Steam Linux Sale : Results

Shortly after we published our giant sales report, Defender's Quest: By the Number, part 2, the Steam Linux client officially went public and was accompanied by a site-wide sale.

The Linux sale featured every single Linux-compatible game on the service, including Defender's Quest.  In preparation for this article, I asked the good people of Reddit's /r/linux_gaming subreddit what sort of data they'd like to see, and today I'd like to answer both their questions and yours.

Steam Sales

Over the course of the Steam Linux sale, we grossed $16,958 and made 2,079 sales. Let's compare that to the various other Steam sales we've participated in:

And here's a graph for easier visualization:

In case you didn't know it already, this graph clearly shows that we made most of our money on Steam during sales periods ;)

As for the Linux sale, there were only about 50 or so games that took part, a small enough number that every single one of them could share equally in the spotlight of the main sales promotion page.

Platform Breakdowns

The question on everybody's mind is : how many Linux users are there anyway?

Apparently a lot. I was surprised to see nearly three times as many Linux sales as Mac sales, as conventional wisdom has it that Linux is a much smaller market than Mac. There's several possible explanations for these results - pent-up demand from Linux users, Defender's Quest being one of only a handful of Linux games available, and the Linux theme of the promotion itself. There's also the possibility that we've simply been under-estimating the Linux market all along (especially considering the results from the various Humble Indie Bundles).

As a quick aside, the fact that our game is multi-platform has generated bonus revenue above and beyond what we've earned from Mac and Linux users. If not for our Linux build, we wouldn't have been invited to the Steam Linux sale, and the majority of that came from Windows users.

Methodology matters just as much as raw data, so here's how Steam calculates "linux" and "mac" users: "Mac/Linux sales are based on platform of purchase; or after 7 days, the platform with the most minutes played."

That's pretty straightforward, except for an ambiguous edge case - what happens if someone buys the game on Windows, plays for a minute, and then logs 60 hours on their Linux box 10 days later? Are they counted as a Windows user or a Linux user? (I've written to Valve for clarification on this). I'm not sure there's enough cases of this sort of thing to grossly affect the data.

UPDATE: Valve confirms: "Hi Lars, Great question.  The correct interpretation is #1, steam looks at the player’s play time and reassigns their platform category once and for all."

In any case, data from a one-week, Linux-themed sales period isn't exactly typical, so I compared these results to our lifetime direct (non-steam) sales stats. These numbers only account for sales made directly through  Whenever someone purchased the game from our site, they got links to Windows, Mac, and Linux builds of the game. Our storefront software, FastSpring, tracks how many times users click on each link.

Just as on Steam, Windows clearly dominates, and at least for our direct sales, Mac has a slight lead over Linux.

Our Linux builds came in three flavors - DEB, TAR.GZ, and RPM, to accommodate the various different Linux distributions. Of these, the DEB package accounted for 52% of downloads, the TAR.GZ had 36%, and the RPM package came in last at 11%.

This data set accounts for overall download attempts, not individual users. Our storefront provider, FastSpring, lets user download each file up to 6 times before a fixed expiration date, after which we have to manually reset the link at the customer's request. (Needless to say, this "feature" makes me want to replace FastSpring at the first opportunity).

Adobe AIR

One thing to keep in mind is that our game is built on Adobe AIR, which Linux users famously hate with a passion (along with Flash).  Since Adobe dropped support for AIR on Linux after version 2.6.0, Linux users have had to manually install the run-time, which can be a painful and error-prone process. To aid them, we created a special help page with step-by-step instructions, and put a prominent link to it on the front page of our site.

For the Steam build, my wonderful Linux guru Alexander Sturm was able to create an easy-installer script that provides all of the dependent libraries Adobe AIR needs, and then installs it with one simple click when you first launch the game from Steam. This works great on most distributions - especially Ubuntu and Mint, and we're ironing out the kinks with decent success for more obscure distros like ARCH.

So, keep in mind that our Linux sales could have been higher if we weren't bearing the stigma of Adobe AIR. (One of many reasons I'm seriously looking into using Haxe for our next project).


Last week on this reddit thread and Twitter I initially reported that our direct Linux downloads were about twice that of Mac, but clearly I had miscalculated -- my apologies! Still, all together Mac and Linux represent 18% of our direct revenue, and Linux revenue is not far behind Mac.  The results from the Steam Linux sale clearly put Linux over Mac, though only time will tell whether it maintains this lead moving forward.

