Is A Killer App All Linux Needs To Stand As A Gaming OS? DICE Thinks So

Steam OS has everyone thinking about Linux again. Well, it has gamers pondering its potential anyway. But what does it need to be taken seriously as an alternative to Windows? Maybe it's the right game at the right time, at least according to DICE's Lars Gustavsson.

In an interview with Polygon's Jenna Pitcher, the creative director feels that, much like a console depends on its games to make it a success, a killer app could be what Linux needs to propel it from the doldrums — right now, only a little over one per cent of Steam users run a flavour of Linux, according to the latest Steam survey.

Here are Gustavsson's exact words:

"We strongly want to get into Linux for a reason," Gustavsson said. "It took Halo for the first Xbox to kick off and go crazy — usually, it takes one killer app or game and then people are more than willing [to adopt it] — it is not hard to get your hands on Linux, for example, it only takes one game that motivates you to go there."

"I think, even then, customers are getting more and more convenient, so you really need to convince them how can they marry it into their daily lives and make an integral part of their lives," he explained, sharing that the studio has used Linux servers because it was a "superior operating system to do so".

It's an interesting perspective to be sure and maybe there's some potential there... but it'd take a brave developer to release their game as a Linux-exclusive. Unlike Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo, who can throw money at a studio to stay beholden, there's no equivalent body that represents Linux.

One could even argue that the concept goes against what open source is about, though I doubt many gamers would lose sleep over this particular quandary.

Linux only needs one 'killer' game to explode, says Battlefield director [Polygon]


    Making a killer app in the first place is hard enough, doing so on an OS that for many people would require learning an entirely operating system, a reformat, losing access to many programs or games that they already have, and dual booting would take it beyond the level of general computer knowledge/effort for something to be a killer app.

    Hell, even apple had to take advantage of people's contrarian nature to get the market share they got after Steve Jobs returned.

    Windows and Mac OS are far too ingrained for a single game to be able bring yet another OS into prominence, and Apple have already used the various marketing angels that Linux could have used (e.g. less susceptable to viruses, even though its only a lack of market share that has resulted in less viruses being targeted)

      This is why I, and many, think that Steam OS could be the perfect solution.

      By marketing this OS for consoles it's competition becomes the PS3/4, the XBox 360/One and the Wii U. This market is a lot easier to push for Linux as comparability is even ground on all fronts as both the XBox One and the PS4 will have no back catalog, only new games. Granted they'll be AAA mostly, but all it takes for Linux and Steam OS to become big here is a killer game, or 3.

      And if Steam OS is a success on console, then Linux on the desktop gets a huge boost. This is because any game that runs on Steam OS should run on Linux with very minimal effort.

      So as a developer, I could make a game for 1 OS and have it work on PC and console. That's gonna be the selling point for Linux gaming.

      And of course and OEM could go make a Steam OS phone or tablet, provided it's x86-64, and that would have all these games to.

      But all this hinges on the Steam Machine becoming successful for gamers and developers. If it is, then Linux gaming is a go.

        Actually, the success of the steam box could potentially doom the chances for an uptake in Linux on desktop computers, as many people would see no point in trying to set up a dual boot system if they could play Linux exclusives on a separate device.

        Yeah, steam box being successful could mean more Linux compatible games, but AAA Linux exclusives would require a massive uptake of Linux OS devices, and Microsoft and Apple are just too entrenched a great number of computer users for a major shift in OS usage to happen without a multi-billion dollar advertising and upgrade assistance campaign.

      My Dad uses Ubuntu. I installed it on his computer, because his windows setup was getting crufty and needed to be wiped clean. I didn't have the windows installation media or license key any more, so decided to see if he'd take to Ubuntu.

      A few years later, he's still powering on with it. Works flawlessly, and is as fast as when I initially installed it. An added bonus; I don't have to do as much tech support, because Ubuntu doesn't suffer from weird browser addons, activex controls that control you, and strange services that run in the night, all of which slowly cause OS death.

      I'm sure my story isn't unique. It's only possible because Linux is freely and immediately downloadable, without licensing headaches. The accumulation of such installs could eventually be quite significant.

        I haven't any issues with Windows. Plus all my work software is made on/for it as well. What is your point that you're trying to make?

          My main point is that Linux uptake is cumulative, and many are due to windows licensing and reinstall issues. It's slow, but it's a consistent gain.

          Another minor point is that a computer illiterate person can easily use Linux. These days, it's not just for the technically inclined.

    I think that Linux will take off if developers keep making ports of games. The killer app of Linux is it's price. As long as users can be confident they can switch and keepgetting the AAA games, they will start to move just on cost and not having to use the new Microsoft UI.

    The only thing that keeps Linux away from being a gaming platform is how unfriendly the system was before. However it had been changed over time, Ubuntu, Linux Mint are fantastic for new users, drivers also are easier to install and update and thanks to dedicated community, software and Apps on Linux just keep getting better and better.

    Needs good driver support, not just a game.

    No one equivalent body, like errrrrr, Valve? Half Life 3 could be such a title? No?

      OMG could you imagine the outcry if Valve pulled that stunt lofl...there would be much wailing and gnashing of teeth across this massive globe of ours

    Linux could only have a realistic chance of success when it is plug-and-play like Windows and Mac. It is very rare today that a piece of software or hardware doesn't not work on Win or Mac with just plugging it in and doing nothing else.

    Look at Mac. They were already a stable and easy OS but the thing that made them super main stream was their hardware. The hardware I refer to is their "i" line of products. Millions of Macs have been sold because people are already using the same/similar interface on their daily handheld device. You got Android but it is not OS singular in that it works with everything so no one even notices it works with Linux except for Linux users.

