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John Carmack: Kudos To Valve, But Linux Is Still Not a Viable Gaming Market 635

Posted by Soulskill
from the give-it-another-decade dept.
dartttt writes "John Carmack recently presented a keynote at QuakeCon. He said Linux is still not a commercially viable gaming platform, and the two forays they have made into the Linux commercial market have not been successful. Valve's announcement about Steam for Linux changes things a bit, but it remains a tough sell."
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John Carmack: Kudos To Valve, But Linux Is Still Not a Viable Gaming Market

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  • Re:Its Carmack! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DemoLiter3 (704469) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @01:59PM (#40878675) Homepage
    To be honest, nothing Carmack and id Software produced in the last decade or so was marketable either.
  • Valve vs this guy? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by schitso (2541028) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @02:01PM (#40878691)
    I can't believe this guy thinks that their "forays into Linux commercial market" are even close to the scale of Valve porting Source.
  • Not a tough sell (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kimomaru (2579489) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @02:01PM (#40878699)
    Speaking for myself - I've definitely been using Ubuntu practically exclusively now for a few months (12.04 is a joy). I WOULD get rid of my Windows PC if it weren't for gaming. This is definitely good news for the discriminating user. I'd like to see all of my Steam games moved to Linux (never going to happen), but a Steam version of a game will make a difference to me. Eagerly awaiting LfD2 on Linux. Using a closed source OS definitely makes me nervous, there've been too many cases in the past few years of manufacturers pulling info from users when they shouldn't - would like an OS that's open to community scrutiny.
  • chicken or egg (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RichMan (8097) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @02:03PM (#40878715)

    Is the problem there are no gamers on Linux or the problem there are no games on Linux?

    I am Linux only.
    I play MassEffect, Skyrim, MindCraft, LoTRO, GuildWars, played WoW for far to long.
    I will play GuildWars2.

    I paid for but have still not activated SW:ToR. It worked on Linux in Beta and then they did a zig/zag and it did not. I know there is a wine patch. Just have not done it and interest in doing so is decling.

    I am a paying Linux gamer. I would have given more money to SW:ToR, but they broke their game on Linux.

    When Steam does it's "Check System" thing it reports my machine as windows *sigh*, so I am not even sure I am counted.
    There is a Linux market, just not sure anyone knows it.

  • by Novin (983423) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @02:03PM (#40878721)

    Who's left to sell to?

    If the FPS is better, the Windows-gamers will come...

  • by war4peace (1628283) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @02:09PM (#40878771)

    I would. Step 1 is make a large size of games available for Linux (and make them easy to install; no CLI shit!). Sure, there's a risk, but if you're not taking chances, then why bother do anything?

  • Re:After Rage (Score:5, Insightful)

    by oakgrove (845019) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @02:09PM (#40878773)
    As far as I can tell Carmack's efforts boiled down to trying to sell individual games mostly and to just accept things on Linux as they are for better or worse. What Valve is doing is trying to integrate their entire platform and being a game delivery network that works across Windows Mac and Linux, that's exactly what it is...a platform. Just like the browser is a platform. Valve is also apparently working hand in hand with the big players in the Linux graphics card space to make drivers first class. They are profiling to find bottlenecks in how their code integrates with the kernel. Valve is making a very serious effort here and it extends beyond anything Carmack has tried so far. If anything maybe Carmack could learn something instead of just lambasting because he couldn't see it through. Of course these are early days still and Steam for Linux hasn't even been released yet which even more makes me wonder why Carmack is already predicting Doom (get it?) for it.
  • Re:After Rage (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Loosifur (954968) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @02:11PM (#40878789)

    I second that. Rage on its own merits was a mediocre AAA FPS with a buggy launch and consolitis. As a monument to Johm Carmack's overinflated view of his own relevance to gaming in general, it was and continues to be extremely telling. Linux isn't commercially viable for game designers because the market isn't there, and the market isn't there because developers don't make games for it. Valve stepping up and bringing Steam to Linux has the potential to cut that particular Gordian knot. Frankly, Valve is big and relevant enough to do it; Carmack doesn't have the juice to do it if he wanted to anymore.

