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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.

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28 comments
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riusma 10 August 2018 at 9:52 am UTC
I said something similar some 6 months ago on GoL forum! (as an example, for SOMA we could represent up to 30% of Steam reviews with about 2% of its marketshare)
tonR 10 August 2018 at 1:10 pm UTC
Agreed with all y'all opinion here. But, it's hard to be a "niche gamer" since only people that I know using Linux are less than 5, which includes me. Writing/Reviewing on "open space" certainly blown your cover, especially on itch.io as more Malaysian devs than Malaysian gamers, based on my own observation. That's why I not big fan leaving reviews on Steam and especially on itch.

My approach is write a review via email (throwaway or real account) directly to developers. I know in today's social media dominant life, most people too lazy even to read an email. But so far, 7 emails sent, 4 being return (all thank you/appreciation reply). So, I'm considered it as very positive.
cprn 10 August 2018 at 5:25 pm UTC
I don't know how many of you know of this but Evgueni made this huge compilation of Steam reviews that are by Linux users and mention how the game runs on Linux, etc. It seems reasonable to mention it here. I understand the numbers are more important that the quality of the review, at least from the publishers point of view, but there are few that make you think about the game you played in a different light and I think it portrays how great reviews can be. So, maybe, it's just a thought, but maybe, instead of discussing whether it'll really help or not each of us will sit down for that 15 minutes tonight, think about a game and really say what they liked about it, what they didn't, if they had fun and if they had issues, and post it? Won't hurt anyone and might give you joy, who knows.

Other than that, if you wrote a review from a Linuxer's perspective that isn't included in Evgueni's compilation, give him a shout (you can propose the category up front to make his job easier). And if you have a friend who's looking for the next game to beat on Linux, feel free to pass them the link. I find it a really good resource.
rkfg 10 August 2018 at 5:32 pm UTC
I wish Steam allowed to leave reviews in multiple languages. I wouldn't mind translating my reviews to English to increase coverage but I can only choose one language and write a single review. I stick to Russian as most of my Steam friends are Russians and Steam usually shows the reviews in your own language by default. For niche games with not so many reviews the language separation makes it all look even more sad.
dilly 10 August 2018 at 7:17 pm UTC
As a game dev working ON linux all I can say is: YES! It REALLY helps!!
So please, leave a review! A short and concise one is just fine!
einherjar 10 August 2018 at 8:02 pm UTC
Giving Reviews is a really good point. I do that mostly and state in the first line, that it runs good on linux (if this is true).

But I am oftenly disapointed from the linux community. When I remember the ARMA 3 thread, where a dev asks us, to give him feedback in Discord.... Most of the answers where made just here and not in the Discord channel.
As the dev I would think: When it`s not worth the Linuxers time to answer here, why should my time be spent on supporting them.... (and no, it will not be money....)

We are a minority that can be happy to be supported. Even if we pay the same price as a Win user, we should always remember, that the dev wont get a lot of money, if he supports linux. So we should be able to thank the dev for supporting us, even if it's not perfect.
STiAT 10 August 2018 at 10:21 pm UTC
Always did that. If games were not to my liking I just skipped the review, but if I enjoyed it I put a review in place.

Maybe got a bit sloppy lately, since I didn't buy many games recently for personal/financial reasons, but that will change again with end of the year.
Wendigo 12 August 2018 at 4:40 pm UTC
When I joined Itch and Gamejolt, I noticed that a lot of "free time indie games" work very poorly if at all on Linux. Mostly because they are missing a dependency or were compiled for 32Bit. When ever I see such a game that looks interesting I contact the developer or write a comment with the (possible) solution to their problem and the feedback I get is very positive. Surprisingly most games, even successful ones don't get any comments on their game pages. By leaving a supportive comment with a solution for technical problems other developers visiting the page will also notice it.
On Itch and Gamejolt, where everyone is able to upload their games Linux gamers are also very helpful to get attention. I released my very first hobby project yesterday (see the link below if you are interested) and the sheer mass of games getting released per day makes a single entry vanish from the "Recently added" page very quickly. But by supporting Linux your game stays in the first row of the "Recently added" + "Linux" category way longer, so you get a lot more attention in the days following the release.
Looking at my statistics the ratio is as follows (one day after release)

Downloads on Itch:

Linux: 11 (50%)
Windows: 9 (41%)
OSX: 2 (9%)
Android: 0 (funny since it is basically a mobile game)
https://wend1go.itch.io/sakawochi
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