Kickstarters Dangling the Linux Carrot

October 11, 2012 in Editorial

Linux gaming is seeing some much needed attention of late, and a lot of this seems to come from Kickstarter projects. There are some trends however that raise a few questions for me, and perhaps a gripe or two.

When support was always in the plan
Sometimes support for the platform is promised pretty much off the bat, as was the case with the Double Fine Adventure, FTL and Broken Sword: Serpent’s Curse. These are usually companies that either already had Linux development talent in-house, or were already using tech like Unity3D that can deploy to multiple platforms.

Double Fine’s promise of Linux support seemed a bit random and new for them, but later it surfaced that they were already deep in the process of getting Psychonauts ready for the Humble Bundle via Ryan C. Gordon. They eventually settled on a write once / deploy many solution for their new game in the form of Moai.

Coming late to the party
This swings in one of two directions. Upon realising that there is a demand for Linux support, some projects will take it upon themselves to make that happen, without demanding any additional funding.

Others however, will use it as a big ol’ dangling carrot, offering Linux support only after certain stretch goals are reached. These stretch goals often exceed several hundred thousand dollars. I’m looking at you, Shaker a.k.a “Old School RPG”. For projects well into their development cycle with a lot of tech that needs to be ported, I can understand this requirement. But for ones where not a single line of code had been written yet, this seems like a tacky way to try and boost support for a project and raise additional money. If you choose your tech up front with multi-platform support in mind, you don’t need quite so much extra cash to achieve it.

Offer it on a platform, and you will get support from people who use that platform and are interested in your game. That’s it. Give and you shall receive.

Obsidian had their Linux support as a stretch goal initially, but shortly afterwards announced that they would support it regardless, likely after they decided to use Unity3D. The latter decision no doubt as a result of talking with their pals over at InXile, who also had Linux support as a stretch goal for Wasteland 2 – fully expecting to spend a lot of effort on it, but with Unity’s recent push that effort obviously fell away.

Gripes aside, Kickstarter is a platform where project funding is driven very directly by consumer demand. The fact that Linux is used as a lure for crowd investment means there is definitely consumer demand for games on our every-day-less-obscure platform.

To those developers and studios offering tri-platform support right out of the starting blocks, you are making the right decision. Your stats won’t be skewed, because you will see how much support you get from Linux users outright. And for those users who decide to change to another desktop operating system, they get to take your games with them.

Also, penguins don’t eat carrots!