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

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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  • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @01:59PM (#40878677)

    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.

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

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

    • by dingen ( 958134 ) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @02:23PM (#40878895)

      The big difference is that Windows actually was just capable of shitty-looking Reversi or Solitaire back in the day when DOS was still the primary PC gaming platform. DirectX changed that and it was only after the release of DirectX that gaming on Windows became viable.

      Linux however has had gaming capabilities for a long time, but still there's a huge lack of compelling titles. The reason why gaming on Linux isn't taking of is because of politics, not a technical reason like with DOS/Windows.

    • Yes. And since it has been years since any attempt and Linux use has grown. Perhaps time to try again, or at least take pre-orders with a promise of "if X orders come in, we'll do it for sure".

      FWIW - last time they (id) tried, about 11-12 years ago, I bought 3 copies of Q3 for linux - one "l33t tin edition", and 2 "regular" versions (one to use and play, the other for a friend). And, I bought them on pre-order/release day at full retail price.

      Shortly after, Loki started selling their stuff, and I bought

    • 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.

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

      Yes, it does sound familiar. Unfortunately, Windows was the upgrade path from DOS, and further, it would run virtually all DOS games if you booted it into DOS mode, so the comparison doesn't really hold as Windows was essentially guaranteed a strong user base.

    • >>>I remember a time when people used to say DOS is the gaming platform of choice.

      Not anyone I ever met except those who were unfortunate enough to be stuck with 16-color PCs that went "beep". The true gaming platforms of the 80s and early 90s were:
      Atari 800
      Commodore 64
      Commodore Amiga -or- Atari ST
      - These machines blew-away anything the PCs of the day could do. Of course nowadays there's very little difference in graphics or sound, so people just pick the defacto standard (the OS that has 88% de

      • Not anyone I ever met except those who were unfortunate enough to be stuck with 16-color PCs that went "beep".

        The modular design of the PC meant that improvements in graphics and sound would eventually out-pace even the best of the systems whose tech was frozen in amber.

        Games like King's Quest demonstrated the raw horsepower of the 16 bit IBM PC.

        No hardware supported sprite animation?

        No problem.

    • 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 dryriver ( 1010635 ) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @02:00PM (#40878689)
    Without a good selection of available games, many people won't switch from Windows to Linux. And if many people don't switch to Linux, game publishers will be loathe to port any major games to Linux. -------- Steam may change this. It may change it a LOT. Even if just a dozen or so AAA games get ported to Linux, it would be a positive start. ----- I would love to run Linux instead of Windows 7. I really would. But the lack of games and some other applications on Linux keeps me on Win 7. ----- Good luck to any Linux gaming pioneers. Carmageddon: Reincarnation will be ported to Linux, so that is one potentially major game title being ported to the tux.
  • 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.
    • There's no computer gaming in my house because all three computers run Linux Mint. So the kids play consoles from NES, Jaguar to Xbox. Good enough for my family.

      • My friend's kid plays Minecraft 12 hours a day on the Linux system.

  • 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.

    • I am Linux only. I play [...] Skyrim...

      I tried to run it 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.

      My Steam "System Info":

      Operating System Version:
      Windows XP (32 bit)
      Wine version: wine-1.5.9
      NTFS: Supported
      Crypto Provider Codes: Supported 323 0x0 0x0 0x0

  • by oakgrove ( 845019 ) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @02:03PM (#40878719)
    His company's foray into Linux gaming hasn't panned out. That doesn't mean that a different strategy might not work. That's like saying that because MS tried to find consumer success with tablets for over a decade that there is no chance anyone else could do it...er...
  • by WiseWeasel ( 92224 ) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @02:05PM (#40878741)

    Thankfully, Microsoft is making Linux a viable gaming platform by so utterly screwing up the Windows gaming platform with Windows 8. Valve is just covering its bases.

  • Too late (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Zaphod-AVA ( 471116 )

    Now that Steam insists I must sign some of my rights away, it doesn't really matter what platform it runs on anymore.

    • by Tr3vin ( 1220548 )
      If you are going to get your panties in a twist about their licensing terms, you wouldn't be able to play most games through the service anyway since they all have fairly restrictive EULAs.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    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.

  • 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

  • It's nice to have Steam on Linux but it's a small market and it doesn't make huge sense for Valve to support it except in the context of either a) Getting leverage to compell Microsoft to open up Windows 8 more, or b) Cloud gaming, e.g. porting games to Linux may lighten their costs if they offered hosted titles in the cloud.
  • by Osgeld ( 1900440 ) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @02:54PM (#40879139)

    does his sales figures include the decade of games where you would download the linux binary off of their website and copy the data files off the windows retail copy? cause a whole generation of ID games allowed you to do just that.

  • Grow Up Already (Score:5, Informative)

    by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @03:55PM (#40879565) Homepage Journal

    Enough with the personal attacks on Carmack. He's not the issue, the marketplace is. 15 years after it first appeared, desktop Linux has shown no sign of grabbing more than a tiny fraction [netmarketshare.com] of the market. Catering to that tiny fraction is not a sound business model, for game companies or anybody else.

  • 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.

  • by Junta ( 36770 ) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @06:52PM (#40881025)

    First, the premise that there are no gamers on linux, therefore, don't create games on linux is a chicken and egg problem. Game *developers* have to make an unprofiitable leap of fait to get the ball rolling. Given a large potential base of users that grudgingly tolerate MS platform (potentially exacerbated by Win8), giving them an out may be sufficient.

    As Steam has taken on a life of it's own, Valve seems to be less and less about developing games and more and more about being a marketplace for digitally purchased gaming content. This presumably means that revenue from that endeavor is dwarfing what they historically have gotten from developing games, *despite* having some of the most acclaimed titles of all time. Both Apple and MS threaten that by wanting to push their own app distribution facility as first-party, reducing the value of the Steam offering. It is in Valve's *long* term interests to try to push users away from platforms like Windows and OSX onto a platform that is the least likely to have a single coherent strategy lock out things like Steam. To this end, Valve could even do something insane, like release HL2: Ep3 as a Linux exclusive. Would that be catastrophic for the sales of that title? Absolutely. Would it simultaneously bring in a critical mass of gamers to Linux, a platform where Valve may continue to thrive in an 'app store' world? Very possible.

    Finally, sometimes it's not *purely* a straightforward business call. For reference, see Blizzard. Blizzard titles have consistently supported MacOS since 1994, even in the most pessimitistic times for the platform. It's quite possible the Mac versions of many of their titles 15 years ago lost money compared to effort required to do it, but they presumably maintained that effort out of love of the platform or continued need to prove they can be a multi-platform company. Keep in mind that while Linux isn't that directly popular (ignoring ubiquitous embedded application and android), it is immensely popular amongst developers and computing enthusiasts. That's the same market that companies like Valve hire from, and developers likely would support Linux as a labor of love.

  • 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?

"Yeah, but you're taking the universe out of context."