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Sales needed to make a Linux port profitable
Maturion commented on 22 June 2018 at 12:38 pm UTC

I'm new here, so please forgive me if this has been asked before. I've been reading through the sales statistics series for Linux, where numerous developers shared the percentage of Linux players for their game. That figure was usually in the 1-2% percent range, while for Indie games it was sometimes significantly better and probably worse for AAA games.

So, let's focus on the bigger games here, AA and AAA games. Let's have a look at Borderlands 2 for example. It had 8,429,020 owners on Steam (before SteamSpy stopped being public). Now, let's be pessimistic and estimate the share of Linux players of this game at ~0.7%. This would mean we'd have almost 60,000 people who played/bought this game on Linux. In comparison, Borderlands 2 was sold ~680,000 times for the PS Vita, according to VGChartz.com.


Now, let's have a look into a less commercially successful game, Dawn of War III, which had approximately 650,000 owners on Steam in April (archived SteamSpy). So according to our previous estimation, there were 4,000-5,000 Linux players of it.

How many (Linux) copies do you think a game needs to sell, to make a Linux port profitable? What do you guys think are the costs to port a AAA game to Linux?

Ehvis commented on 22 June 2018 at 1:14 pm UTC

Nearly impossible to say.

It depends who does it. The basic monetary evaluation is to decide how much time porting and support will take and what the profit would have been if you would be doing something else with that time. Of course, this only applies to doing your own ports. I fear at current market levels, AAA devs will instantly decide that doing a new game for Win+xbone+ps4 will be far more effective than doing a Linux port.

For dedicated porters there is not comparison to "other work". It's merely a matter of effort versus income. And for companies like Aspyr, Feral and VP we'll never know how that works because the licensing deal will always be a mystery. However, it appears to work for them and it gives us some good stuff.

Also, just looking at the number of sales may skew things a bit. Big sales tend to increase numbers rather quickly, but the bigger part of the income may come from the full price earlier sales. I'd say it's mostly guessing.

Salvatos commented on 22 June 2018 at 3:24 pm UTC

Yeah, too many variables. How large is the Linux porting team being held up for it versus the full studio? Or are you hiring another company to port for you and giving them a cut? How long does it take them to port it? How much support time will it require post-launch? How much is the game retailing for? Was it developed using cross-platform libraries from the start or is the dev finding out that they rely on a lot of stuff that doesn't exist on Linux? Can the game generate more revenue post-sale (e.g. in-game purchases)? Has the game been out on other platforms so long that a lot of potential Linux buyers already own it on Windows or console?

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