    I think this raises the more important question: Why do we need another 3rd OS? Even if it is popular, it'll take ages to even get to Mac popularity(excluding server use) and you're making Dev code for 3 OS be it productivity software or games. Seems like people are thinking this through and I honestly don't see the benefit of moving to Linux.

      Linux is plug-and-play, even more so than Windows and Mac. It supports a greater range of hardware than Mac, and drivers are all included natively with the OS, which saves having to hunt down drivers, like you sometimes have to do with Windows. Exceptions to drivers included in the OS are the graphic and printer drivers; the first is included with the graphic system (Xwindows), and the second generally comes with the Cups printing system (which is also used by OSX, it being developed by Apple and all).

      Why do we need a 3rd OS? Well, why not! Have you heard strength through diversity? Monoculture leads to vulnerability. Besides, with game engines like Unity, any code will run on all three systems. But, you know, the main reason is because we're all different, and not all of us like to run Windows or OSX.

        Who are you trying to kid? Linux is not as easy to use as Windows or Mac. The fact that all the popular apps aren't available on it make it difficult to use. Also now you're making up things about drivers and such, that was a tiny issue on XP and Vista had its own problems but they always found the drivers and then Win7 and Win8 are perfect in that respect.

        Strength through diversity for who? You have any idea how annoying it is coding for 3 separate platforms? Right now it is currently Windows, OSX, 3DS, Vita, XBone, PS4, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Windows RT and Wii U. Yeah sure why not add another one. What is the point. Don't give some buzz word crap like "Monoculture leads to vulnerability". There are no benefits from having a 3rd OS other than all those people who've backed it for so long finally get to say they didnt waste their time.

          No, I'm not kidding anyone. I'm quite serious.

          My father, who is computer illiterate, uses Ubuntu on a regular basis. So, on that basis, it appears that Linux is as easy to use as any other OS.

          I wouldn't use popular apps as a benchmark for ease of use. My father uses Libreoffice quite easily, yet put him in front of Microsoft Office, and he gets completely confused with the ribbon design.

          Not making anything up about the drivers. The thing with windows is, if the driver isn't included with the system, then you have to use manufacturer drivers. These drivers can vary greatly in quality. The great thing about Linux is that the drivers are coded by kernel programmers, so they know the system intimately, and the drivers are of a much more consistent quality. I've had consistently good experiences with Linux and drivers. I wish I could say the same about windows. No, windows 7 and 8 are not perfect. No system is.

          Actually, I have had experience with maintaining C code between 32-bit and 64 bit systems. All I can say is that the compiler preprocess is your friend. Not quite the same as coding for separate platforms, but again, that's a moot point for games, when gaming engines do the multi-platform work for you.

          I'm not trying to buzz-word you with the monoculture reference. I'm sorry if you don't understand the premise behind it, because it is rather important. There are many benefits to having a 3rd OS, and even more. If you don't want to accept my arguments, that's fine. Thankfully, there are many more people out there that do, and because of that, we have an awesome system.

    The benefit of moving to Linux, is I have over 20tb of content, and I can manage it all, tag it, sort it, etc because I have shell access. Windows is a total pain in the ass to manipulate text on. Batch scripting on Windows is a joke. As a gaming platform it's been pretty decent for years. I'd argue the biggest problem atm is wine on 64-bit Debian. It's a total pain in the ass to get installed/running. Debian need to get on top of it. I've been experimenting with packaging it myself.

      The modern unix shell is an awesome beast, but windows is actually quite nice if you use Powershell. I still find it awkward compared to the unix shell, but it is powerful, and definitely no joke.

      For example, to do a bulk rename under unix, you could use the following perl supplied rename command:
      rename 's/\.jpeg/.jpg/' *.jpeg

      The same under powershell would be:
      get-childitem *.jpeg | rename-item -newname { $ -replace '\.jpeg','.jpg' }

      So, as you can see, it's awkward, but it does have power. It's certainly leagues better than anything windows has ever had before. Ignoring Cygwin, of course.

      If you're running Debian, maybe the wine64-bin package will help you out. Although in all honesty, wine is one of Debian's few weaknesses. They never seem to have recent packages of it, even in experimental. Ubuntu is much better in this regard.

    The only thing keeping me on windows is the lack of support from major studios. If I can't get my elder scrolls fix then I ain't budging. There's also the matter of the large amount of windows only indie games which I love playing.

    Let me know when Linux can stand on equal ground with windows and I'll reconsider.

    If the linux versions run faster with better graphics, then hard core gamers will switch. If the games aren't noticeably better, then why bother apart from the cost of the MS OS?
    I friggin hate Microsoft, hate being treated like a criminal by them every time I upgrade my PC and have to beg them to transfer my software license, and have them check up on me like a parole officer every day to make sure I am not stealing the OS I bought.

    But the software I need to use (Adobe Suite, Office and some audio apps) just aren't available on Linux, so I have moved mostly over to Mac and OSX, I get the linux command line which is great for big tasks, and don't have the friggin Microsoft making it difficult to install the OS.
    I run a Debian server, but wouldn't run Linux on the desktop as there is no compelling reason to from a software point of view. Image editing and office apps on Linux simply aren't as good.
    Linux is still tricky, installing XBMC for example is different on Red Hat, to on Debian to Ubuntu.
    It isn't a seamless experience getting updates, it varies from Vendor to Vendor.

    If the Steam machine (I wish they had called it the Steam Engine!) changes all that, and makes the Linux OS popular enough for the big software vendors to release their apps and games for Linux, then that would be great, but it would take something amazingly compelling.

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