Linux Gamers are fewer than too few
Reading the articles about Blizzard banning Linux users for using wine and not giving a refund made me think that the main problem once again, is the number of users using wine to play Diablo III. If the percentage was 15% for example, Blizzard would never ban them because they would love to keep them around buying more extra stuff when they release it.
This has been the case on many anti-linux-gaming situations and being a Linux gamer and an editor for some time now, I can give you more than enough examples to justify what I say, and I will.
A while ago, I remember a very unpleasant situation for Linux Heroes of Newerth players. It was time for the usual bug fix release of the week, but not for Linux users. Mac and Windows clients were updated normally, but Linux clients were left on the previous version, so they couldn’t even play each other as their installed version wouldn’t meet the main server’s version.
The official answer came three days after the initial updater “malfunction” and it was basically that S2 games developers had some problem patching the Linux version, and that Linux users could either wait for the next update that will hopefully come next week, or download the python binding and do it themselves. The thing that was really vexing was that S2 Games stated that Linux HoN clients are less than 1% so they don’t bother too much fixing any problems that may happen to/on/for this client.
Heroes of Newerth is a game that has payable content and before it was changed into giving free accounts, you had to pay to get one, and I know many Linux users including me who paid for an account back then.
The next “you are very few” example comes from the person who worked on the porting of the Harvest: Massive Encounter game to the Linux platform.
When the first Linux version of the game was released, there were some dependency problems that appeared to block it from working in almost any distribution except Ubuntu. I talked with the porter and he told me that there isn’t enough feedback, there isn’t any activity in the forums about the Linux version and that the Linux sales were less than 10 purchases at the time if I remember correctly. This situation was making the porting of a magnificent game like Harvest as difficult as it could be really.
Then you can take the latest Humble Indie Bundle example were Linux users paid an average of 12.5 USD while Mac users paid 10 USD and Windows users paid 8 USD. In the end of the day Linux users total was less than half of Mac users and I won’t even bother to compare it with the Windows users revenue. The result?
Some game developers like the developers of LIMBO didn’t even bother to port their game to the Linux platform and even after the Humble Bundle you won’t find any Linux version on their website.
Then there is Tome of Mephistopheles that every blog or website tried to promote and make people buy alphas for the development to continue and we just don’t see it happening.
Then you can see the situation of some great open-source free to download and play games that suffer from very few people in their multiplayer lobbies. MegaGlest and Xonotic are just two examples that come in my mind right now.
Both games are great, and if you think about it there are not many multiplayer games of the kind available for the Linux platform, and yet the net lobbies are almost completely empty.
Then you have the fantastic open-source and free Rigs of Rods that won’t even bother to build a Linux package for easy installation on even the most widely used distribution that is Ubuntu, nor to update their completely outdated “how to build from source” instructions. Is it their fault? There are just not enough Linux gamers who give a f*&^ about it, so there isn’t anyone to help them build packages or update the instructions.
Truth is that Linux users in general are very few in comparison to Mac and Windows users, and if you think that most Linux users are programmers, tech enthusiasts, hackers and crackers, you are left with a very small number of Linux users that have the time, the mind and the appetite for playing games. This is the reason that no companies really care about developing Linux versions of their games, and why Blizzard don’t even care if you hate them or not.
On this context we saw EA being persuaded by Canonical to do more for them and their software center – market, as Ubuntu was promising (to them and to their users and to themselves all at the same time) to bring normal people, or a small market of Linux gamers if you want to call it that way.
And to complete my thought and my statements I have to say something about the rest of the Linux distributions. You can find great distributions devoted to multimedia, servers, security, stability, cloud computing, even science, BUT there just isn’t a single distribution that is completely devoted into linux gaming, thus offering ALL of the available Linux games at their LATEST versions. Why? Because there are just not enough Linux gamers out there.