The technical director for Electronic Art’s SEED division who works on the engine has stated that it’s capable of running on Linux. While very cool, this isn’t a reason to get your hopes up when it comes to future AAA ports just yet.
The Frostbite game engine has been used a lot in the past few years for powering many of the games created by EA-affiliated developers. Titles like Battlefield 1, Star Wars Battlefront II and various Need for Speed all run on Frostbite.
Johan Andersson, long time developer of the engine and current technical director tweeted this out earlier today:
the Frostbite dedicated servers do run on Linux for MP games, and we've had the client up also but not fully or officially supported— Johan Andersson (@repi) September 7, 2017
This was after tweeting about how the Frostbite engine has about as much code as the Linux kernel.
While it’s exciting to learn that dedicated servers run on Linux, what’s more interesting is that they’ve also done work in getting a client up and running. It’s no secret that DICE, the studio that originally created the engine, and the people who have gone on to develop it since have been positive about wanting to bring their games to Linux for years. Still, a few years ago, Andersson dispelled any notion that it’s likely to happen anytime soon, saying that the Linux market share is too small to support.
We’ve come a long way as a gaming platform in the last few years, but I think that it’s still reasonable for publishers to be skeptical of making the financial commitment necessary to support Linux. Even if the engine already sort of works you need to hire dedicated QAs, allocate resources for platform-specific technical issues and to keep the port functional and up-to-date. Even massively popular and well-used engines like Unity or Unreal have many issues that any Linux user here can likely attest to the sometimes bumpy experience. This also doesn't take into account that EA has its own distribution platform, Origin, which would also need a port and would also incurr QA and technically-related costs to operate.
These aren't insurmountable challenges but it can be part of things that we gamers sometimes overlook when it comes to wanting games on our platform. Big publicly-traded companies like EA are accountable to investors who often wish to maximize profit. This occasionally means they’re a little shy to enter new, untested markets. Valve, being privately owned, had some more leeway in making these decisions when it decided to bring Steam and its game catalogue to Linux.
I’m cautiously optimistic that this is still an overall good sign. The Frostbite engine adopted AMD’s Mantle a few years ago and it wouldn’t surprise me if it adopted its kinda-successor-API Vulkan in the near future. That could further lower the barriers and convince the people who ultimately make these kinds of decisions that investing in Linux is worth the risk. For the meantime, I think it’s important to politely remind publishers and developers from time to time that we’re a receptive and understanding bunch and would be open to any ventures they made in our little market space.