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September 30th, 2015

Linux Gaming Keeps Getting Better

It wasn’t long ago that gamers avoided Linux like the plague, citing the lack of games as their main reason. When I was growing up, there were next to no major games to play on Linux and it seemed no developers cared to try. However, with the help of companies like Valve, 2K, and Aspyr Media, that’s quickly changing. More and more games are becoming available, with even some being Linux exclusives, including a launch on Steam of Don’t be a Patchman this past July.

Batman: Arkham Knight

Batman: Arkham Knight is one of many games that will soon run on Linux, in addition to the more 1,500 titles already available.

Recently Valve hit a landmark, with over 1,500 commercial games available for Linux. A list of recent and pending releases can be found on the Gaming On Linux website, as well as Valve’s full list on the Steam database. While that’s not up to the level of Windows, which boasts over 6,000 titles, there have been a stream of releases over the past few months with no end in sight, which should have Linux gamers feeling quite optimistic.

Currently, Mac OS X holds on as the number two gaming platform with a little over 2,300 games. That’s only a slight lead over Linux, however, and with an estimated 100 titles or more made available a month, according to Phoronix, that gap will be closing within a matter of months.

What matters most at the moment is quality over quantity, and that’s looking good. A few big names recently added to the Linux playlist: Star Wars, The Witcher, Counter Strike, and soon Payday 2 and Batman: Arkham Knight.

In addition, Valve is releasing it’s Steam Machine this fall. There’s a playful division between console gamers and PC gamers, but with the Steam Machine players can be both. Valve’s device is a console-like computer (or computer-like console depending on your perspective), with the look of a console but, unlike Xbox One, Playstation 4, or Wii U, this system welcomes hardware customization. The first box will be available from Steam as soon as October 16 for customers who pre-ordered and will be available for everyone else in November.

The Steam Machine will be available in the standard case designed by Valve, or for a bit more, in several custom variations with differing specs designed by other manufacturers. All will run on Linux Steam OS, so it will play all titles available to Linux. With this new console that depends solely on Linux games, it’s all but assured there will be a wave of major releases in the coming months.

There’s also good news for Linux users who want to get Windows games up and running in Linux, as OpenMandriva has a new site dedicated to that purpose. The goal, according to the site, is to “provide tutorials to run the most popular Windows games in Open Mandriva Linux. Whenever possible we will give tips on how to perform the same procedure in other Linux distributions.” The site offers step-by-step guides for installations, whether the solution is using the Steam platform, PlayOnLinux or Wine. At present, the site has instructions for ten popular titles, including Left 4 Dead, Minecraft, and League and Legends.

Now that there are so many Linux titles added to the playlist maybe we’ll see more gamers adopting Linux as their operating system of choice. Tim Jung, the game manager at Desura, would seem to think so.

“Strong Linux sales will send a message to developers that there is money to be made on the Linux platform,” he recently told the gaming website Cheese Talks. “It will also send a signal to the computer industry that there is a Linux desktop/game market that should not be ignored. I think this will also bring even more attention to the Linux desktop and make it more apparent as a viable replacement for Mac or Windows. One of the common complaints you hear from people is they think there is a lack of games available for Linux, or at least no good games, when clearly that is not the case. It should show more users that they clearly are not stuck with their only choices for gaming being Mac or Windows, and perhaps entice even more people to make that switch to Linux.”

If he’s right, and increased Linux gaming brings an uptick to Linux desktop awareness — all the better.

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Hunter Banks has been a part of the Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE) Family for the past 13 years. When not writing about open source gaming, he's working on creating his own games. Follow him on Twitter @SilvrChariot

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