Why You Should Support Mac OS X and GNU/Linux

If you’ve been following my blog for some time, you know that I always encouraged development for multiple platforms and not just Windows. The common argument against doing so is that you increase your development costs and effort for a very small percentage of increased customers. Where’s the benefit?

Wolfire explains why you should support Mac and GNU/Linux platforms. When you’re an indie developer, especially one starting out, you’re a small fish in a big pond. You don’t have a huge marketing budget. You don’t have a massive sales force to help push you through retail. PC Gamer, IGN, and any of the large game review websites aren’t likely to cover your game. Having Mac and GNU/Linux versions of your game makes these obstacles less important, increases your visibility, and improves sales.

So what happens when your game is available for the supposedly negligible extra few percentage of people who play games? Websites such as The Linux Game Tome, LinuxGames.com, InsideMacGames.com, and even the official Apple Games site will cover your game and your company. Then sites such as SlashDot will cover it. That’s a lot of potential customers from a dedicated niche, people you couldn’t reach by releasing yet another Windows game!

Troy Hepfner, of My Game Company, said that releasing Dirk Dashing for GNU/Linux was a very good idea:

And I am so glad we tried a Linux version of one of our games – this has turned out to be a huge shot in the arm for our business!

33% of initial sales came from GNU/Linux, and while the total percentage of sales from GNU/Linux users has gone down relative to Windows and Mac users since then, it’s not an insignificant amount of income. Hepfner has said that he knows a number of his Windows sales came directly from people who only heard about his game from Linux-based gaming news. Again, supporting these other platforms can help an indie to stand out from a crowded Windows-only marketplace.

Wolfire says that supporting these supposedly negligible platforms can help you take advantage of vocal minorities and surprisingly dedicated fans to spread the word about your game.

To conclude, if you’re not supporting Linux and Mac OS X from a philosophical standpoint or for the fans, at least do it for the money. If you don’t support non-Windows platforms, you’re leaving a lot of cash on the table. I don’t know about you, but I’m not in a position to just say f— it to a large community of people who want to support us.

Bottom line: If you agree with the larger game companies and think that there is no benefit to supporting multiple platforms, you’re wrong. You are not running a large game company that can get millions of dollars in sales in the first month of release while ignoring everyone but the hardcore gamers. Having cross-platform ports available provide you with plenty of marketing opportunities which can increase sales greatly. With hundreds of games being released each year, you need to do something remarkable to make your game stand out. It’s still quite remarkable to support Mac and GNU/Linux users, so take advantage of it.

[tags] marketing, indie, cross platform development, sales [/tags]

3 comments to Why You Should Support Mac OS X and GNU/Linux

  • Great post !

    The other thing to consider is that with a little foreplanning to choose the right technologies, it’s not *that* much extra effort to ship versions for Linux/Mac, and maybe even something else. Sure, you have to choose cross-platform libraries up front, but having large parts of your code written to be portable means that if it becomes the next “World of Goo”, you will be in a great position to quickly produce more faithful console versions.

    id Software seem to do a good job of this, evidenced by the fact that Doom and Quake are quickly ported (by someone else) to just about every platform that can display more than one pixel 🙂

  • Thanks, Andrew! Speaking of, I’m still waiting for the GNU/Linux port of World of Goo.

    And you’re right. If you start out using DirectX and then complain about the cost and effort to port to other platforms, that’s like grabbing a grocery store bag and talking about how impossible it would be to travel across Europe with it. Since people have no problem using higher level languages to abstract away the low-level hardware, why not use higher level libraries such as libSDL to abstract away the low-level libraries like DirectX? Suddenly your game is easily made portable to any number of platforms.

  • […] 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 […]

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