Make Games for Linux! Or don’t….

You may have noticed that almost everything in life is organized into catch-22 situations. The video game situation in Linux also follows this law. We’ve got the following dilema: we can’t play regular, consumer PC video games on a Linux box, but if they were made available we would lose a bunch of freeware game developers. Like others, I often wish developers like Maxis would make a Sims 2 port for Linux, allowing me to play the game without having to go through programs like Cedega by Transgaming, which charge a monthly fee for usage. It would make life a heckova lot easier for those of us who wish to legally purchase video games and be able to play then without being locked to the Windows desktop.

However, there are currently a lot of video games being developed for Linux by small software companies and individuals in order to fulfill this need. For example, there Wormux, a Worms clone and Freebooters, a Pirates! clone. Often these clones intend to duplicate game functionality while adding extra features they wish the original developers had implemented. How many people would still play these clones if the real games were available? We can take a look at how Windows shareware and freeware games turned out. I used to have tons of disks of freeware games we would run on our Win3.1 computer in DOS. Nowadays, I don’t hear anyone ever talking about any games execpt for those put out my the major developers. There are also Linux game developers putting out original games and I also fear that these would be ignored if the major developers were to make games for Linux.

So here we are, stuck in a tough place. One of the best aspects of the open source movement is the semi-democratic way in which software can be distributed. If you can find someone to host your source files, everyone can potentially download it. You don’t have to worry that the big boys have money to get their games through the distribution channels to the Best Buys and other locations. You just need to get popular enough that people link to you and talk about you. In that way, entrenched Linux games do have somewhat of an advantage over new projects, but all it takes is for someone to mention your game on Slashdot and you’ll have more hits than your server can handle. But we will lose part of this if commercial games are available. It’s not that the commercial companies will intentionally shut down any of the small-time developers, but people will stop looking. Because Civilization is unavailable people will search on in order to find freeciv.

I used to think it was very clear – lobby the developers to release Linux versions. Now I’m not so sure if this is the best thing that could happen to Linux.