HardPenguin’s Linux gaming predictions for 2021

5 min readMar 1, 2021
This totally gonna be the year of Linux gaming!

The text appeared first on Boiling Steam.

1. We are in a stalemate

When Ekianjo approached me to ask about my Linux gaming expectations for 2021, I had to stop and think for a while.

It has been a good while since Valve’s Steam for Linux debut, Steam Machines, fully cross-platform Humble Bundles, partial support from big names like CD Projekt and their GOG.com, or Paradox and their Plaza. Since all those great ports released by Feral, Aspyr, Virtual Programming, and many less known porting heroes. Vulkan being pushed as a new industry standard and with it, the dawn of new fantastic tech, such as DXVK. Many of us prophesized the end of Wine era. Era of endless tinkering with configurations and workarounds. It was safe to talk about growth of the dreaded Linux percentage share in the gaming market.

And yet, just as unexpectedly as it started, it stopped. Less dedicated ports from big publishers, no fully-fledged support from SteamVR, GOG Galaxy, Epic Games Store. No interest from the biggest of fish: EA, Ubisoft, or Blizzard. Linux gaming only mentioned in context of Google products, Stadia and ChromeOS.

That is when we were pushed again into the loving arms of Valve and trusted companionship of Wine. Steam Play Proton has arrived. And with it? Support for thousands of Windows games, often right after their premieres. We could no longer count on porting studios but we could count on the company that made Linux their business over 20 years ago — CodeWeavers. And, as always, on ourselves. The community. Because it was yet again an enormous, valiant community effort that picked up Steam Play and carried it way beyond anyone’s expectations.

Look, I am not a doomsayer. But I am not an incurable optimist either. I think we all can admit that we progressed some, then regressed some. And then progressed again. It is true that the Linux gaming is right now in the best state it ever was. But Linux is still not easily available on gaming laptops worldwide. We are still less numerous than macOS users. And we are still hearing about games releasing on “PC”, and not “Windows and Linux”.

And that is how I am gonna begin this list. With a stalemate. The time of spectacular breakthroughs is over. And in 2021, I expect nothing ground-breaking to happen in the Linux gaming area.

Paradox Store with Linux support

2. More seamless Steam Play

Just like I said, Steam Play is the hottest topic these days and for a damn good reason. Even I, the old “no tux no bucks” principle follower, spend more time in Windows games (made easily available thanks to Proton) than in Linux native games. But Steam Play capabilities have been expanded. Thanks to the commendable community work tools like Luxtorpeda, Boxtron and Roberta make it possible to use not only Proton to run Steam titles, but also ScummVM, DOSBox, OpenMW, ioquake3, Arx Libertatis and many more. After trying it out I am completely sold on the idea.

And the Proton itself? From month to month its compatibility and efficiency grows.

All of that makes it pretty clear that Steam Play still has a lot to offer. And in this year I want to see what else that will be. Perhaps it will not be a proper support from the nasty anti-cheat mechanisms, constantly locking out Linux gamers from multiplayer sessions in Fortnite and PUBG. But I am sure that it will be worth waiting for.

3. Wayland gaming is a thing

Recently we have heard that NVIDIA is putting together final work towards supporting XWayland. The Wine project does not waste time either — Collabora has shared an update on this topic just days ago. Nearly 10% of GamingOnLinux users who participate on the website’s survey declared the use of a desktop Wayland session. Maybe you and your friends do not use it yet for gaming but I guarantee there will be someone on Reddit who does, sharing their experiences in the comments.

We might be waiting for Wayland for well over 10 years to truly introduce Linux displays into modern times. But it is happening and it is only a matter of time until all popular game engines and libraries stop depending on X server in their new releases.

Who knows? Perhaps 2021 will be the year for many major distributions (hi Ubuntu!) to push with new strength for Wayland.

The latest indie hit Valheim was developed with Unity on Linux

4. Game development on Linux is becoming more viable

Thanks to the unstoppable power of open source, Linux was always a safe shelter for tech geeks, programmers, developers. People always were and always will be developing games on Linux. This list, curated by Cheeseness confirms it.

For many years engines and frameworks such as Love2d, RenPy, Cocos2d, MonoGame, FNA, Cube, HaxeFlixel, Irrlicht, Kivy, Twine, Ogre3D, libGDX, Torque were the weapon of indie developers. But only quite recently this group was joined by the popular in the industry editors. The famous Unity Editor is pretty much THE game making tool, holding majority of the game development market by sheer game numbers. Defold and Godot also have quite a lot of Steam, Google Play and App Store titles. And there are others, like Stencyl, RPG Maker MV, GDevelop, Visual Novel Maker.

The super-seller Valheim proves one more thing: Linux is not just a platform for developing games, it is a platform for making commercially successful titles. There is more to come, I am sure.

5. Cloud gaming on the rise

Like it or not, the gaming market’s latest craze are cloud gaming services. Big tech names: Microsoft, Google, Amazon are investing insane money in it. The streaming technology and the internet infrastructure around the world have matured a lot in the last decade. Many products, including Stadia, GeForce NOW, Shadow, Luna, Blacknut offer first class Linux support. So why not use it?

With to this technology, games otherwise unavailable even to Wine and Proton are playable right from the Linux desktop. In my case, they are, among many, Call of Duty: Warzone or Destiny 2.

If you are not convinced, you can easily give the streaming a go for free, by utilizing Steam Remote Play, Parsec, or Rainway.

And in 2021 I expect more of game streaming services to be available on Linux.

I regularly play Call of Duty: Warzone on Linux thanks to Parsec and Shadow

Special thanks to Ekianjo.