We all know the current Linux gaming market share isn't turning heads and it can be tough to persuade developers that having a Linux version is worth it. I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about user reviews and how they can help out. The primary focus here will be steam, as it’s the largest player, but this also should apply to GOG, itch.io and other stores.
Since I follow a lot of developers and talk to developers every single day, one of the biggest problems they currently face is actually getting noticed. Unless they have some fantastic marketing skills or the backing of a decent PR firm or publisher, they're probably going to struggle in the current market given how many games are bursting onto various stores like Steam every single day.
I constantly see developers practically begging for people to review their game on Steam, because of just how important they are.
With that in mind, perhaps this is a way to get developers more invested in the Linux version of their games and the Linux community. I mentioned at the start that the current Linux market share isn't great, but let's think about how many of us actually buy games versus how many actually bother to leave a review—the answer is usually not that many. I know there's a lot of seriously passionate gamers who follow us, so why don't we think about actually getting that passion properly across to developers in ways that not only helps them directly but also helps us actually get noticed?
Developers are more likely to continue supporting Linux with future games if we are useful! Especially when the majority we speak to mention that a Linux version wasn't truly worthwhile in terms of financial reward. So with this, we give them another reason to support the platform.
If more developers suddenly saw reviews from a few hundred/thousand Linux gamers, which helps them get noticed through Steam's various algorithms for putting games in front of people, this could actually help quite a lot. I'm not just talking about how Steam shows games on the home page and in various lists, but also how it tells you how many of your friends recommended it too on the sidebar of a game's page. Think about it—you’re probably more likely to actually buy a game if you saw that multiple Linux users recommend it directly.
This can then push various games in front of a wider audience for Windows and Mac too, not just Linux, resulting in developers actually seeing more sales, overall. This, in turn, allows them to continue to support their games and work on new ones. So in a way, this actually ties into the previous article "How to be a great advocate for a niche gaming platform", about how we're not just fans of Linux but the games themselves as well and I think it's a point worth remembering.
It should go without saying, but I will do so anyway: if a game isn't any good then don't blindly go giving it a positive review. If you think issues can be solved, talk to the developer first and give feedback.
Also, just to be clear on something. I'm not saying this is going to move mountains and won't really apply to bigger developers that already get a ton of reviews. That said, it does depend on the situation. For Linux porters like Aspyr Media, Feral Interactive, Virtual Programming and so on—it would still be useful to show them that the port was worth it and continue to spread the word about their ports.
So basically, for a really short version: Think about the last few games you played and if they were good, leave a review and let the developer know you enjoyed it and played it on Linux. It helps a lot more than you might have thought.