THQ Weighing “Costs and Benefits” of Linux for Video Games

THQ Evaluating Linux Operating System for Upcoming Releases

by Anton Shilov
12/19/2012 | 06:53 PM

 

THQ, a major game publisher, is currently evaluating Linux operating system for its upcoming games. While the market of video games for Linux is relatively limited, game developers like id Software have been releasing titles for Linux for about a decade now. Valve Software, an influential game designer and the owner of Steam video game distribution service, is also considering Linux.

Jason Rubin‏, the president of THQ, said in a Twitter post recently that he “got the Linux message load and clear via #HumbleBundle feedback”. At present, THQ is evaluating costs and benefits Linux platform could provide the publisher. In general, not all games tend to become popular on Linux, given the fact that it is not a platform for consumers in general. Therefore, it is logical to expect THQ to cherry pick titles that make sense for Linux.

“The message I took away from a large number of tweets and comments around the THQ Humble Bundle sale is that there are vibrant communities of gamers using other operating systems besides the dominant ones, and a company like THQ should not overlook them,” Mr. Rubin said in a conversation with Polygon web-site.

 

It is necessary to remember that the vast majority of modern video games are designed for Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3 game consoles and only then ported to Windows. Porting to Linux represents additional costs and challenges, primarily because the two OSes use different application programming interfaces. Games for Windows mostly use Microsoft DirectX and less often OpenGL API, whereas Mac OS and Linux generally rely on OpenGL.  

Obviously, THQ could port titles to OpenGL, OpenCL and other open APIs and avoid Microsoft Corp.’s DirectX, but that may not be the best solution as the consumer hardware and software is tailored for DirectX these days. A special DirectX-to-OpenGL layer could lower performance and reduce visual appeal of advanced games. Moreover, there are breakthrough titles, such as 4AGames’ Metro 2033: Last Light, which are designed to run on PCs and which take advantage of the leading-edge technologies, including those from DirectX. Those games will be hard to port to Mac OS and Linux as they are tailored to take maximum advantage of platforms they are run on.

  

Furthermore, the PC is no longer the primary gaming device in general, which makes things even more complicated. This naturally reduces THQ’s motivation to port to Linux as the latter represents only a small fraction of PCs. Moreover, users of Linux are even less inclined to buy games than Windows users, which clearly lowers commercial prospects of Linux ports.

According to Jason Rubin, Linux fans are even offering to help porting games to the platform. While this may reduce costs, THQ will unlikely let outsiders to work with the original code as it contains certain patented technologies.

Screenshots from the upcoming Metro 2033: Last Light title by 4AGames and THQ.