Stores selling Linux games
There are a numerous different stores for buying games for Linux. This article gives an overview of a couple of them, and a more in depth description on some of the bigger ones. Sometimes it's also possible to buy games directly from the developers website. This is often the best way to support the developers since the stores often take a quite large part of the revenue for themselves.
|Name||Description||Registers Linux sales|
|Steam||The biggest store in PC gaming.||Yes|
|GOG.com||Store that only sells DRM-free games.||Yes|
|Humble Bundle||Famous for their game bundles. Has a regular store as well.||Yes|
|itch.io||Marketplace for indie games.||Yes|
|GamersGate||Wide selection of games both with and without DRM.||Yes|
|FireFlower Games||Sells only DRM-free games and donates half of its profits to charity and games.||No, but registers downloads|
|Bundle Stars||Store with focus on selling cheap game bundles.||No|
|Feral store||Porter studio Feral's own store.||Yes|
|Gamejolt||An indie games store with their own open source client.||Yes|
More information on how different stores registers Linux sales, and on why this is important, can be found in the last section of this article.
Store specific information
Steam is the biggest of the stores and almost all games released for Linux can be found here. To use Steam you must install the proprietary Steam client which is easiest to do through the package manager for your distrubution. A .deb package for the client can also be found [here]. Steam is only officialy supported on Ubuntu, but it should run fine on most common distributions. It is recommended though to read the Steam page on your distributions wiki. The Ubuntu Steam page can be found here. It should also be noted that Steam has a fairly generous, and slightly controversial, refund policy. You can read more about this policy here.
One advantage with Steam is that it provides the Steam Runtime". Because of this runtime you will seldom have to manually install the dependencies for a game to run. This is one reason why Steam is often the most hassle-free way to get games to run on Linux.
Most games on Steam are not DRM-free. Many of them requires that the Steam client is running for the game to run, and some has even more comprehensive DRM. Some of the games on Steam are DRM-free though and can be run from outside of the Steam client. Steam have no way of indicating which games lack DRM, and the Steam client is still required for downloading these games. Here you can find Linux/SteamOS supported games available through Steam.
GOG.com is the biggest of the DRM-free stores. All of the games on GOG are DRM-free, and this is one of the stores main selling point. It is also an important reason why the store has less games than Steam. GOG.com officially support only Ubuntu, the official Ubuntu flavors and Ubuntu derivatives like Linux Mint. Most of the games should run fine on other distributions aswell though. Some GOG.com games require you to install extra dependencies for them to run. These dependencies is generally listed in the requirements section of the store page for the game. The dependencies is listed with the package names they have in the Debian/Ubuntu repositiories, so if you are not on Debian, Ubuntu or a Debian/Ubuntu derivative (like Linux Mint) it can sometimes be a bit tricky to find the correct dependencies.
Official instructions for GOG.com games on Linux be found in this faq. Sometimes GOG.com messes up the packaging of the game, and because of this the start.sh script, which is used to launch GOG.com games, wont work as intended. A workaround for this problem can be to run the game binary directly. The binary usually resides in the directory
GAME_DIRECTORY/game. Example: instead of executing the
Psychonauts/start.sh script you execute the
There is currently no GOG.com client available for Linux, though GOG.com have stated that their proprietary galaxy client will arrive on Linux eventually. All Linux/SteamOS supported games available on GOG.com can be found here.
Humble Bundle is famous mostly for their game bundles. Humble Bundle bundles are a collection of games that for a specified time period can be bought together very cheaply. Humble also has their own store, the Humble Store. Humble Bundle sells both DRM-free games, which are distributed through their own site, and non DRM-free games, which are distributed through Steam. If you buy DRM-free games through Humble Bundle you will get a steam key for the game as well. Humble Bundle also supports charity, which means that part of the money you spend through Humble Bundle will go to a charity organisation.
Instructions for installing and running games downloaded through Humble Bundle can be found here. DRM-free games bought and downloaded through Humble Bundle will sometimes require you to install additional dependencies for them to run. Unfortunately this is not listed on the store page for the games. If you run into dependency problems with DRM-free games bought through Humble Bundle it is often a good idea to check the store page for the game on GOG.com. The dependencies needed should be listed there.
Humble has no client, and neither has there been any indication that one is under development. All Linux/SteamOS supported games available on Humble Bundle can be found here
itch.io is a marketplace for independant digital creators with a focus on independant video games. Games on itch.io are generally DRM-free. itch.io has their own optional open-source client.
Registration of Linux sales
This section will provide more in depth information regarding how different stores registers Linux sales. Making sure purchases are counted as Linux sales are important for mainly two reasons:
- If sales for the Linux platform are not correctly reported, Linux's share of the market might be underestimated which makes developers less interested in supporting Linux.
- Porting studios, like Aspyr and Feral, only get revenue when a Linux (or Mac) version of the game is sold. Because of this it is important to make sure that you're purchases are counted as Linux purchases if you want to support these studios.
Steam take into account both which operating system was used when buying the game, and also which operating system was used to play the game the first seven days after purchase. Data about which operating system is used is gathered by either the Steam client or through the web browser's user agent. The sale will count towards the platform on which the game has the most playtime after the first seven days. If the game has not been played at all during the first seven days after purchase, the sale will count towards the platform on which it was bought. So if a game is bought on Linux, but has been played more on a Windws computer during the first seven days, it will count as a Windows sale. Conversely, if a game is bought on Windows but has more playtime on Linux after the first seven days, it will count as a Linux sale. For further reading, see the source of this information which is this article
According to Michael Blair from Aspyr Media, GamersGate does track the platform purchases are made from. Source
GOG does gather data about what operating system their costumers are using, it is unclear how this is done though since they don't want to disclose any details. This information comes from an email conversation with GOG.com.
Humble Bundle use the web browser's user agent to determine which operating system you use when you buy games at Humble Bundle. This information comes from an email that can be found here.
Here is an email from itch.io describing how their registration of Linux games work:
Leaf Corcoran <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Aug 18, 10:33 PDT
All purchases are done through a web browser, and we don't store any information about the operating system during a purchase. We do, however, keep track of download counts per file, and files are typically classified by platform. Developers are able to see the download counts for their Linux uploads from their dashboard if they've added a files with a Linux platform.
Fireflower games do not register operating systems for their sales, but ther do register which operating system are used for downloading games. The source for this information is this email.
Gamejolt gathers data on what operating is used for purchasing games from their client if the game is bought through the client or through the web browser's user agent if the games is bought through their website. The source for this information is an email conversation which can be found here.
It is not entirely clear if games bought on Bundle Stars are counted as Linux sales. Bundle Stars does not themselves gather data on what operating system their consumers are using, as can be seen here, but since they are mostly selling steam keys it is not unthinkable that the steam client might register these sales as Linux sales if the game is redeemed and played on a Linux system. This is probably not the case though. Feral interactive says in an email that:
Most [...] retailers will not register as Linux sales regardless of whether the key is redeemed on a Linux system and played there. To ensure the revenue is counted as Linux (and goes to us!), please purchase directly from our website, Steam, Gamersgate or Humble Store; all of which would register the sale as Linux.
This is an indication that games bought through Bundle Stars does not register as Linux sales. If you want to be sure that your purchases count as Linux sales you should probably stay away from Bundle Stars.
The feral store detects operating system used while buying games, but it is unclear how this is done. Their support only answered that "it simply detects OS (Mac, Linux or Windows) and browser used". The source for this information are an email conversation that can be found here.