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John Carmack claims porting games to Linux is not commercially viable

Says Wine is easier
Thu Feb 07 2013, 14:31

LEGENDARY GAMES DEVELOPER John Carmack has questioned the business model of porting Windows games to Linux, saying that using Windows emulation might be a better approach.

Carmack, who worked on some of the biggest titles of the past three decades including Doom, Quake and Wolfenstein 3D during his time at ID Software, has been a supporter of Linux with a number of titles being ported to run on the open source operating system. However he posted a lengthy comment on Reddit citing business case reasons to claim that porting games to Linux is not viable.

Carmack's comments, especially given his pro-Linux stance in the past, highlight the lack of native Linux games. He even went so far as to say, "The conventional wisdom is that native Linux games are not a good market. Id Software tested the conventional wisdom twice, with Quake Arena and Quake Live. The conventional wisdom proved correct. Arguments can be made that neither one was an optimal test case, but they were honest tries."

While Carmack laid out the business issues with native Linux games, he suggested that the way forward is through using Windows emulation by improving the performance of Wine. ("Wine" is an acronym that stands for "Wine Is Not [an] Emulator", but in effect it accomplishes the same thing.)

He said, "I truly do feel that emulation of some sort is a proper technical direction for gaming on Linux. It is obviously pragmatic in the range of possible support, but it shouldn't have the technical stigma that it does."

Carmack gave a nod to Valve's Steam content distribution service, saying it might provide a "plausible path forward". Valve recently ported its Steam client to Linux and is working on expanding its library of games that run on Linux, however the firm is in a unique position due to its ability to develop, publish and distribute its titles through its own Steam content distribution system.

Carmack's stark views about the economics of publishing native Linux games might influence games developers to wait for Wine performance to improve before committing resources towards Linux, but then again, that is a goal that might never be achieved. µ


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