Is Linux the Future of PC Gaming?

Published: September 9, 2014 11:00 AM /



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.

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