Linux Gamers Demonstrate Demand & Support Suppliers

I like calling attention to the reasons why you should support Mac OS X and GNU/Linux as a game developer, especially since so many people still ignore these markets at their peril.

Recently, Koen Witters of Koonsolo Games wrote about how surprised he was to find that Linux users show their love for the company’s indie game. He posted Mystic Mine‘s downloads and conversions stats, and the results demonstrate that GNU/Linux users are a gaming market that is relatively easy to target and is willing to purchase quality games.

Mystic Mine is an action-puzzle game with simple controls. You basically switch tracks for mine carts to use as they collect coins, diamonds, and other items. As more and more carts run around, you’ll find yourself switching tracks just to keep them from running into each other, and the action can get frantic.

This game is available for GNU/Linux as a native client, and the customers are buying. I downloaded the demo, and the game runs right out of the box. It’s a fantastic user experience.

Contrast that experience with EVE Online. Back in February, EVE Online‘s official GNU/Linux support ended. The reasoning? Not enough GNU/Linux users to make it worth the complexity of supporting three operating systems.

If you read the comments of that news item, you’ll see that everyone agreed the native client was horrible. One person said that using Wine to emulate the Windows version worked better than the native client. People even left the game because the native client was so painful to use.

No wonder there weren’t many GNU/Linux users. Based on the feedback I’ve seen, they were treated as if they were second-class customers, given an inferior experience and expected to act like it was good enough.

Again, contrast that experience with 2D Boy’s World of Goo. GNU/Linux users had to wait for that game to be released long after the Windows version was. When the port was finally released, more games were sold on that day than any other day.

This day beat the previous record by 40%. There is a market for Linux games after all 🙂

If you’ve played World of Goo on GNU/Linux, you know that the native client is great. It’s not buggy. It’s not frustrating to use. It just works.

So Mystic Mine and World of Good are both games that treat GNU/Linux users as first-class customer, and the creators are rewarded with good conversion rates and sales. EVE Online produces an inferior experience for GNU/Linux users, and then the creators cite the low number of customers as the reason to drop the poor support they were providing.

If you want to argue that EVE Online is an MMO and has different support costs, keep in mind that A Tale in the Desert is also an MMO, and when it first came out, 38% of GNU/Linux users converted to paying customers while only 20% of Windows users did.

In terms of absolute numbers, there are more Windows users than GNU/Linux users, but there are other benefits besides sales and subscribers. Publicity is a huge one. With websites dedicated to Mac and Linux games, you’ll easily make a name for yourself if your game is well-made. Of course, if you half-ass it, you’ll make a different name for yourself.

I’ve asked before: why aren’t there more Linux-using gamers? But the market exists. It has a significant user base. And they pay money.

As an indie, you can afford to provide a quality experience for these people and reap the benefits, especially since, by and large, the mainstream game industry ignores them.

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