Platform Exclusives - A Linux Perspective

Every time an Epic Store exclusive is announced, the developer/publisher is flooded with messages ranging from dissatisfied to utterly vile. On the latter, just don't, please. The Ooblets developers have been flooded with racist, misogynistic and otherwise needlessly aggressive comments from the cesspits of the internet. I'm not even sure any of those people had any interest in the game to begin with.

Some of the ire is justified, however. The word "platform" is used in so many contexts that it's becoming meaningless, and extending to areas it should probably not. It once was enough to consider your hardware the platform, or your operating system. And generally people are okay-ish with a game that is exclusive to a different platform, like say Nintendo. But now this has extended to the online store you bought something on. Your "platform" is no longer "PC", or "Windows", it's Microsoft Store, or Steam, or Epic Games Store.

And people more erudite than myself have given many reasons for why this is bad for PC gaming as a whole. But instead of focusing on ideological reasons, allow me to tell you what this means for a Linux gamer. A platform exclusive announcement for a Windows user might mean the difference between buying/playing via the Fortnite Launcher vs. using the Half-Life launcher. For a Linux user this could well mean that any chance of playing the game goes away entirely. And what makes it irksome, is that there's no good reason for that. It's all artificial barriers.

When Microsoft buys three studios that have been reasonably Linux-friendly in the past, you can be assured that these studios will cease to develop anything for Linux, unless there was already a contractual agreement in place for something in development, as with a crowdfund.

When a game is announced as Epic Store exclusive, even if only for a 6-month period, any Linux development the developer might have considered will be on hold for that period, and in all likelihood will never happen.

Who cares about Linux native support any more, now that Valve is working to make Windows games work on Linux with two clicks, I hear you ask? Well, first of all, Wine/Proton does not work yet with anything that is Microsoft Store exclusive.

You can easily install the Epic Store on Linux, and run a fair chunk of the games on there with ease. Tim Sweeney has even offered a grant to the developers of Lutris, a front end for installing and running games from various sources. This is not ideal for me, however.

When you buy and play a Windows-only game on Steam, the metrics show the developer that the purchase was made on Linux. This is important to me. I want to show the developer that my tiny 2% market is actually worth something to them. It also shows them that Valve's efforts into making their game run on Linux has resulted in purchases.

With I also know that the developer knows I exist, because they have taken steps to ensure that Linux players of e.g. Overwatch are not false-flagged as cheaters.

None of this data is shown to developers on the Epic Store, please prove me wrong. It's a Windows-only store, and all purchases are considered Windows purchases.

And then there's the aspect of fragmentation. "Linux" is already a third of "PC" as a concept. That one third is now further divided into stores and launchers and unique DRM setups. After all of that division, you now take the slice that's left that still contains potential Linux support and consider that we are just 2% of that. It takes us from 2% of the whole PC market, to 2% of just Steam/GoG/Humble.

Ah screw it, maybe my next game will be an exclusive.