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Linux Gamers Make Up ~2% Of Valve's Steam Users (phoronix.com)
135 points by velodrome 1379 days ago | hide | past | web | 86 comments | favorite

Here are Steam's December Linux numbers that I recorded back in January:

  OS                         Share Delta
  Ubuntu 12.10 64 bit        0.29% +0.29%
  Ubuntu 12.04.1 LTS 64 bit  0.26% +0.26%
  Ubuntu 12.04.1 LTS         0.13% +0.13%
  Ubuntu 12.10               0.12% +0.12%
  Other                      0.71% +0.14%
Note that this was the first month that Linux use was recorded, which means that the delta for "Other" is almost certainly entirely Linux (for example, there was no "Linux Mint" option then).

Here's this month's numbers, for easy comparison:

  OS                          Share Delta
  Ubuntu 12.10 64 bit         0.71% +0.28%
  Ubuntu 12.10                0.38% +0.19%
  Ubuntu 12.04.2 LTS 64 bit   0.31% +0.31%
  Ubuntu 12.04.2 LTS          0.20% +0.20%
  Linux Mint 14 Nadia 64 bit  0.17% +0.17%
  Linux 64 bit                0.14% +0.14%
  Ubuntu 12.04.1 LTS 64 bit   0.11% -0.22%
  Other                       0.82% +0.06%
BTW, if you're a Steam user on Linux, don't neglect to fill out the hardware survey if you get selected. It really is an awesome resource for determining the capabilities of the average gaming computer. There's also a handful of strange results... is Firefox really six times more popular than Chrome on Windows? Are there really people still gaming on 640x480 monitors?

I'd bet on the 640x480 monitors are people using virtual machines to run Linux just to install Team Fortress 2 and get the unique item that's only available using Linux to play . Similar to the iPod Ear Buds for using a Mac to play.

I'd imagine that's skewing a lot of the stats on Linux at the moment to be honest.

I have a mini Mac attached to a 640x480 projector. Sometimes I manually set the computer to a higher resolution (which the projector will display) but it often sets itself back to 640x480. Also if that is the display resolution, there is no need for games to render any more pixels :)

My guess is that the 640x480 monitors are standard-definition TVs.

A lot of people who use Linux like to use open source just because it's open source, and not particularly because it's better (anyone who says LibreOffice is just as good as MS Office is crazy). That's why you see a lot more firefox and chromium than you do on Windows or Mac.

I disagree. There is another possibility: LibreOffice is good enough. I (used) to have relatively simplistic needs for spreadsheet and word processing tools, and in that sense, LibreOffice and MS Office were virtually indistinguishable.

Well on Linux your only choice of (mainstream) browsers is firefox or chrome/chromium so you would probably expect that.

Same with office.

And Opera. Pretty much anything other than IE and Safari.

Plus Firefox is bundled by default in Ubuntu.

I'm actually really frustrated by Steam's linux port. If you're not running Ubuntu it's freakishly inconvenient to get running.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not complaining that Steam doesn't have a gentoo package that is maintained by them. I'm pissed off that they call apt-get directly from the application, don't make it easy to discover steam's requirements to run, have a confusing maze of launch scripts, and a bunch of other major no-no's.

The ubuntu desktop is an easy access market, with some big upsides from Steam's perspective. But there's a long history out there of vendors successfully handling a broadly usable linux port without pulling this kind of nonsense (attempting to maintain dependencies system-wide without even asking if it's okay!), and a great number of linux users are happy to set LD_LIBRARY_PATH and rebuild libpng or whatever for any special application requirements if they're not running your 'officially supported' distribution.

That having been said, I'm playing Cave Story right now on linux.

Steam launches a script to install dependencies. The expectation is that this script will be modified by distros to account for the packaging mechanism on that distro, and package name differences. So if you are not on an apt based distro yet apt-get is being run, then your distro's Steam package needs to be updated.

It would be nice to describe all the dependencies on the steam package itself and let the package manager handle this, unfortunately it wasn't possible on Ubuntu 12.04 because of multi-arch issues. Other distros might not have this problem.

