Unknown to many gamers, there are many established game publishers that have allowed their games to be made available on Linux. Valve’s push for Linux as a gaming platform paved way for not only more games but also higher quality games to be released on Linux. Five years have passed since the release of Steam for Linux and there is still a relatively slow but steady arrival of cross-platform PC games. Game publishers are mum when it comes to how they select games that are to be released for Linux but there is still a way to get more information.
Feral Interactive, currently the biggest Linux game publisher, has partnered with Square Enix, SEGA, 2K, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, and Codemasters. A look at the statistics of all the popular games those game publishers have released can give insight on why some games are on Linux while others are not.
Before we proceed further, the relationship between a publisher and a developer should be discussed. To put in simple terms, a game developer is the one who actually makes the games and a game publisher is the one who provides the financial resources and takes care of the marketing. In some cases, a game publisher has the say on what platforms the game will be released on. Ori and the Blind Forest is a perfect example of a game publisher blocking the release of a game on other operating systems. A game developer can also choose to publish the game themselves so they have more freedom. Hollow Knight, EVERSPACE, and Transistor are some examples of game developers not needing a game publisher. Lastly, a game publisher can also develop its own games. Square Enix, SEGA, and Paradox Interactive are examples of that business model.
NOTE: The data on number of owners are taken from SteamDB.
Looking at Square Enix, the first thing to be noticed is that games that were ported to Linux have a relatively high number of owners on Steam. Second is all games from Japanese developers are absent on Linux.
Similar findings with games from SEGA. Looks like gamers on Linux won’t be playing games from Japanese game developers anytime soon.
Now we know Aspyr Media have consistently brought to Linux games from the Sid Meier’s Civilization game franchise because they are successful and currently belongs in the Top 100 Most Played Games on Steam. NBA 2K series doesn’t sell well on the PC that is why it’s not available on Linux.
Again, the games with highest number of owners are the ones that have been ported to Linux. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is a really successful game that’s why it’s one of the games that Feral Interactive brought early to Linux. Batman: Arkham Knight should have been made available on Linux but it was cancelled due to the severe performance issues and game-breaking bugs that were present on the release for Windows.
Racing games have a niche market but many of Codemasters’ games are on Linux. Perhaps games made with EGO game engine require little resources to be made available on Linux.
Paradox Interactive and Kalypso Media have consistently supported Linux regardless of the number of owners. Perhaps their games are also easy to port to Linux.
How about the outliers such as Grand Theft Auto V and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds? They have insane number of owners on Steam and currently belongs to the Top 10 Most Played Games on Steam. One possible theory as to why they are not on Linux is the publishers simply do not want to bring the game on Linux, similar to the absence on Linux of the games from Platinum Games. Unfortunately, without any information directly coming from game developers and game publishers, this is how far our research goes. We tried to reach out to Feral Interactive but they have declined to give any information regarding their sales figures and decision making process.