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The number of Linux gamers on Steam continues to grow, according to Valve

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Recently, Engadget wrote an article about Linux gaming and apart from a bit of a silly title and information regular GOL readers will be aware of, they did have some interesting info from Valve.

I don't put too much thought into the title they decided to give it, "Linux gaming is on a life-support system called Steam", since when you think about it that's actually quite close to the truth. Valve are the biggest pushers of Linux gaming and one of the only major forces doing so.

While I've long said that the amount of Linux gamers using Steam will be increasing all the time, the actual market share of Linux on Steam hasn't really gone anywhere. At times, it has certainly looked like the amount of Linux gamers has decreased if you take the percentage at face value.

The key thing to remember, is that Windows and Mac obviously grow too (which I've previously mentioned multiple times) and if they grow more it would bring down the Linux market share percentage. The Engadget article touched on this, with a quote from Valve directly to make it clear:

"The overall percentage still has a lot of ground to make up, but the number of Linux gamers on Steam continues to grow at a similar rate as those playing on Windows," Steam developer Pierre-Loup Griffais told Engadget. "It looks like there might actually be an increase trend in Linux gamers starting from October when we released the new Steam Play [Proton] beta, but it's too early to tell if it's had a real lasting impact."

Nice to hear that direct from Valve, who also said they do plan to continue their Linux investments and they believe open gaming platforms will result in a better experience for us all. Heck, Valve even have a job opening for a SteamOS Software Engineer.

The wider media tend to ignore Linux (for obvious reasons right now), so I think it's actually quite nice that Engadget put some real thought into this and got some good info there.

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bingus 20 February 2019 at 11:18 pm UTC
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Purple Library Guywho know enough to know there are other, enemy, "teams" out there.

Hats off to you Purple Library Guy, that whole post is bang on. Although Linux users have been known to be just as tribal. Same as Win vs Mac vs Linux...iPhone vs Android... PS4 vs Xbox. Its all pretty stupid when you think about it. Just like what you want to like.

Reminds me a little of this clip (NSFW language)


Last edited by bingus at 20 February 2019 at 11:18 pm UTC
14 21 February 2019 at 1:53 am UTC
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Purple Library Guy
MaathIt is unfortunate the level of ignorance and animosity exhibited by the general public regarding Linux gaming.
Regarding Linux in general, it would seem. I went to the article, read the comments (with difficulty--that site handles comments a bit weird) and there was a lot of hostility based on really old ideas, from people strongly resistant to the notion of changing them.
But I'll disagree on one point: Those comments aren't from "the general public". The general public has either never heard of Linux or doesn't know, doesn't even think they know, enough about it to have much of an opinion. Most such people didn't bother to read the article, much less comment, because it wasn't about something they were interested in. The hostile people are the opinionated Windows power-users who are invested in Windows and their knowledge of it--computer-oriented people for whom Windows is their "team", who know enough to know there are other, enemy, "teams" out there. Those are the people who would see an article about Linux and consider it important to read it, or at least a bit of it, and go put in their few cents' worth to smack down the enemy.
Generally speaking, I think you are accurate here. I will add my cents' worth. While there are many people comfortable in their ways who become highly defensive of that comfort, there will be some who actually give Linux a try. Obviously, this doesn't happen to everybody, but I think that some who try Linux forget the learning curve of Windows or MacOS when they were in their computing infancy. They forget the initial learning curve and, thus, deem the effort to get used to Linux unworthy. Once they have made that decision, they burrow into a position that Linux is too hard or doesn't work well enough. And, it's easier to yell when you know "your side" is larger than the "other side."
14 21 February 2019 at 1:58 am UTC
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Beamboom... And written by a female tech journalist, who's also a Sci-fi author and pretty cute too. Oh hello there, every geek's dream!
Hmm, her mini-bio says
Quoteand she strives to tell human stories within the broader tech industry.
That makes me think of Patrick Klepek. If you like reading gaming news from a human nature angle, I suggest you check out his stuff. He used to be an editor at Giantbomb.com
calvin 21 February 2019 at 3:16 am UTC
I definitely agree with the thrust of the article; the title got people on edge, but the contents are charitable and the title is painfully true; without Steam, I suspect a lot of developers might pull out.

