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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.

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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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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65 comments
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Tuxee 18 December 2019 at 1:17 pm UTC
Eike
TuxeeI 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.

Think of it the other way around: Linux comes preinstalled, but if you buy Windows for some bucks (from a shady source), you can play way more games, especially the big ones. Don't you think people would...?

Of course they would. Even when pre-installed it would be a gradual process. After all we are facing decades of pre-installed MS operating systems.
Mohandevir 18 December 2019 at 1:48 pm UTC
Tuxee
Eike
TuxeeI 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.

Think of it the other way around: Linux comes preinstalled, but if you buy Windows for some bucks (from a shady source), you can play way more games, especially the big ones. Don't you think people would...?

Of course they would. Even when pre-installed it would be a gradual process. After all we are facing decades of pre-installed MS operating systems.

I don't know... In this day and age, it seems it's all about branding. Mainstream consumers seem to require to be able to identify to turnkey brands... Microsoft, Apple, Sony, Samsung, Google... Linux is some blurry concept for the mainstream consumer. In fact, it's not a selling argument. Valve is in a position where it might be able to create it's hardware brand, be it console and/or desktop, but it doesn't feel like that's the goal they are focusing on atm. Atari could be one such brand, if done correctly, but looking at the project's evolution... So weird things happening... And considering the target audience...

I'm affraid the day Linux gains a foothold on the desktop is the day Microsft will release a Linux based "Modern OS" or when Valve will be forced to create it's hardware platform because Microsoft decides to lock everybody out to force all users on Xbox Series X + Xbox Play Anywhere. Will it ever happen? I believe in it less and less by the day. I'll be the happiest guy to be proven wrong.

It's just sad to think about Linux' untapped desktop potential because of Microsoft's iron grip on the market.


Last edited by Mohandevir on 18 December 2019 at 3:46 pm UTC
Arehandoro 18 December 2019 at 3:54 pm UTC
Thanks for your huge effort this year Liam (and other GoL contributors)!
Beamboom 19 December 2019 at 11:28 am UTC
ShmerlSince their mobile craze, they aren't fighting for the desktop though. They simply don't care about it.

That's taking it much too far - but yes, the mobile segment is where they pull in the big money and has done so the last ten years or so.
But their desktop segment, especially when we look at laptops, is really massive and they are definitely still pushing forth, much harder than I'd say Microsoft do for their OS.

ShmerlAnd I'd say despite the fact that it's so bad, they have higher than Linux market share. Because of marketing.

No gamers use OsX. Simply put. So the Steam share are of those who own a Mac who's also playing a game now and then. I believe their share of the desktop market in total is roughly twice the Steam percent, or thereabout.
(interestingly enough, the Linux desktop market share is also roughly twice the Steam share.)

And yes, Linux is definitely a better gaming OS than Os X. Even Apple fans admit that. But Apples percentage on Steam is not because they've marketed their computers towards the gaming segment. And let's be frank here - they do a LOT right in regards to UX. It's why they have the position they have.

Still - it's not that big a position! Even after all these decades!

And this is a fact that I just want to stress. It does say something about what it takes to gain a good position on this market. Apple is no small fish, never were.


Last edited by Beamboom on 19 December 2019 at 11:31 am UTC
Shmerl 19 December 2019 at 6:29 pm UTC
BeamboomThat's taking it much too far - but yes, the mobile segment is where they pull in the big money and has done so the last ten years or so.
But their desktop segment, especially when we look at laptops, is really massive and they are definitely still pushing forth, much harder than I'd say Microsoft do for their OS.

The fact that they let OpenGL and 32-bit rot there, didn't support Vulkan and didn't care about many other things shows they ignore their own users. Apple's mentality has always been "we know better what you should do, even if what we offer is garbage". In the past they managed to get away with it, but as bit rot started reaching significant levels, even macOS users who drank that koolaid before started being disgusted.

BeamboomAnd let's be frank here - they do a LOT right in regards to UX. It's why they have the position they have.

I actually disagree, they are surely over-confident and like to create hype about everything they do. But more often than not, their design is bad and totally not something I'd be interested in using. And everyone else shouldn't look at them as some kind of set in stone example to follow. I quite dislike when this happens.

Their relatively big user base is all thanks to marketing which borders on brainwashing, not because of some good design or UX breakthroughs.


Last edited by Shmerl on 19 December 2019 at 6:31 pm UTC
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