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It has recently been revealed that Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Presequel will be coming to Linux. Aspyr Media, the company responsible for the Borderlands 2 iOS port will be taking the reigns again for the Linux version. This is big news for Linux gamers, because it shows the potential for other AAA games to come to the OS.

For those who don’t know, Linux is an open source operating system. It is available in a myriad of distributions, many of which are free, so you have a lot of options when it comes to choosing your Linux experience. It’s powerful, flexible, and has a large number of free software that can be easily installed and removed via the included package manager. Overall it’s a great OS, but it’s lacking when it comes to video games.

Microsoft Windows has been the dominate platform for PC gaming for over a decade now. Although a select few game developers produced games for other operating systems, Windows reigned supreme as a gamer’s best bet if they wanted to play games on their computer. Software like WINE allowed for Macintosh and Linux users to get a large portion of these Windows specific games to run under their operating systems, but it is less convenient than installing the game from a CD, or via Steam.

In 2012 Linux users’ hopes for further gaming support were raised as Gabe Newell, co-founder of Valve, spoke out against the latest iteration of Windows, Windows 8, calling it “A catastrophe for everyone in the PC square.” He voiced his desire to bring gaming to the Linux OS, and shortly afterward Valve’s digital gaming distribution service, Steam, was released on Linux. Accompanying this release Valve ported its Source Engine games over to the OS, including Half Life 2, Portal, and Left 4 Dead.

Going one step further, Valve began development on a Linux based operating system known as SteamOS. SteamOS is based on Debian 7, and is currently in beta-testing. It will be licensed freely to users and manufacturers, so anyone with the skill to do so can create a machine that runs the OS. The operating system seems focused on bringing the Steam experience to living rooms, however, so it’s unlikely that it will be replacing Windows as the operating system for PC gaming. It’s exciting nonetheless as it will likely encourage developers to make their games compatible with Linux. This also means that if Valve is successful in converting gamers to Linux then Microsoft will have to worry about competition from Valve in both the PC and Console markets.

So far Linux has been largely overlooked by most AAA developers, but the growing number of games available for the OS, and the use of WINE to play those that aren’t, highlights the demand for games on the system exists. So far that demand has been dominated by Valve and the indie scene, but with the announcement of Borderlands 2 and The Presequel being ported over it is fair to assume that larger developers are taking notice. It is possible that in the upcoming years we will see more AAA developers porting games over to Linux, and maybe making them exclusively for it as well. Whether or not it does well enough to overtake Microsoft is another thing entirely.

Do you use Linux? What games would you like to see ported to it? Do you think it has the potential to be the primary operating system for gaming? Do you think games should be made exclusively for one operating system at all? Let us know down in the comments.

Cary Brounley

Cary Brounley is a 20 year old game enthusiast, college student, and TechRaptor writer.

  • Fritzster

    I like Valve’s philosophy of Steam platform—to serve, both customer and creator.

  • James Galizio

    I use Linux the majority of the time; seeing AAA devs like CDPR and Gearbox supporting the platform really does make me hopeful for the future. Civ V was a particularly good port, so hopefully Beyond Earth is even better!

  • Andrew Bennett

    Personally, I don’t believe the future of PC gaming is held by a single operating system – Both Mac and Linux will be used as much as Windows in a few years. On every PC? No. For Steam users? That’s what I’m betting on.

    Certainly exciting times – I love Microsoft, but their monopoly ending will be a wonderful thing. They’ll have good reason to be afraid of messing things up, and they’re going to improve because of it.

  • Matthew Reynolds

    I know I’d switch over to a Linux distribution if I could play at least 75% of my Steam library on it without dealing with WINE. I’d be willing to bet I’m not the only one.

  • Jypsie

    I dual boot Win 8.1 and Ubuntu 14.04 on my desktop and have an old netbook that runs Ubuntu as well. I am a big fan of the Ubuntu distro, but I still don’t see Linux becoming the dominate operating system for gaming unless the Steambox is a big hit. For most PC gamers, I do not see a reason for them to bother making the switch for gaming reasons, and you lose some ease of use making the switch, as well as access to certain software packages outside gaming. Sure, there are usually open source alternatives available, but then you are talking effort in finding and learning even more software, for what gain that the gamer would care about? A free OS?

    Open source evangelicals notwithstanding, I don’t see many gamers giving enough care to bother making the move, and if the games are not available yet, they certainly won’t.