  • by oakgrove (845019) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @02:11PM (#40878791)

    First of all, the Linux userbase is really small to begin with. Within that small userbase, you have two relatively large groups:

    1. The ideologues, who really believe in RMS's idea that proprietary software is unethical.

    2. The cheapskates, who aren't going to pay for software.

    Do you have any actual evidence that the Linux userbase is composed primarily of these two groups? Because anecdotally I hear lots of Linux users that are chomping at the bit for Steam to come and looking forward to paying for games. Furthermore, the Humble Indie Bundle has shown that there are gamers on Linux that will pay. Will that translate to profit for Valve et al? Who knows. But it does show that you, dear AC, have no idea what you are talking about.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 04, 2012 @02:15PM (#40878827)

    Until someone decided to try and make them into one. Now there are tons of sales.

    Will Linux become a common gaming platform if no one tries? No.

  • Re:After Rage (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slippyblade (962288) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @02:24PM (#40878911) Homepage

    About to become irrelevant?

    I'd love to hear how you came to that conclusion. Please. Anything?

  • by eepok (545733) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @02:28PM (#40878945) Homepage

    I know this will turn into a "chicken or the egg" conversation...

    "We shouldn't build games for Linux unless there's a proven market!"
    "There can't be a market if there are no games to buy!"

    But, there's an obvious "egg" here. There must first be a venturing company with a solid history of great games (*cough* half-life, portal, TF2, etc.) that's willing to take the risk. Forging new markets it ALL ABOUT RISK. If you're stunted by your fear of risk, then you're probably not a good entrepreneur.

    Work it Valve. I hope it works out for the best. And if it doesn't, then EVERYONE will still thank you for giving it the ol' Orange Box try!

  • Market (Score:5, Insightful)

    by robmv (855035) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @02:32PM (#40878975)

    Sorry John but successful people create a market, they don't wait for it to be ready for you. Valve working with GPU manufacturers is a signal that they want to create a market. It is sad to say this but Id was a market defining company, now a follower

  • Re:Its Carmack! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 04, 2012 @02:40PM (#40879037)

    Agree with both you and the GP. Additionally: Isn't he just a corporate shill now? And honestly the engines that have come out since Q3A have been mediocre through and through. Go check out ogre's SampleBrowser and tell me he had half of those effects demo'd in even Rage. The only possible neat thing to come out since Doom 3 was megatextures and honestly though were a kludge for a problem existing due to memory constrained systems, requiring the grunt on the dev box side to 'bake' them instead.

    Enjoy your retirement John, you've earned it.

  • Re:Its Carmack! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jedidiah (1196) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @02:52PM (#40879123) Homepage

    It doesn't matter. It's been too long since Carmack tried. So anything he has to say on the matter is terribly dated. It's like anyone else that tries to use Loki as an example.

    So you failed 10 years ago? Big deal. It's been a long time since then. Things change.

    They used to say the same thing about MacOS gaming too.

  • Re:After Rage (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 04, 2012 @03:06PM (#40879237)

    Yeah, that's true. But I would still use Steam on Windows because I like Valve's atittude toward their customers. Valve is the only company which has pledged that they will support migrating the software you've purchased off their platform if they ever go under. I also like the fact that they have vision, which is something that's sorely lacking in the industry. Many other publishers have hack solutions for downloading games, and I choose not to use those because they can't even figure out how to integrate their own games into their service.

    EA's origin system is a perfect example. It sucks, and half the time when I start up older EA games and log in it still won't authenticate my DLC. Simply put, it's buggy crap. Valve has a history of putting together competently built software for all of the platforms they support, so I'm pretty confident that they'll do Linux gaming very well even if nobody has succeeded before. This is mainly because Valve knows what "well" looks like.