I'd find that a compelling statement if they didn't update bin_steamdeps.py every time the application updated.

The current license agreement explicitly allows repackaging of the client to work and be distributed on other distros.

It's a technical thing, not a legal one. The current client is blindly, stupidly tied to the Ubuntu 32 bit distribution in ways that are dumb even for a binary package on Ubuntu.

I'm running the Steam client on 64-bit Ubuntu 12.10, and didn't do anything special to get it installed. Why do you say that it's tied to the 32-bit version of Ubuntu?

Do the videos work? Did you follow the 'special' instructions to install the 'special' version of Flash that will work with Steam? Because I sure didn't, and so no videos in the Steam client play. Though that's probably even worse than being 32-bit specific.

In fairness, steam videos don't work for me even in Windows. Something about wrong flash version. I really wish they would just embed a normal video player.

I dunno. The videos don't even work on my Windows machine, as I don't have Flash installed over there. If I wanna see promotional videos, I run on over to Youtube.

It doesn't integrate that well in Ubuntu to start with. There's no app menu integration for Unity.

Edit: I mean the unified menubar. Steam menubar is attached to the steam window, not at the top of the screen.

Steam doesn't use a toolkit and overrides compositor decorations. It is never intended to integrate, it doesn't integrate at all on Windows or Mac either.

i got a steam icon in the launcher. Although it does update itself separately instead of appearing as an update via apt.

It wasn't too hard to get running on Gentoo, but then again it is Gentoo...

No issues using the package provided by ArchLinux. Has run fine since the day I got an invitation to the beta. This is probably due to someone writing a good PKGBUILD for it, but it demonstrates that it is not intractable for interested distros/parties to make an easy out-of-the-box install.


Are you serious?

Valve was giving away a promotional item in Team Fortress 2 for users who logged into the game from a Linux machine. The last time they did this, for users who logged in from a Mac, the promotional item became a kind of in-game de facto currency.

There were lots of users logging in once from an Ubuntu VM instance for the item; it'll be interesting to see if this growth continues now that the item giveaway is over.

For reference: http://wiki.teamfortress.com/wiki/Tux

Although this is true, the item giveaway probably did not affect the results of the Valve hardware survey. For this to happen, those VM users or temporary users would have had to have been on it at the time of the survey, so the numbers we see are likely genuine adopters.

> The last time they did this, for users who logged in from a Mac, the promotional item became a kind of in-game de facto currency.

FWIW, this won't happen again, as the Tux items are not tradable.

They're likely to become tradable soon as the promotion is now over and other promotional items become tradable after their promotion is over.

Still, I personally doubt they'll be worth much unlike the Ear Buds you got from playing on a Mac purely because at the time trading didn't exist. So no one went out of their way to get them, leaving only the people who actually had Mac with them, making them highly sought after because there's only so many of them. Not to mention it's outside of most peoples knowledge to run an OS X virtual machine. While with this Linux item its been expected to be worth a lot and making a Linux virtual machine is relatively a simple task, meaning now there's a lot more Tux's to go around.

A similar thing to the Ear Buds also happened with a promotional item for "Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse" in the past called "Max's Severed Head" (http://wiki.teamfortress.com/wiki/Max%27s_Severed_Head) which rocketed in price when trading became available due to the fact there's a limited amount of them and they don't randomly drop while playing. They're currently worth around 26 keys which is ~£50 if you buy the keys directly from the store, but keys can be found cheaper and the price of course changes all the time.

Rather than the silly "doubling" headline, there's another number that's much more interesting: that Linux users are 2% of steam users and OSX is 3%. Compare those numbers with total share: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usage_share_of_operating_system.... OSX is at 7% and Linux at 1%.

It'll be really interesting to see where the Steam numbers end up when they stabilize.

What complicates matters is there's no good way of knowing how many Steam "Windows" users are people who use OS X or Linux as their main OS but boot into Windows to use Steam because of poor graphics card drivers.