It's getting me thinking about Steam Machines again too. Proton is a game changer (ha, pun) that could have changed the value of Steam Machines when Valve was attempting to actually launch them; but still, better late than never for the GNU/Linux desktop userse.
Alm888 21 February 2019 at 3:43 am UTC
"People using Linux" /= "Linux Gamers".
With Proton™ around developers can just forget about Linux and focus on making games for Windows instead. I mean, look up to the CDPR: they screwed Linux gamers over with "The Withcher III" and got away with it. There is even W3 fan-club out there screaming with joy about how smooth it runs with DXVK (and that now everyone should totally buy it).

As long as people are flushing their money into Windows games we are getting nowhere.
And Steam is only a temporary ally, IMO. Steam /= Linux gaming. We were doing just fine without it; we definitely will continue to be so after Valve goes bankrupt (I'm not a prophet, though, and can not foresee how this showdown with Epic will end).

P.S. Also, I should mention, the article features Tommy "Linux, Linux can fuck off for all I care" Refenes, so one shouldn't be surprised about his deragatory demeanor towards Linux.


Last edited by Alm888 at 21 February 2019 at 3:59 am UTC
gradyvuckovic 21 February 2019 at 4:16 am UTC
I think the key takeaway is that Linux isn't dying but it isn't growing as much as we'd like either.

We can either argue over who is to blame for that and complain about the unwillingness of companies to support Linux and whinge about ignorant people spreading FUD about Linux and refusing to give it a go..

Or we can try to change the situation by focusing all our efforts into making Linux even better.

Valve has the right idea of trying to improve the UX of gaming on Linux and get it up to par with gaming on Windows. They know Linux has potential but they also know no one was going to switch to Linux without the gaming situation improving first. We all need to adopt that level of realism. But there's only so much Valve can do, at the end of the day the Linux community needs to all be focused 100% on constantly improving Linux and making it easier and more inviting to use and develop for every day, to be self critical of its flaws, to fix them as fast as possible. We have to make Linux so damn good that no one will want to use anything else.

To say Linux is on life support is pretty harsh and unjustified. Linux is in a better position now than ever. More work in recent years has gone into making Linux stable, user friendly, supporting more hardware, simplifying developing for Linux, and simplifying installing software, improving the whole user experience of getting/installing/using Linux, etc, than ever.

And Linux is a stronger desktop OS competitor to Windows/Mac in 2019 than its ever been before. Of course there's a lot more to do but desktop Linux is far from on life support.

We just need to keep at it. Every little thing we can do to help the cause is worth it. Donations to distros/open source software projects, buying games and software for Linux from commercial companies, even just web browsing using Linux so it shows up stats, talking about it online, contributing feedback to devs for UX improvements, Linux 'HowTo' videos targetted at everyday users, etc. Every little bit counts.
elmapul 21 February 2019 at 5:10 am UTC
" Valve's video game marketplace has the power to keep Linux alive. "
linux will live regardless of what valve do, it survived back then when we didnt had almost anything to play.
the issue is if it will grow, and i dont see it happening without exclusives unfortunately.
valve already said they will not make exclusives, but maybe google do.

i dont think we should be satisfied with our progress, it could have being much better.
ps2 and ds sold 150 millions units in a single generation, that is enough to get all the best games from the current gen,sure they didnt had as many indie titles as we do, but consoles were much more closed back then, ps4 has 100 millions units sold and get all the best games be then indie or triple a (all , except the exclusives from nintendo, sony or a few games that require a mouse)

if we had an sucessfull console with linux, we could get critical mass in one generation and all the best games from, at least, 1 gen, valve could then complete the library with proton, we would have everything!
but their strategy with steam machines was ...absent at best, actually, what was their strategy? they had any?


