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- Join Date
- Oct 2004
GPL Games and GNU/Linux: Do We Really Need Them Anyway?
For over a year, I've been considering how money can be made writing GPL games. I'm finally putting my thoughts down after some game immersion.
Writing games is hard work, and is probably one of the most lucrative markets when it comes to software - people actually pay to enjoy their computer, be it through simulations or alternate realities. Real time strategy games, arcade style games, massive multiplayer online roleplaying games (MMORPGs)... you name it, people enjoy playing them. It should be noted, too, that a lot of these games assist in developing computer literacy. Show a kid a game on a computer which they are interested in, and they'll rush in undaunted by a lack of computer literacy.
So what is the problem with Free Software and games? Simple. Writing games isn't cheap. Writing good games is a fickle business as well. Look at any leader in the game software industry, and you see a company that spends a lot of time and money on their product. If it's GPL'd, a problem happens - anyone can share it with anyone at no cost, and the original gaming company doesn't make their money. This is probably one of the largest setbacks for the much talked about GNU/Linux desktop - there's not as many games by a stretch when compared to the Windows platform.
GNU/Linux vs. Windows - An Atari Thought
This brings in an interesting parallel. Some of the people who read this may recall a company named Atari. The Atari 2600 gaming console was probably one of the first really successful game platforms created - though more recently, Nintendo and Sega have ruled the market. But what's most interesting about this part of computing history is the role that Atari played in the personal computer market - or better, the role it didn't play.
How many people remember the Atari 130 ST? Or the Atari 520ST? I didn't have one, though I wish I did back then. Most of those old 'Compute!' magazine type-in-yourself games revolved around these platforms (and I had a shoddy Vic20 at the time. Press Play On Tape). But I didn't want the 520 ST so much for games as I did for programming. 512KB of RAM was a LOT of RAM back then. But here's the funny thing - nobody would buy me one (I was a kid) because of one thing. It was an 'Atari', it was stereotyped.
Is Windows going to be stereotyped in the same way? Maybe, maybe not. But with GNU/Linux, there's not as many games which is often seen as a setback. That's not necessarily so. Microsoft may just be getting ready to become the next Atari. After all, OpenOffice.org has quickly shown that it's a multiplatform contender which beats out Microsoft's largest liabilities: Cost and Security.
So what is Windows more than a gaming platform? Is it a mistake that Microsoft has the X-Box? Do they stand a chance against Sega, Sony and Nintendo? I don't know. But it's something to consider.
But for the majority of what I do these days, Windows is just for games. Of course, it's worth wondering what Windows XP Service Pack 2's impact on the gaming industry will be - consider this article about the GNU/Linux Desktop.
But does that mean that since the dominant PC gaming operating system is proprietary, game software has to be proprietary? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe it depends on the game.
GNU/Linux and Games
GNU/Linux does have games. Take a look at LinuxGames.com as one example of an aggregation of games. But standalone games are hard to GPL - standalone meaning that you can play them by yourself.
So how does a game company make money releasing GPL games? The same way that other GPL based companies make money: Service. Is this a new idea? I thought so until I did some searching around and found Full GPL Game Company - Nevrax, posted to Slashdot back in February. And they are even making recent headway.
The concept itself is simple - give away the game, charge for people to access servers to play each other. Many game companies already follow this to some extent - even Microsoft (Asheron's Call, as an example) - though they still charge for the software.
Other games? Who knows. It's a bit of a dilemma - no game company really wants to fork over large amounts of cash and time to simply become philanthropists.
Maybe Microsoft will settle for being a gaming platform. They have a lot of money, they have a lot of talent - but they lack the imagination and dedication of the masses of Free Software and Open Source developers.
Maybe it's better that GNU/Linux doesn't have too many GPL games. Who would want to be stereotyped as a gaming company? Certainly not Microsoft, that's for sure. But nowadays, that's all their OS seems to be useful for.
Does anybody feel like commenting?
this article bases too many assumptions, first it assumes that all linux users are cheap and don't want to pay for anything, that we're holding out our hands saying "gimme, gimme, gimme, -as long as it's free-".
OSS philosophy is to create things better, not free, being free is merely a bonus. if a game programmer came along, programmed a game for linux and then sold it commercially, would i be complaining? no, i wouldn't, because i know that for the price i pay for the game as long as it's a reasonable price is a fair price to pay for the time and effort it took to create that game, not some shoddy piece of coding patched up with shiney spanking gui's to make it look nice.
it was nice to see atari mentioned, since the atari st 520 was the first machine i ever had and was also the reason i now use linux, i found it insulting to compare atari to microsoft even if it was only as a "game os" basis. when atari's first came out, they were top of the range for a price you could afford, that's what made them great, it's a shame people can't appreciate that
given time linux -will- support games much better, right now i can run most quite happily and in a lot of cases better through wine, the game arguement is always the biggest thing people are trying to throw at us these days, but i'd like to see them run the likes of max payne 2 on windows 95
Interesting - try this game, it's good! http://www.cubeengine.com
As for comments, I've only had a quick read through. He seems to say a lot and say nothing at the same time! My view is simple (perhaps too simple?) It all comes down to ones and noughts in the end. Code is code. There's not a lot stopping games developers from writing for Linux, apart from a cultural shift. I would definitely pay for such games provided the quality was there. That's part of the point of 'free' software: you are also free to charge for it :o
The world is full of Open Source commentators at the moment, but do they develop anything? Half of them seem to have a partial view of things, forgetting that they are discussing a culture, not just an OS.
I doubt that M$ will ever be content to just become a gaming platform; these days companies like to diversify. Take Virgin... Someone, please take them! Trains, cola, music stores ... A beardy CE ...I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it. - Pablo Picasso
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- Dec 2004
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I don't quite know what this guy is trying to say. I would be willing to pay for linux games, it's a service beyond the normal functions of the OS, an indulgence, something I'm willing to pay for, because it isn't necessary. I of course only see M$ as a gaming platform, not because it's a good one, but because that's all I could use it for . I wouldn't really like to see linux games distributed freely though, it's a waste.
04-01-2005 #5Originally Posted by smindinvernI am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it. - Pablo Picasso