Yup. I'm definitely included in this bunch. My graphics card (Nvidia Optimus) doesn't work on Linux, so I'd much rather dual boot and game on Windows.

Have you tried Bumblebee? http://bumblebee-project.org/ I've heard that people get their Optimus cards to work well with it.

Yup, using Bumblebee with primus-run and CS:S runs perfectly smooth on my laptop.

A very related group runs Steam in WINE so they can launch and play Windows-only games. That must skew numbers significantly as well, and unless you only play TF2, Linux users are probably being counted as both Linux and Windows users because they play one game in Linux and another in WINE.

I would think by trends a gamer is more likely to a more technical person. I love linux but frankly I know many people who can barely use a mac, and linux is beyond their technical capabilities without much learning. So I'd currently guess that linux will end up with a higher percentage on steam stats than other stats. Also, many people once choose windows solely to play games. Linux platforms offer lots of potential once the kinks get worked out and the critical tipping point is passed, which steam may just have crossed with a single step.

Many distributions have made huge steps in being usable for non-technical people. My mom and GF both use Trisquel without problems (well, fewer problems than most Windows users I know).

Of course, it does take a technical person to install it for them.

I find Windows 8 to be more complicated than Ubuntu. Most people won't be able to figure out gestures and it becomes way to cumbersome to use Windows 8 on a non-touch screen setup. On the other hand Ubuntu has a dash, type the name of software and it's there. As simple as it can get.

If i recall correctly you don't need to use any gestures or click anywhere to lookup a program in Windows 8. Just start typing the name on the Start Screen and it will search it up. Wasn't it touted as one of the plusses of Windows 8? Alternatively, you can pin the application to the start screen.

It would be interesting to see purchase reports and not just usage as a developer too.

Relevant xkcd comic: http://xkcd.com/605/

I'm excited about this because I assumed all the people who wanted Steam on Linux would download it immediately, leaving no room for growth in the second month. The fact that it's still growing is a good sign.

Even better, I dare say that Steam's Linux market share has experienced infinite growth since February (where it was 0% exactly). Amazing, really.

It wasn't 0%, there are plenty of wine users.

Huh? The beta has been going on for quite a while and there are no reason for the beta users not to count when it comes to market share.

I hope that steam breaks the myth that Linux users will not pay for software.

The Humble Bundle's statistics [1] have offered an argument against that perception for a while. On average a Linux user pays $11.02 for a Humble Bundle, while Windows users pay $5.93 and Mac users pay $8.43. Linux and Mac users are also overrepresented among the Humble Bundle's buyers (having made 8% and 11% of the total number of purchases respectively) compared to the gaming community at large.

That said, I'm not sure how widespread this myth really is outside of select Internet communities. Enterprise Linux users are known to pay for their software (even if somewhat indirectly, e.g., through support contracts), and the biggest myth concerning desktop Linux users seems to be "huh, are there any?".

[1] See http://cheesetalks.twolofbees.com/humble/ for a great report.

I think most Linux users see HIB as a form of activism or donation (specifically to show that games on Linux can be profitable) rather than as a purchase. Heck, I bet most people who get HIB games (on Linux or otherwise) never even play them.

I only play one or two games from most of the bundles, though every bundle I've gotten has had one or two that made it worth it. And like most other Linux users I've usually paid around $10. But I haven't bought any bundle that didn't have at least a game or two that I knew I'd actually play a bit.

That doesn't really mean much. There are more people who are willing to pay less when the total population is much larger.

I personally bought the bundles for Windows, but put in Linux and Windows for the survey, just for an attempt to make a tiny dent in the stats.

That doesn't really tell us anything because Windows users have much more choice as to where their gaming money goes compared to Linux users and Mac users. Same goes with the overrepresentation.

It does contradict the claim that "Linux users will not pay for software" directly.

You also have to note that while Windows users are more likely to own the games prior to any given Humble Bundle sale (esp. given that many games were first ported to Linux specifically for a Bundle) at the time of the sale they are unlikely to find a better deal on any of the games either separately or as a package, even games unlocked for beating the average payment. That would make buying those games from the Bundle a rational choice if you are a Windows user and want even one of them.

