Where Do Linux Users Buy Games? Meet 5 Different Profiles

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We are back with another little story coming from the data collected in April 2021 regarding Linux Gamers’ habits and perceptions. This time we thought it could be fun to go through the usage of game stores… Namely which game stores are currently used by Linux gamers, and at what frequency.

In the survey, we asked people where they buy their games from, with the following choices:

  • Epic Games Store
  • GOG
  • Humble Store
  • Itch.io
  • Origin
  • Steam
  • Third Party Keys Resellers
  • Ubi Store

And we asked at what type of frequency respondents were purchasing games from each of them, using the following metrics:

  • Frequent purchases in said store
  • Infrequent purchases
  • Not purchased anything recently
  • Never purchased anything

Note that we specifically asked not to only consider Linux purchases, but any purchase made on such stores in case they use Mac or Windows as well for gaming.

This gives us some additional information beyond simply a “yes/no” binary answer regarding the usage of each store.

Overall Picture: Steam Remains the King

It should come at absolutely no surprise that Steam is the most popular store among Linux Gamers. After all, it was the first to officially support Linux, and also doing it by bringing numerous games to Linux via native versions, pushing for Steam Machines (Linux-based) and finally developing Proton to make it almost seamless to run numerous Windows games.

Okay, Steam is the clear winner, but is there any close second?

The following graph will answer this question nicely.

Buy Games: Linux users' overall practice
Each bar indicates the percentage of users in each category

As you can see, no competitive store is even close to challenging Steam in terms of adoption right now for Linux gamers. If anything, we do see a very clear pattern that stores that have some level of Linux support (GOG, Humble Store, Itch.io) fare better in terms of Linux users’ adoption. Still nowhere close to Steam, but at least they have some regular/irregular users. Stores with absolutely no Linux support (Origin, Ubi Store, Epic Games Store) follow a different trend, with the large majority of respondents having never used them at all, or not used them anytime recently.

Epic has been giving away numerous games over the past year, and while it may have increased the trial (as in, logging in the platform and checking out the store), it looks like it has hardly moved the needle for Linux Gamers to even bother buying games on it. There are now multiple options to work with the EGS, such as Legendary (CLI) and the Heroic Games Launcher (GUI), but the lack of official support certainly makes things more difficult.

So, should we stop here? No, not when there is more we can gleam from the data! The next step is to do a pattern analysis: what kind of profiles exist out there in terms of usage/purchases across stores?

Clusters of Behaviors: 5 Different Profiles

There’s five clusters that clearly emerge from the data. You may want to click on the picture below to better see the details.

Buying Games: Linux users have 5 different profiles

This is how we can understand each one:

  • Cluster 1: (45.4% of respondents) – Steam only, while split between frequent and infrequent purchases.
  • Cluster 2: (31.3% of respondents) – Steam is the main outlet, with some usage of Humble Store, GOG and Itch.io.
  • Cluster 3: (12.6% of respondents) – Strong usage of Steam, GOG and Humble Store, with also the strongest usage of Itch.io reported.
  • Cluster 4: (10% of respondents) – Steam reigns, with Origin as the second outlet considered. This is also where we find the largest usage of Epic Games Store.
  • Cluster 5: (0.06% of respondents) – Steam, followed by Origin and Ubi Store: that’s almost no one.

Cluster 5 is absolutely negligible in numbers, but carries a very different behavior so we will keep anyway in the analysis.

So Where Do You Fit?

I am probably in the Cluster 2: I almost use Steam exclusively, but I sometimes grab a bundle on Humble Bundle, or (recently less and less often) buy games on GOG when on sale.

I admit I was quite surprised to see the Cluster 4 with a non-negligible user base for Origin (EA). I wonder if such gamers are using Origin at all on Linux, or if it’s simply to play games on Windows. On Steam the experience with EA games installing the Origin client in your back is typically pretty terrible, yet sometimes it works after tinkering with it.

Where are things going?

For Linux gamers, I don’t expect much change in the near future: Steam is here to stay, and more than ever as an ally of Linux gamers since they have announced the Steam Deck that will run SteamOS 3.0 based on Arch Linux.

Other stores are for now showing no sign of equivalent support: Proton is open-source yet only used on Steam so far, while some courageous developers are actually spending their own time to make things less terrible by developing unofficial clients… such as minigalaxy and HeroicGamesLauncher.

A few years ago if you had asked me what would be the next store to support Linux (as in, seriously), I would have said GOG, but GOG has over time decided to completely ignore Linux support (no Galaxy client, and no usage of Wine/Proton either to make Windows titles run on Linux as an option) that they are not a credible actor for most of us anymore.

One of the key factors that could reshuffle things a little is the Steam Deck. If it proves successful enough and IF SteamOS 3.0 delivers on its promises (support the full catalogue including EAC titles), maybe this will become a better incentive for EGS and GOG to publish an actual Linux client for that device. While Tim Sweeney and EGS seem to consider Windows the only “free operating system” so far, I hope that EGS will eventually support Linux with a proper client.

Next Survey Results

We will be looking next at the usage of different distros from the survey, so stay tuned!


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frostworx

Interesting statistics, but generally not too surprising imho. I’d love to buy more DRM free games on GOG, but (usually) resist, until they have native or proton(-esque) linux support. So I exclusively buy steam keys either directly from the steam store, or from several legit 3rd party resellers including humble. Itch would be nice, but imho with all those shovelware games it is pretty hard to find gems (yes, Steam does have many of them too, maybe I simply got used to their interface). Speaking of humble – did they ever officially bury the good old humble indie bundle? The… Read more »

cinos

Buying on Steam? Did they mean renting?