  • Re:After Rage (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lilfields (961485) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @03:48PM (#40879523) Homepage
    In what universe is this? Publishers are interested in any marketplace they can sell things on, as long as it's successful...Windows will have the marketplace built in. What do you think people's default is going to be?
  • Re:Its Carmack! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 04, 2012 @03:54PM (#40879561)

    Regardless, I'd say he's pretty familiar with the gaming market with a better-than-average understanding of how viable the platform is.

    And I say this with all due respect to my fellow linux users, I'm pretty sure he's right on target here. That's not to say it can't change... it's just an accurate comment on the current state of things.

    So there's no need to "poison the well" here by trying to sell everyone on Carmack's supposed irrelevance.

  • Re:Its Carmack! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tubal-Cain (1289912) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @04:27PM (#40879847) Journal

    Steam isn't going to magically create supply or demand by itself.

    No it won't. Steam occupies that niche between the two: Marketing.

    Steam doesn't create supply or demand. It aggregates them. It brings all the Suppliers and Consumers under one roof. Consumers looking for Linux games can browse Steam rather than hunting down lists of "10 Best Commercial Games For Linux (by Some Guy; Jan 23, 2008)", and developers looking for Linux customers can upload to Steam rather than create their own distribution channels.

  • Re:After Rage (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Loosifur (954968) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @04:38PM (#40879963)

    PC gamers use PCs because they can upgrade hardware components easily. Macs have always been "black boxes" for the most part, have focused on proprietary hardware, and have generally approached gaming as a secondary priority, if a priority at all. Linux, however, will run on a PC, and supports a wider range of gaming-oriented hardware than Apple OSs ever have.

    People don't buy Macs for gaming; they own Macs and then want to play a particular game. To make the switch, they have to spend more money (to get a copy of Bootcamp and Windows, for example). People who own PCs run either Windows or Linux; to switch from Windows to Linux is free. If you only run Windows to play games, you can dump Windows and run Steam in Linux without incurring any additional cost. Not so with Mac. So, comparing the Mac market to a potential Linux market is apples and oranges, really.

  • Re:Its Carmack! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hairyfeet (841228) <> on Saturday August 04, 2012 @04:45PM (#40880039) Journal

    But is what he is saying wrong? I don't think so. Other than a few things like the humble bundle the simple fact is FOSS is built around "free as in beer" as much as it is "free as in freedom" so there simply aren't enough users willing to buy to make it a market worth pursuing.

    I mean you have at best estimates around 3% being actual desktop users (no you aren't allowed to count servers, routers, your CCC Droid phone, because lets face it those won't run the latest Quake engine games) and of those how many have bought software in the last 6 months? Frankly if that answer was 20% I'd be amazed, probably less than 10%. FOSS users are simply used to getting everything "free as in beer" and if you are trying to actually sell software that's just not a market you should target.

    In the end we all know Old Gabe at Valve isn't looking at Linux because he gives a rat's ass about Steam on the Linux desktop, okay? Ballmer dropped trou and waved his sweaty ass at Gabe by trying to cut Valve out of the market with the appstore and old Gabe don't get mad he gets even by trying to royally fuck MSFT in a market they've spent billions trying to capture, the home console market. Well if you're Gabe how to you do this? Why using a stripped down Linux and COTS hardware of course!

    I'm sure he'll have a nice little bidding war between Intel and AMD for the platform (which I wouldn't be surprised if AMD wins, they can sell Valve chips for less and with their A series APUs you could have built in crossfire with an AMD discrete and give the box some crazy graphics power).Once he settles on a platform its not like he is gonna have to worry about updates hosing drivers or anything like that since he'll control the system. Put in a hardware DRM chip and they're off to the races. He already has deals with most of the indies so all he has to do is get a few of the other big names like Activision on board and he can fuck over Ballmer AND make good money.

