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Linux Deployment

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I just want to know, is deploying a commercial game to linux even profitable? Most people who have linux are probably not looking to use it for entertainment purposes and those that are probably just pick up a few Open Source games to play. Another concern I have is that people with linux usually don't like buying things, and I imagine piracy rates are very high. Finally how can it be distributed to the many variants of linux out there? Is the only option to setup purchases from your own site or are there stores for linux operating systems?

I might be interested in doing something like at purchase of the game you can get a linux key for an additional cost or just making the keys cross platform so you could download the game for any OS and run it on all of them.

in short, has anybody had any success selling their games on linux and how? Or any other thoughts on this

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disclaimer: I don't know firsthand from a dev side, just from a Linux user side.
Ask the devs behind the Humble Indie Bundles. Linux users had a much higher average donation amount than the other OSes, and accounted for about 25% of the total revenue (IIRC).

I think you're missing the mark on piracy. Linux users are far less exposed to piracy than Windows users. Sure, it's largely because the software they use is open source, but they are still less immersed in piracy than the Windows crowd. On Windows, if you want a decent image editor you either pirate Photoshop or pay out the ear. On Linux you just make do with the GIMP. To me, it would make sense that Linux users are less prone to piracy.

Also, they are starved for games. It's not a huge market and therefore not attractive to large publishers, but with indie games I'd imagine it's more than large enough to make an impact (see Humble Indie Bundle).

As for deploying, most of the ones I've seen just distribute a static binary for all operating systems, not bothering with packages for different distros.

I'd say it's probably worth it if you're already supporting OpenGL for your game.

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Here an article (dated [size=2]Jun 23rd, 2010) from people who actually ported their product to the major 3 platforms: Linux, the numbers.


[color=#111111][font=verdana,][size=2]We wanted to find out - from a financial perspective, for our studio - “is it worth porting games to Linux?”[/font]

[color=#111111][font=verdana,][size=2]The short, simple answer… is “yes.”[/font]

[color=#111111][font=verdana,][size=2]Did we get rich off it? No. But the time we invested was repaid, with room for margin of error, and possibly with a little extra at the end. [/font]

[color=#111111][font=verdana,][size=2][color=#000000][font=arial, verdana, tahoma, sans-serif]

...[/font][/font]

[color=#111111][font=verdana,][size=2]So as a bottom line, Linux accounts for between 15% and 21% of our sales, with the “real” number being somewhere in between.[/font]

[color=#111111][font=verdana,][size=2][color=#000000][font=arial, verdana, tahoma, sans-serif]

[/quote][/font][/font]

Interesting isn't?

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Piracy is a problem regardless of OS, so don't bother arguing that one.

I would buy a game (or other software) for linux because i'm a desktop linux user. I would have bought the latest Humbe Bundle but my hardware is too old. I wanted to play Osmos :-(

My personal opinion, as an honest fellow, is that i'm more than happy to give credit where credit is due and purchase commercial closed-source software for linux if they would simply make it available. Developers that go the extra mile for me get the money.

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If you're already building for OSX on top of Windows then the work to support Linux is going to be minimal. The Linux market is borderline right now but it has the potential to grow. I actually think you're going to see a sizable growth rate in the next few years and you want to put yourself in a position to take advantage of it.

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From the looks of things free software users in general tend to respect copyright far more than the average person so piracy rates are low for Linux, its one of the reasons why people are running Linux rather than Windows 7 Ultimate. (Getting a non crippled version of Win 7 legally is expensive) , On the other hand there is a lower demand for AAA games but also far less competition, cheap casual games (that don't really target hardcore gamers) tend to do really well on Linux considering its low marketshare. (Thus you'll most likely get far more than 1-2% of your sales from Linux users), for a low budget indie game you also benefit greatly from the free advertising you'll get since pretty much any semi decent commercial game for Linux is big news.

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Ron Carmel from World of Goo said at Game Development Camp in Denmark, that they paid some guy to port the game to Linux. He did so in two weeks - it is a rather small game though. After the port was released allot of Linux websites wrote about it (due to the small amount of new games on Linux), which made the sales for Mac and Win increase with a noticeable percentage (he gave the exact number but I have forgotten it).

tldr: It is much easier to get attention if you are developing a game for Linux, since a decent game wont drown in the masses, like they do on Windows.

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As for deploying, most of the ones I've seen just distribute a static binary for all operating systems, not bothering with packages for different distros.

Is that possible? Aren't executables for each operating system different? How can that be done? The only way I can think of is to have a launcher written in Java or something in a virtual environment, that figures out the OS and launches the correct executable.

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Is that possible? Aren't executables for each operating system different?


No (for most major distros). However, each distro may have it's libc6 version different, as well as other libs compiled with different settings that are required by your application. That's why when you update <favorite 500kb package here> your manager automatically wants you to download like 130MB to update all it's requirements.

A workaround is to include all your necessary libs in the same folder as your application (linux users are used to get their libs from /lib and /usr/lib. Actually in Windows the idea is the same using C:\Windows\System32 folder, but there are a lot of third parties that don't follow guidelines)

If you find that a particular distro refuses by all means to launch your application, make a specific version for that distro, and use a bash script to launch the correct executable (no need for awful java or similar. And by the way it's not guaranteed the user will have Java installed, while 99.9999% of any decent distro out there comes with bash shell).

Generally out of experience binary versions work just fine. A few major upgrades in Linux (whether for all distros or a particular one) may break your binary, but it is no different and happens more or less in the same frequency as an application that ran correctly in Win 98/XP and refuses in Win 7 64-bit.




Cheers

Dark Sylinc

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Thanks guys this has been interesting.

I read that article and it said for employee costing 10k a month its not worth it, which gives me the idea of their sales.
I also read on 2DBoy's website that they wen't with no DRM at all which makes me think that just having the cross platform keys would work fine.
Does anybody know of any sites or blogs that have promoted linux games in the past?

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