The video game industry is booming. It surpassed $100 billion in global revenue in 2016 and looks set to shoot through the $200 billion barrier in just a couple of years. A big chunk of the market is made up of computer gaming, with platforms like Steam making it incredibly easy for gamers to find and play new content without even having to leave the house.
However, the vast majority of computer gamers still use Windows. But why is this and can Linux be used for gaming?
What is Linux?
Linux is a popular operating system among many tech-savvy people for a whole multitude of reasons. Its almost universal compatibility, its flexibility for many different purposes, the fact that it is much cheaper than any other equivalent, and the improved security levels it offers are some of the main reasons.
Other Linux enthusiasts are just happy that they’re not buying Microsoft software, something that even led to Windows Refund Day back in February 1999 which saw people around the world returning their unwanted copies of Windows 95 and 98 en-masse, with hundreds turning up to the company’s headquarters in Redmond.
In more than 20 years that have passed since then, the popularity of Linux has risen as it has become more user-friendly and better-known. This has been helped massively by distributions like Ubuntu that come with an interface that can make Linux seem less daunting. 29 years since version 0.02 of the Linux kernel was released to the public, Windows still dominates the market and looks set to for many years to come.
Despite Linux becoming much more popular in recent years, the OS still only has 1.53% of the global market share. That puts it behind Chrome OS, a Linux-based but Google-owned operating system that’s only been around for a few years.
In a 2018 article titled “why don’t normal people use Linux”, Tom Greenwood said that the primary issue holding back Linux is the fact that many mainstream applications are not yet available for the OS. This includes commercial packages like Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Suite.
Of course, alternatives, such as FreeOffice, are available for most of these, but this means a user needs to get used to several different pieces of software at once. For gamers, the situation has improved greatly in recent years and is now at a point where Linux is a genuine option that many could consider. Many titles are now available natively on the OS, including CS: GO, Borderlands 2, and Tomb Raider.
Many games can now be played directly inside a web browser thanks to HTML5. This means users have access to popular titles like Miniclip’s 8 Ball Pool which has proven to be a massive hit in India.
For games that can’t be played natively, there is still a solution that players can use to get them working on their Linux computer. Wine, is a software translation tool that converts the commands made by Windows applications into ones that can be understood by a Linux OS. This means that it’s possible to play most titles after making the jump to a Linux distribution.
For example, PokerStars India offers a feature called Home Games that allows you to host your own private poker club. This can’t be accessed through your browser, instead, the user must download the company’s software, which is only available for Windows. However, Linux users need not miss out, since Wine can make the application run on the open-source OS.
Many blockbuster titles can also be made to work on Linux by using Wine. For example, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 works well despite a few minor glitches, as does Doom, though it does have a couple of bugs.
Overall, Linux has come a long way in its 29 years. It has proven itself to be an operating system that’s adaptable to many different uses, though issues of software compatibility do still hold it back.
Gamers can overcome this though and use the OS to play most (if not all) of their favourite titles without any major issues. Even games that are not natively supported can be made to run well on the platform thanks to translation tools like Wine.