    So I gotta agree with Carmack, if you are building a "steambox" type of device? Well Linux is a damned smart move, its mature, already has tons of coders working in embedded, it cuts the hell out of your time to market. But if you are like ID and only interested in selling software? It just doesn't make sense, just not enough money there to be picked up to make it worth the expense.

  • by voice of unreason (231784) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @05:07PM (#40880241)

    I'm an MBA (hold off on the throwing of the rotten vegetables! I'm a IT person too!) So I'd like to put my 2 cents worth on the whole thing from a business perspective.

    Everyone's talking about it being a chicken and egg situation where devs aren't making games for Linux because there's no market, and there's no market because there aren't any games. This isn't really the situation. The execs at big companies often deal with situations where they have to take a leap of faith. Every time there's a new console, for example, the execs at companies like EA decide whether or not to make games for it well before the console is released, so they're making games for a market with 0 users! They make the decisions based on a few key factors, including looking at the risks, the chances of success, and the possible rewards given the market. Here are just some aspects that are probably discouraging to an exec at a big gaming company:

    1. History. Linux is old. Really old. And it hasn't taken off in the consumer market yet. So it's a pretty big leap for an EA exec to think it's going to get popular now. There hasn't really been any change in the market that would point to a massive upswing in Linux gaming.

    2. High potential risks. Xbox isn't that big a risk to support, since it uses similar tech to Windows. Linux? It's a bit different. Sure, it uses OpenGL, like a mac, but it's a whole different platform. This wouldn't be a deal killer by itself, but it's another nail in the coffin since it increases the risks.

    3. Lack of proof of a market. As people have pointed out, the Humble Bundles sold well, but they had people giving to them because a. They wanted to support small indie developers and b. they wanted to support the charities that the Humble Bundles give to. When companies look to predict what's going to happen they look for comparability, that is, they try to find similar situations where there was a success, and there is very little evidence for this. Should they take a chance anyway, and do something new? That leads us to the last and perhaps biggest point:

    4. Low first mover advantage. One of the things a business looks for is first mover advantage, that is, what kind of benefits do they get by taking the risk of being the first to do something. What they're looking for is some reason to think that going first will let them get and HOLD ON TO a chunk of the market. This isn't the case with Linux. Let's say that Carmack decides to make his latest game (Quake 7, this time it's even Quakier!) in Linux. Let's be generous and say that Q7 is released, the Linux gaming market explodes, and everyone buys Q7 for Linux. Carmack took a big risk. What did he get in return? Well, he got big profits, obviously. But he didn't do as well from this deal as you'd think: Let's say that Blizzard, after seeing Q7's success, produces a first-person Linux game called Starcraft 3D: Raynor on a Plane. Assuming it's of a similar quality to Q7, their profits are about the same. Maybe even better, since the market has now grown even more. But they didn't have to take the risks that Carmack did: they lost nothing by waiting until Linux was already a success. And unlike with a console Linux doesn't have a short life cycle, so they had all the time in the world to wait. It's true that Q7 had the advantage of being the only game in town, but that advantage won't last long. Therefore, there's nothing to be gained by being the company that takes a chance on Linux. Sad but true.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that most of the discussion on Linux's chances of success revolve around its worthiness as a platform, but a good platform isn't enough. There has to be a strategy to attract gaming business, and Linux doesn't really have one that works. Steam's support is nice, but in the long run it just isn't enough given the risks that an EA or iD would have to take as things are.

  • Re:Its Carmack! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by billcopc (196330) <> on Saturday August 04, 2012 @05:25PM (#40880381) Homepage

    MacOS gaming: still sucks in 2012.

    Oh, sure, you have access to about 10% of PC titles, but performance is roughly halved on the same hardware. Only a handful of GPUs are supported in 3D accelerated mode at all. That sounds suspiciously like the Linux gaming experience, no ? Carmack is still quite relevant, and his points ring true because very little has been done on either platform to change the situation.

    Me, I don't care. I have work machines, and I have gaming machines. I use whichever OS is most appropriate for the task at hand. I don't need Linux to be a great gaming platform, because that's what I use for work, not play.