Last edited by elmapul at 21 February 2019 at 5:19 am UTC
Purple Library Guy 21 February 2019 at 5:15 am UTC
Alm888And Steam is only a temporary ally, IMO. Steam /= Linux gaming. We were doing just fine without it
We most certainly were not. As far as gaming specifically goes, we were doing bloody awful--I remember.
Purple Library Guy 21 February 2019 at 5:47 am UTC
gradyvuckovicTo say Linux is on life support is pretty harsh and unjustified. Linux is in a better position now than ever. More work in recent years has gone into making Linux stable, user friendly, supporting more hardware, simplifying developing for Linux, and simplifying installing software, improving the whole user experience of getting/installing/using Linux, etc, than ever.
I think it's true enough, but only in a very specific sense and context. Linux in general is healthy as a horse; whether it's servers, cloud (which I still don't quite get the difference between "the cloud" and "a server somewhere I don't happen to know where it is" but anyway), supercomputers, embedded, mobile (sort of), "internet of things" or whatever the heck, Linux is huge and often dominant.
Linux on the desktop is not healthy as a horse, but it's self-sustaining and functionally just fine. It works well, it's easy to use, it has many advantages, I strongly prefer it to the alternatives and there are enough people who agree that both Linux, various desktop projects, and the open source software ecosystem keep chugging along and even continually improving. More users and more coders would be better, but the Linux desktop doesn't need any change, or depend on any particular factor, to keep going.

Linux gaming, however, is, how to put this . . . artificially healthy. The number of native games available for Linux, the degree of game engine support for Linux, even to some extent the health of gpu drivers and things like Vulkan, are all dependent on a single source: Valve. There are more games for Linux by massive multiples because of interventions and support from Valve. The big engines might well not support Linux if they hadn't been nudged into it by Valve. We have one fifth or less representation on Steam as Mac, are generally seen as having one fifth or less the market share, and yet nearly as many games come out for Linux as Mac these days (and with Proton etc, likely more games can actually be played on Linux than Mac). This is not a natural situation, it's because of Valve's backing.
Gaming on Linux wouldn't die if Valve suddenly turned against Linux. We wouldn't even be back to the era of Tuxracer and Frozen Bubble. But the pace of Linux releases would die down a lot; the criticism that you (more or less) can't game on Linux would get far closer to the truth, and the industry would gradually forget about gaming on Linux being a thing. In that sense, Linux gaming is on, if not life support, certainly health support, and that support is Valve.

My feelings about this are mixed. On one hand, all those games and engine support and working drivers and Vulkan being cool are all real and I'd much rather have them than not. Better artificial health than no health, and thanks Valve for arranging it. On the other, I'd certainly be a lot happier if we were getting all the support just because Linux market share warranted it. And I'm getting more and more impatient and curious for Valve to make its move. I mean, they must be backing Linux for some purpose, right? Surely they have something in mind besides just an insurance policy against Windows stores, and eventually they'll decide the pieces are all in place and they'll mount the big push to do something which will in some way mean lots more people using Linux to game? Right? Right?!


Last edited by Purple Library Guy at 21 February 2019 at 9:00 pm UTC
BielFPs 21 February 2019 at 1:36 pm UTC
I think right now, is more important to ask developers Vulkan support rather than linux support directly (both if possible).

Since Vulkan is still an "New Tech", developers should be encouraged to use rather than Directx (even if they only develop the windows version for now), because they would get more experience with it and driver developers would gave more attention to it too.

Later when Vulkan become more common, then the "learning curve" is going to be easier to fully develop to Linux. Even if we are not get native games by now, the performance with wine/proton would be a whole lot better with a Vulkan game (with minimum performance loss hopefully).
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