Of course, the above argument doesn't negates the fact that Windows gamers have more choice. For them the opportunity cost of paying more for a HIB could be not buying another game on Steam, GOG or elsewhere.

I guess in the end it all hinges on how much the buyers (all of them: Windows, Linux and Mac users) are interested in playing those games specifically vs. playing any games at all. If they are interested specifically in the titles sold, then yes, the statistics would mean that Linux users are more generous. Otherwise it's probably more about opportunity cost.

I don't think that was the OP's point. The conclusion that is usually drawn from the myth that Linux users aren't willing to pay for software, is that there isn't a viable market there. There clearly is, however, as the HIB has demonstrated.

Even if you ignore the overrepresentation of Linux users, the fact stands that when you look at total revenues, Linux rivals OS X.

HIB definitely demonstrates that Linux users are willing to pay for software (which is awesome!), but I'm not sure that there's enough data to use that to conclude there's a viable market there.

We know that the HIB has drawn in significant revenue from Linux customers, but that doesn't give us the faintest clue how profitable they are (remember, that average $11 Linux sale has to be shared with multiple developers and charities). You might take the fact that they keep offering more HIBs as a sign that Humble Bundle (the company) considers its humble bundles (the promotions) to be successes, but it's not a guarantee that the metric they're using to define success is profitability. They've raised nearly $4.5 million in funding, so they're not strapped for cash; it's very possible they're more focused on using the bundles as a marketing channel than as an actual revenue stream, convincing consumers to trust the Humble Bundle brand name and developers/publishers that they're a meaningful distribution platform.

tl;dr: the fact that a successful venture-funded startup is selling software to Linux users, when we don't know if they're profitable or what their long-term strategy is, doesn't necessarily imply that there's a viable market for selling software to Linux users.

As someone who has absolutely zero interest in gaming, this is the most exciting news I have read on HN for a good month or so.

Meh. The one and only question that matters is "how many Linux users would buy my game that would not have bought it on either OS X or Windows". That number is significantly smaller than 2%.

I'm very excited at the prospects of SteamBox and can't wait to learn more. I'm not sure Steam on desktop linux will ever be meaningful.

I do wonder what happens if Steambox comes out with some flavor of Linux included but installing Windows grants an automatic 20% performance increase due to drivers. Hell, I'd install Windows even if it were only a 5% increase.

Wasn't there a post form Valve that showed they can already get 20% improvement on Linux? Given that they're also working to improve the graphics drivers for Linux, I don't really see where that "automatic 20% performance increase" for Windows would come from. Sure, the driver itself might be 20% slower, but the Linux stack is already faster than the Windows stack AND there is room for improvement.

See http://www.fortressofdoors.com/2013/02/steam-linux-sale-resu...

They may just got lucky, but ~7% of their total sales comes from users running Linux. While it's not an huge number, it's still significant, and it's likely to grow in the future.

I think it's more likely that Linux will end up having a small performance benefit over Windows all other things being equal.

A naive look would make it seem that Steambox is vaporware (no pun intended).

That question doesn't matter at all, because that's the current status quo.

Steambox sounds like it is just going to be running a desktop Linux, with some hacks to make Steam the primary interface. So, I doubt it will be considered "non-meaningful".

Microsoft is teetering and everything else around us is standardizing on Linux. It shouldn't be long until home computers start to move to it in significant numbers, ESPECIALLY with gaming consoles that run Linux getting thrown in the mix.

More games please. Many of the bundle games are also not available.

How many times have you heard someone say "I'd use Linux for my desktop if it could run $GAME"?

This is the biggest reason why there hasn't been as much adoption -- a great many games are simply not yet ported, or their ports haven't been made ready for Steam distribution.

If a gamer's "workflow" is complicated even a little bit, such as requiring a reboot back into Windows to play one game, people will take the path of least resistance and just stay booted to Windows. This is what I currently do on my rMBP during heavy gaming sessions, because games like NBA 2K13, Skyrim, and Rift aren't yet supported in MacOS/Linux.