    Now, if the Steambox hits it big, we will definitely start seeing more games developed for Linux as developers will want to take advantage of that install base. A successful Steambox will also of course reflect a larger overall market percentage of Linux usage compared to its current 1.67% ( With that larger market share, the developers will take better notice and get the games out. Once the games are there, Linux as an OS will start to look more attractive to PC gamers. Who may well then consider it seriously the next time they are needing to build a new box.

    Hey, free OS./shrug

    As far as exclusivity, I can understand it. Sure, in a perfect world, the games would run on every OS, so every gamer can be happy. But, I understand that there is a serious cost involved in developing for multiple OS’s, and then supporting those as well. With such a low overall market share, I understand them not developing for Linux.

    I don’t like it, but I understand it.

  • Jon Christie

    Linux could hit it big if Valve’s improved performance promises turn out to be true. 5-10 better FPS in a Linux version would convert a lot of people.

    More games on Linux is always nice though. I love being able to play games on Ubuntu, it boots up in a fifth of the time of Windows, dare I say it, almost gets to the “turn on and play” mentality like a console.

    It’s awesome.

  • benanov

    I’ve been running some flavor of GNU/Linux for 7 years now. There’s a lot of distributions, and the way most companies have been dealing with that is to support a big few (usually Ubuntu & Mint) and the other distributions usually have communities that will figure out the compatibility issues and make things work (Arch, Debian to some extent). That’s enough to get your foot in the door.

    Valve did their pronouncement because of the threat of walled gardens – that with Windows 8, Microsoft could promote an alternative to Steam and return to the days of Embrace, Extend, Extinguish (or alternately it seems to be Copy, Co-Opt, Cut Off) for software distribution and require everything to go through the store, much like how Apple does this now for iOS. That hasn’t really panned out for amd64 (it has for ARM, but no one seems to be yelling about that), but I think keeping Linux & Mac builds around will dissuade Microsoft from doing a lot of anti-developer things in the short term.

    There are two other issues that developing for Windows doesn’t have: the first is hardware drivers. A lot of distributions will not include support for binary drivers by default. (Ubuntu and Mint do, but Debian doesn’t.) If you’re using an Nvidia card, the Free Drivers are reverse-engineered and it’s a valiant effort, but Nouveau is not up to snuff yet for modern AAA games.

    The second is really a question of software development. Experienced devs that are used to porting or multiple builds can work around this, but the new indie dev is going to have a time with multiple OS support. Those that get it right can really do well for themselves (this is partly why Minecraft took off; it worked perfectly under Linux; I would argue that when it’s raining, it actually works BETTER under Linux – there’s no lag from the rain.)

  • benanov

    “Then there is still the large amount of hardware that is not properly
    supported on Linux. My audiophile sound card, gaming mouse, gaming
    keyboard… so many devices that will work on Linux in some fashion, yet
    do not have the software available to actually make use of their
    features. I cannot turn on Dolby Digital Live on Linux for 5.1 audio to
    my receiver. I cannot choose the ohm setting for my headphone output in
    Linux. I cannot program the buttons on my keyboard on Linux. I can go
    on and on, but I think you get the point.”

    This isn’t a game dev’s fault. This is a crappy hardware manufacturer trying to hide their “secret sauce” because they’re really scared of the world discovering that some setting they claim is a unique selling point is merely enabled by writing a couple of bytes to the right memory address.

    You need to buy “better” (better supported) hardware. Linux hardware support for your *second* system is always worlds better than the first system you attempt to stick it on – experience teaches you to stay away from certain manufacturers.

  • Ano

    As long as it stays free, I have no problem!

  • benanov

    “Can you find a single gaming peripheral maker that provides full Linux support?”

    I’d ask this question another way:

    “Can we find a single gaming peripheral maker whose hardware has full Linux support?”

    A lot of Linux devs would rather write the driver themselves after being given specifications. Some (Greg K-H) will write the damn driver FOR you – just give him the docs!

    And yet manufs still want to play secret sauce.

  • Adam Astles

    It’s an uphill struggle to get everyone off windows, but would be worth it in the long run. I just don’t see it realistically happening any time soon.

  • Ilya Crols

    Been running Linux for more than a decade, this has been a very exciting year so far, an a lot of goodies have been promised for the Christmas sales. Although I don’t think Linux will ever become THE one big gaming platform, I do have my hopes up for developers choosing OpenGL over DirectX in the future, I believe it has much more potential. Also been enjoying the gfx driver updates that have been coming out, hopefully AMD will catch up …