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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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Eike 16 December 2019 at 9:57 am UTC
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...?


Last edited by Eike on 16 December 2019 at 9:57 am UTC
TheRiddick 16 December 2019 at 10:05 am UTC
Eike
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?

Yeah, frequently games/desktop gets set to blitz mode or something and it doesn't work in that mode.

Also forget about adjusting the VRR range via EDID because seems linux doesn't like that and will cause blanking.

For me I couldn't get VRR working without blinks (screen goes black for a split second) but under windows it works like a dream, even with dual monitor setup!

Also you know what people do when a system has Linux pre-installed, they format it and install windows

Just having Linux in their face is not enough to SELL people on the idea of using Linux, sure they may try it for a couple days then realise none of their applications or games even work under Linux, and format.


Last edited by TheRiddick on 16 December 2019 at 10:08 am UTC
LungDrago 16 December 2019 at 10:08 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.

Hey, it's not like Windows is all roses and daffodils either. There's bugs and "missing features" in every software, OS or game. I have to agree with Liam though that marketing is our biggest problem. Note that not every gamer out there uses every possible gaming store and plays every single AAA game that's currently the hot stuff. I believe we would all be surprised at how many gamers could quite feasibly switch to Linux and still play what they want to play (LoL, Hearthstone, Warframe, etc.) IF they knew Linux existed and that it was an option.

From my experience though, most people are still in the late 90's when it comes to Linux. It's an elite OS for programmers, tech gurus and hackers. Even though they have Linux on their phone.
TheRiddick 16 December 2019 at 10:12 am UTC
Allot of gamers are playing Fortnight / PUBG / Apex, if we could get those games on Linux, well, the problems would magically be resolved pretty damn quickly!

PS. I actually hate those games!

Linux has a learning curve along with some constraints to what software you can use and how you can use it. Windows FAR less so, its not about being perfect, its about doing most of what you want. Linux sadly doesn't for most people. Yet anyway.
LungDrago 16 December 2019 at 10:27 am UTC
TheRiddickLinux has a learning curve along with some constraints to what software you can use and how you can use it. Windows FAR less so, its not about being perfect, its about doing most of what you want. Linux sadly doesn't for most people. Yet anyway.

Depends on what we think that most people do on their PC. If it's surf the web, watch movies and porn and stuff, Linux is great. The things people always talk about are:

a) Office suites. That one I always didn't really understand, I always thought you use those mostly at work, I personally have very little use of them at home. But regardless, it's great on Linux. BUT it's still a push and pull, because M$ does its best to keep their product relevant.

b) Artist stuff from Photoshop all the way to 3D. Perhaps a bit paradoxically, Linux does better in 3D than it does in 2D, as I believe Blender is overall way better built software than most stuff you can get to do your 2D. And this was, is and always will be a big issue, because Adobe are d*cks.

And then of course gaming. Honestly, nowadays I really think it's just a matter of time. The hot AAA games that everyone including your 6 year old son should play come and go. Maybe the next big thing will run on Linux well.
TheRiddick 16 December 2019 at 10:32 am UTC
Yes its a matter of time, but lets just not forget that according to valve linux has less then %1 market share, so it certainly does have issues and I suspect its not JUST because its not marketed to people correctly. Certainly bad marketing doesn't help, might get us to %2 if done right...
toojays 16 December 2019 at 10:34 am UTC
Thanks Liam for another great year of running this site!

With Proton opening up so many options I actually bought too many games this year. Next year I will be more disciplined with my purchases. Or I might have a moratorium for a bit as I finish some of the many excellent games I picked up this year.
WorMzy 16 December 2019 at 11:57 am UTC
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Thanks for the write up, Liam, as well as all the work you do all year-round! Have a good Christmas and enjoy your well-earned days off.
Beamboom 16 December 2019 at 2:05 pm UTC
There's no reason to call for marketing when there's nothing to market. What should the message be? "You can now play a few of your windows games with just a little more hassle and just a little less performance than your windows pc. Except competitive online games, due to anti cheat.
Do the plunge today!"?

Thing is, those of us who want to choose Linux have already done so. That's why our share is so rock stable. Of course, new users are added each day but the core audience for Linux remains the same.

It's a huge, huuuge endeavor to create "the year of the Linux desktop". Ironically - and this pains to say - but someone like Microsoft is needed on board. And well, judging from the development from their side over the last few years, I don't rule out thaw exactly that's what will happen. Not today, not tomorrow, but further down the street.

And if so happens, that's gonna be one hell of a bitter pill to swollow for many of us, that's too damn sure. 😂


Last edited by Beamboom on 16 December 2019 at 2:11 pm UTC
Liam Dawe 16 December 2019 at 4:45 pm UTC
BeamboomThere's no reason to call for marketing when there's nothing to market. What should the message be? "You can now play a few of your windows games with just a little more hassle and just a little less performance than your windows pc. Except competitive online games, due to anti cheat.
Do the plunge today!"?

Thing is, those of us who want to choose Linux have already done so. That's why our share is so rock stable. Of course, new users are added each day but the core audience for Linux remains the same.

It's a huge, huuuge endeavor to create "the year of the Linux desktop". Ironically - and this pains to say - but someone like Microsoft is needed on board. And well, judging from the development from their side over the last few years, I don't rule out thaw exactly that's what will happen. Not today, not tomorrow, but further down the street.

And if so happens, that's gonna be one hell of a bitter pill to swollow for many of us, that's too damn sure. 😂
I think you've got stuck in a bit of a box there. When talking about marketing, I'm talking about Linux as a whole. The market share for Linux is much bigger outside of gaming and could be bigger still, if all the stuff that's already mentioned happened. As it is, Linux is already a very stable and fantastic OS to use for general purpose. That's the point.
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