Is Linux A Viable Gaming Platform?

Imagine games on Linux – I wonder if you can – No need for dual booting – A magnificent plan! The setback from major game developers porting their titles to Linux has been profitability. The Linux community can not logically hold it against a game developer for porting to such a small segment of the market.

However, this small segment has and continues to grow, and it appears that porting to Linux may be coming a normal occurrence sooner than one might think.

Hemisphere Games posted the analysis of their results from porting a recent game, Osmos, to Linux. The bottom line? They found it profitable. Here are the key points from their findings:

1. Osmos was developed from the beginning with the intention of being cross-platform, utilizing various cross-platform libraries.

2. It took one developer six weeks to port the complete game to Linux. This seems like a really amazing feat, and Hemisphere acknowledges this in their blog. Including other launch-related tasks, Hemisphere attributed a total of two months of labor to porting Osmos to Linux.

3. Osmos was available to download for multiple platforms on the same license, so users purchasing a Windows version could also download a Linux copy at no additional cost. Purchases/downloads were not directly attributable to a particular platform.

Although Hemisphere determined that the porting of their game to Linux was profitable, it certainly does not support that this is the case for all games. First, the game has to be developed to be easily portable from the onset. Hemisphere games intended a Linux port from the get-go, and thus was part of their development process. Utilizing these multiple libraries likely added time to the initial development, but this additional time was not tracked by Hemisphere games. This additional development time likely allowed the short turnaround of one developer porting to Linux in six weeks. It also goes to stand the more advanced and longer the game, the more porting and testing time would be needed. Also, the price Hemisphere actually spent on these two months of related work for the port to Linux was admittedly lower than a larger developer firm might expect to pay. Lastly, the tracking of Linux purchases is not truly measurable by Hemisphere’s process. The tracking methods used only to support a trend of sales per platform, and do not reflect the sales by the platform with any high degree of precision.

Despite these issues, the overall result does appear to be positive. Hemisphere’s results from this project will hopefully encourage other, and perhaps larger, game developers to run a similar test. A larger developer could more accurately track the additional time used in development and actual porting of the game and presumably would have the adequate marketing and sales support to track more precise sales by platform. If one major developer would do this, Linux gaming might be able to slide out of the realm of imagination.