Popular Tools of Linux Gamers in 2021

We are progressively reaching the end of our Q2 2021 survey analysis articles. This time we look at the usage of a specific set of tools among Linux Gamers. We wanted to know how many people were familiar and using the following solutions:

Those are all very different set of tools with different purposes, so there’s no particular category we were aiming for in this list. It’s also not exhaustive, we could have made a list with 100 entries but we also need to keep it somewhat short.

You can probably guess that some of them are more popular than others. It will come as absolutely no surprise to learn that ProtonDB is, for example, widely known and used. But how about Steam Tinker Launcher (STL) vs GameHub? or Minigalaxy vs Heroic Games Launcher? Such comparisons of popularity are not as obvious.

We asked each respondent to rate their experience with each tool by choosing one of the following statements:

  • I know and use it
  • I know but barely use it
  • I know but never used it
  • No idea what this is

Let’s look at the overall results.

Tools Most Linux Gamers Use

Here’s the full picture: (click to expand)

Tools of linux Gamers: Overall picture

A few observations:

  • As mentioned earlier, no surprised about ProtonDB. It’s an essential tool to know what works on Steam, and what tweaks to apply to make certain games work. At Boiling Steam we make extensive use of it in both our monthly reports for new games working with Proton, as well as in our Newsletter.
  • Second is Lutris. About half of the respondents seem to be using Lutris, which is more than I expected. I have never been much of a Lutris user myself, and completely stopped using it once Proton became a robust solution. There are of course some other reasons to use it (emulators, wine environment management, etc…) so there’s definitely uses cases out there.
  • All other solutions are not widely used. Most people know about Steam Link but only about 15% are using it. Which is a shame as it’s a very robust piece of software to stream games at home. The HeroicGamesLauncher and Legendary have a fraction of users (5-6%) and reasonable awareness. GameHub, STL, and MiniGalaxy have about the same profile: low awareness, therefore low usage. Lgogdownloader is the last in the pack, despite powering MiniGalaxy.
  • GUI solutions have definitely more awareness than command-line clients, this is true for HeroicGamesLauncher which uses Legendary for downloads, and MiniGalaxy which uses Lgogdownloader as well.

So what do you do with this?

If your project has low awareness, you probably need to ensure it gets some reviews and some social presence (Twitter, Reddit, Youtube, etc…) in order to get some visibility. Easier said that done, but software development is half about the technical aspects and half about finding your users. We have been featuring STL several times on our end as we believe it’s an excellent tool to help setup your Steam Library with the highest flexibility – hopefully this will help raise its awareness a little in the longer run.

ProtonDB is an interesting beast. Massively useful right now, what will happen to it once Valve integrates its Steam Verified program? There will certainly be less needs for it – while testing custom Proton builds would remain one advantage of having ProtonDB around.

Now let’s look at user patterns, and not just the big picture anymore.

3 Patterns Emerging

We can see three patterns emerging from the data (done through a hierarchical multi-dimensional pattern analysis process). It’s going to be a busy graph, so you better click on it to observe what is happening in full screen first.

Tools of Linux Gamers: pattern analysis

Let me name the groups that emerge:

  • Cluster 1: Low-Awareness Users (65%)
  • Cluster 2: Tinkerers (10%)
  • Cluster3: Informed Yet Selective Users (25%)

Low-Awareness users (Cluster 1) are only familiar with the most common tools such as ProtonDB, Lutris and Steam Link. It’s very likely that if they have not heard of STL, they won’t know about Heroic Games Launcher either. For some reason they have not been exposed to such information yet. A massive opportunity!

The Tinkerers (Cluster 2) have pretty high awareness and tend to use pretty much everything available. They feature the largest percentages of usage for every single tool. They are likely to know or try everything. I am in that category myself, I like to experiment (which means also waste my time more often than not), so I can kind of relate with that pattern of behavior.

The Informed Yet Selective Users (Cluster 3) don’t use anything much apart from Lutris, ProtonDB and Steam Link, just like the Low-Awareness users of Cluster 1. The key difference is, however, that they have a very high level of awareness of all solutions: they know it’s there, they just have decided not to bother… yet. They may be on their way to become Tinkerers, or some of them may remain unconvinced of the usefulness of such tools.

As you can see, there’s no average Joe and there are typically very different kinds of behavior among end users, even on Linux. You’d think everyone is likely to be a tinkerer and try every tool out there, but that’s far from being the case. The fact that 65% of users are in some kind of low-awareness segment means we all need to do a better job at sharing what we know and spread the word.

Other Q2 2021 Survey related articles

We have already written extensively about the Q2 2021 Survey results and what insights we can derive from them – check out the following topics if you did not have a look yet:

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Thank you again for your support! 👍


Nice list! Another thing worth mentioning is Luxtorpeda which allows many games that have only a Windows/Mac version on Steam to be played using their official or unofficial native ports instead of using Proton. 🙂