Once the top 50-100 games are ported, Linux desktop adoption will probably explode, correlated closely with the Steam market share held by Linux users, as the last bastion of excuses for using Windows finally fades away.

My recommendation for the day is Kentucky Route Zero. It runs beautifully on my mid-range Ubuntu laptop and frankly it has been one of the most astounding gaming experiences I've ever had.

I was thinking of trying that and Serious Sam 3. CS Source and TF2 have run great!

What percentage of Linux gamers are also Windows gamers?

If P(Linux | Windows) = 1.0, we know steam grew operating complexity instead of business.

The way I understand it is that they are making an investment in Linux to allow their upcoming steam box to run Linux.

Also it allows (or will allow) users to avoid using Windows just to be able to play games. This is a good thing all around.

There have been a few occasion's where I've managed to pry the number of Wine users out of Valve over the years -- the Linux usage numbers look fairly similar.

Unfortunately, there was a period of about a year or two where the hardware survey would crash under Wine, so the data is probably very biased against Wine users (even I learned not to opt in).

Most of these are VMs to get a new TF2 hat, anyway.

I expect this to increase.easier than OSX because OSX machines are inherently expensive.

Also I know many persons that don't used Linux only because there was no steam for it.

As a long-time Steam user on OSX (I have the TF2 earbuds to prove it,) the games available on OSX and Linux are a paltry offering (one of the top selling games right now on OSX is "Left 4 Dead 2" released in 2009.)

There are few top-tier games. Borderlands 2 is the only recent game that comes to mind. It became so discouraging that I built a PC gaming machine. I hope for a day where I can buy new games on an OSX or Linux machine, but I do not plan on holding my breath.

The part that kills me about Borderlands 2 on OSX is when they finally released it you can't play with your character from steam... you haven't to make a new one.

I'm not sure I understand what machine cost has to do with this since there are already quite a bit more OSX machines out there than Linux ones.

I'm actually surprised the OSX 'share' is that low, my guess is Mac gamers are happy buying their games off the Mac App store for now (most are available there).

It's funny, because you put the words "Mac" and "gamers" together.

Most Mac gamers will have a bootcamp partition running windows and Steam.

I am curios to see what version of OpenGL people have.

server glx vendor string: SGI

server glx version string: 1.4

Steam's support on OS X is the suck. I don't know what the experience is like on Linux, but given there is less competition from better stores on Linux I wouldn't be surprised to see Steam be a big hit on Linux.

As for me, after being a steam user for years, but given the fact that I haven't been able to play team fortress for 5 months now despite playing it for years, in the future, I'll use the Mac App Store.

My experience using Steam on linux has been pretty good. The only thing is that the trailers/videos do not work because I run on 64-bit (there is a workaround for this).

As for the games, a lot of hit and miss. Team Fortress works great! However, a lot of other games require workarounds even though they have official linux support. Luckily, the Steam Linux community is quite strong and these workarounds were pretty easy to find.

I really wish Ubuntu and other linux distros can make an app store (or software center) of similar quality. It's really a joy to use.

i agree.. had a great experience playing TF on Linux.. works really well on Linux Mint

What do you find problematic on the Mac version? My office has weekly TF2 games and a bunch of us use Steam on OSX. The only gripe I have is that it doesn't remember my password, but other than that it seems pretty much identical to the Windows counterpart.

Personally, I'm impressed by how horribly implemented Steam's OS X gamepad support is. That takes skill to do, when other apps Just Work™.

Also, Steam.app used to suck heaps of CPU just idling in the background, often enough that to make the fan audible in laptops. That improved lately, but still isn't perfect.

Not to mention the frequent crashes when you quit. I guess it's quitting either way, but still.

It does remember the password for me.

Steam has been getting much better on OS X recently. They have greatly reduced memory leaks and CPU usage when idle.

Presumably you can just boot into windows on your Mac, right?


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