  • Re:After Rage (Score:5, Insightful)

    by billcopc (196330) <> on Saturday August 04, 2012 @05:42PM (#40880511) Homepage

    Carmack's relevance is not overinflated. He is a brilliant programmer. He's just not a designer. That used to be Romero's job, back in the glory days. Romero would put out the cool ideas, and Carmack would bring them to reality.

    A lot of programmers are like that. You can be a technical genius, a creative genius, or somewhere in between. You can even oscillate between the two poles, but I've never heard of anyone being a creative technical genius. They are fundamentally contrasting modes of thought.

    Give the man a great, fleshed-out concept and he will turn it into a top-tier game. He has a gift for tackling complex, multi-faceted problems that seem insurmountable. He just needs someone to provide those challenges, otherwise he will continue to churn out the same tired old crap.

  • Re:Its Carmack! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sortius_nod (1080919) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @07:07PM (#40881139) Homepage

    Regardless, I'd say he's pretty familiar with the gaming market with a better-than-average understanding of how viable the platform is.

    Yes, because Carmack really hit the mark with critically panned Rage. These days I'd trust Newell's judgement more than I'd trust Carmack.

    Carmack is living in the 90's, it's been at least a decade since he's made anything of worth, I rate him as useless as Romero. Fossils that tell us a lot about the past but nothing of the future.

  • Re:Its Carmack! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alex Belits (437) * on Saturday August 04, 2012 @08:31PM (#40881729) Homepage

    Oh wow, hairyfeet is attacking his strawmen again. Linux users, on average, spend more than Windows users by the virtue of not consisting in large part of NEETs and high school kids. They just don't spend on software because they have superior software for free, and software they would consider buying, does not exist. Last year I personally spent something around $500 on Xilinx tools for Linux (not counting stuff that came with the development board that I also bought), just so I won't have to deal with "work-related/non-work-related" dichotomy in my open source projects. Before, when I had a company, I have bought licenses for multiple versions of VariCAD for Linux because I needed a 3D CAD that can interoperate with metal shops that mostly use SolidWorks. I am not much of a gamer, and I believe that open source is a superior way of developing game engines just like it is a superior way to develop all software, however I see nothing wrong with buying games. I have games from Humble Bundles, and would buy games that I find worth playing if they were available on Linux.

    On the other hand, this is how much I have paid for Windows and all Windows software over 27 years that Windows existed: $0.

  • by perpenso (1613749) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @11:41PM (#40882989)

    I remember a time when people used to say DOS is the gaming platform of choice. Windows? Good enough for shitty-looking Reversi and Solitaire, but not much else.

    Yes, they said that when Windows was just an optional thing sitting on top of DOS.

    Then Windows became the gaming platform of choice. Sounds familiar?

    Yes, immediately after it went 32-bit and became its own operating system, in 1995. One year later in 1996 we had best selling games like Diablo coming out, Windows only, and setting record sales.

    What I mean is, if Linux is to becomes a good gaming platform, someone has to get the ball rolling.

    Problem is they started trying to get that ball rolling back in the 1990s.

  • by humanrev (2606607) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @07:07AM (#40885141)

    This guy has open-sourced all of his game engines (baring id Tech 5, but only because it's still in use commercially at id), even going so far as to rewrite critical portions of an engine (id Tech 4, specifically the implementation of stencil buffered shadow volume algorithms) so that it could be open sourced in the first place (work he would get no money from and didn't have any obligation to do... and yet did it anyway), and what happens? The Linux community, the primary beneficiary for all this open-sourced goodness which has been used in countless free games, bash Carmack because he has the balls to say that iD Software have not had any commercial success with the Linux platform.

    Now whether you agree with his criteria for measuring this success or not, the number of hateful comments I'm reading people make towards this guy is truly disgusting. If I were in his position, why the FUCK would I want to even look at the Linux community anymore after giving them so much?

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