenue.

I also guess I'm not a gamer then, even with the more seamless proton experience i just get way less excited even about series that are among my favorites. I doubt i will try the next TES game if it's not supported.

Plasma used to have ugly graphical glitches on Debian, but since the latter releases of 4 they went away and it is generally a bug-free experience. Firefox bugs out on me a lot more than the rest of the system (proprietary games included).

Just a thought: maybe developing for so-called "gamers" is not the only or even the first concern for developers who work on the "desktop" or even the "not-desktop" components of your "linux" OS.

[/quote]Try getting a game from GOG for Linux and install it without command line, can't.
That's just false.

Also, what is a power user exactly?
TheRiddick 16 December 2019 at 9:08 am UTC
I rephrased what I was trying to point out. I was trying to make it obvious that gamers don't care!

Do you want to play any game? or do you want to get politically and start smelling your own farts? Most people just want to play their game. Is this making sense yet?

Linux is just a HARD sell to gamers, VERY VERY HARD sell, your basically excluding some of the BIGGEST games in the industry when going to Linux for gaming. That REALLY hurts, and why most people just won't even look at Linux.

Now toss all the other problems on top of that... That should all help explain why Linux is and forever likely will be such a microscopic platform for gamers and desktop users. Be nice if that changed.. Hope it does, probably won't tho.

Last edited by TheRiddick on 16 December 2019 at 9:11 am UTC
Eike 16 December 2019 at 9:28 am UTC
Linux is no good for most gamers...

TheRiddickor do you want to get politically and start smelling your own farts?

... but as long as your not able to discuss this like an adult, I'm not going to discuss this with you.
This is not reddit, and I want it to stay that way.
TheRiddick 16 December 2019 at 9:34 am UTC
Hey I was just saying, don't act like Linux is all roses and daffodils, it has a mountain of issues that need to be addressed before we see those steam statistics budge significantly in a positive way.

and YES Windows sucks for many reasons, but it plays all games at UHD/high resolution with optimal performance and will let you use stuff like freesync and gsync however which way you want.

Basically ignoring windows stupid update system, it gets more out of your way then Linux currently does! which is what most people want, the OS to just go away and let them do whatever they want to do....

Last edited by TheRiddick on 16 December 2019 at 9:35 am UTC
Grim_reaper 16 December 2019 at 9:40 am UTC
I agree With Liam. We need more marketing and vendors who sell linux OS on their computers preinstalled. I also see hope for Linux because only in PC market microsoft prevails. Elsewhere Linux dominates like in industrial automation systems and on raspherry pi card computers for example. Raspherry is very popular among the students in different schools. So the potential is there. We just need more push. And in the future people must take somehow Linux into account. Think about cars. I have heard that manufacturers are planning to make cars with Linux installed on their car system. So there's room for a hope. Many times this has been said. Personally I wait for more AAA games in the next year and proton to evolve more so I can play trails in the sky series in out of the box method
TheRiddick 16 December 2019 at 9:44 am UTC
Me personally, I can't wait for Proton to support these blasted EAC/Battleeye things, some work has already been done to support them but its still not there yet. (you can play ARMA3 on BE servers for 15minutes before it flips out, lol)

There is also hope for GOG Galaxy 2.0 and EGS coming to Linux at some point in the future, Epic even granted Lutris dev some reward money which is a sign their not totally against Linux.
Eike 16 December 2019 at 9:48 am UTC
TheRiddickTry getting VRR working without odd blinking or other issues, can't.

I wonder about this. I bought a new GPU (Nvidia) and consider getting a VRR compatible monitor.
Can anybody comment on VRR working great / working not so great on Linux with a single monitor?

Last edited by Eike on 16 December 2019 at 9:48 am UTC
Liam Dawe 16 December 2019 at 9:49 am UTC
TheRiddickTry getting a game from GOG for Linux and install it without command line, can't..
GOG use a very clean MojoSetup install, for all their games. Download, make executable, open it. It's no more difficult than opening a zip file.
Eike 16 December 2019 at 9:49 am UTC
TheRiddickHey I was just saying, don't act like Linux is all roses and daffodils, it has a mountain of issues that need to be addressed before we see those steam statistics budge significantly in a positive way.

People need a real motivation to switch to Linux, to learn something new and to cope with its limitations, including the games not playable. For some, this might be the end of Windows 7 and avoidance of Windows 10, but I don't see a big wave coming here either.
Tuxee 16 December 2019 at 9:53 am UTC
KimyrielleThe worrisome bit is that our market-share is still exactly the same 1% it has been before Steam for Linux was launched (which was arguably the birthday of Linux as a viable gaming platform). I clearly thought that the only thing Linux needed to take off as platform was games. We got games. But still no growth. And that's -despite- Microsoft decided to do us a favor by replacing the well-liked Windows 7 with that buggy mess of spyware that is Windows 10.

Honestly, if the thousands of games we got was not able to give us a push, I am not sure what could.

I never thought that the lack of games was the culprit. It has always been that Windows comes preinstalled. Seriously, why should anyone swap a more or less working OS he or she is used to for an OS which is unfamiliar, requires work (after all you have to install it), and might not run all the games and applications you are accustomed to? Arguments like privacy ("I got nothing to hide... besides they are all the same", security ("I got a good antivirus"), easy updates ("I prefer my downloads from webpages the way I do since 1998") are moot for most people.
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