Since I like to use technologies that makes it easy to target multiple platforms, I don't have to put an enormous amount of effort into "porting" a game to Mac or Linux. It's usually just a matter of changing the export settings on my compiler and doing a little troubleshooting when per-platform bugs crop up. I'd estimate we spent less than $1,000 worth of labor getting our game to run on Linux. All in all, that's a small price to pay for what turns out to be a significant chunk of revenue.

Maybe Linux gaming will take off, maybe it won't. Maybe the Steambox will be a huge game-changer, and we'll reap the benefits of being a launch title, or maybe not.

Whatever the case, I see three things in the Linux gaming community: a passionate and under-served market, little competition, and plenty of room for growth. That's the perfect place for an indie to be.

-Lars Out


avarisclari said...

On the replace fastspring part, you can have it go to a link on your website that you have hidden from view so that the links never expire.

Arne Babenhauserheide said...

1k$ made you 16k$ revenue - congrats on the good strategy!

Ynot_82 said...

Also worth noting that most of the "OS stats" things have a huge bias toward the US.

As an example, over 30% of w3counter's stats are from the US.
This causes all sorts of skewing effects (not just OS %age)

Hemebond said...

I bought DQ on Desura (which I will always choose over Steam) but couldn't get it working (Adobe AIR) so had to send it back.

Real shame too because I quite enjoyed the demo.

Buster said...

Faulty analysis is faulty.

I am not seeing Defender's Quest available on the Mac App Store, and by your own FAQ is not available for the iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch. This necessarily means the vast majority of the Apple market necessarily will never hear of this game, let alone download it and play it.

The conclusion that there are more Linux users is specious and, at best, self-justification. You simply have no hard data to go by because you have not set your product in front of the vast majority of the 100 million or so people who use Apple's portable computers. Until you have that data for comparison, you cannot say one or the other is better. You can simply say *of the people paying attention to Steam at that moment in time* (which is a minuscule percentage of the overall gaming market), X percent are Windows, Y are Mac and Z are Linux users.

But only a fool would even imply the Linux market is larger than the overall Mac/Apple market. That's the sort of faulty, emotional reasoning that makes companies dead in a hurry.

ean5533-EEG said...


"The conclusion that there are more Linux users [than Mac users] is specious and, at best, self-justification."

Who ever made that claim? I don't see it anywhere in the article, implied or stated directly. Lars didn't even speculate about the size of the Linux user base versus Mac. All he said is that the Linux (gaming) user base is probably larger than is traditionally assumed, and that on Steam he happened to generate more revenue from Linux users than Mac users.

So you're arguing a straw man, and you're throwing around claims of "emotional reasoning". You may want to look at yourself as the one who's being emotional.

Buster said...

You edit my remarks to make them say something I did not say, then destroy the construct you crafted. Ok, I guess you proved something but I cannot, for the life of me, determine what that was.

The entire thrust of the article, which obviously zoomed over your head, was there were more Linux users than thought. No one, least of all me, implied this is in proportion or relation to Mac users. Your biases filled in the blanks your lack of comprehension could not, and you were off to the races.

My point was, is, and will always be simply this : Without a direct comparison bourne from having a product on the Mac App store, this comparison is meaningless and quite foolish.

urgyapis said...

"No one, least of all me, implied this is in proportion or relation to Mac users. [...] Without a direct comparison bourne from having a product on the Mac App store, this comparison is meaningless and quite foolish."


Anyway, very happy to see that it took so little dev time to get it onto Linux. I hope the same goes for your adventures into Haxe :-)

Lars Doucet said...

One more personal attack and you're gone. Fair warning. Disagree if you like (and please do!) but don't call people names - your arguments can and should stand by themselves.

As for the analysis, it's a limited data set and I have been clear about my methodology.

This is a very narrow analysis about 2 stores from which customers can choose a platform for the game. Right now this is just our own direct store, and Steam.

I did not include data from GOG, which sells versions on both Mac and Windows, as well as Desura, Impulse, or Kongregate, for this reason.

The data can speak for itself and all I'm saying is Steam's Linux market, as well as the direct-sales Linux market, is bigger than I thought. I expected about a 10th of these sales, so my conclusion is that it was more than I expected. I also pointed out that this was during a temporary sales period on Steam, so Linux could very well fall behind Mac on Steam in the next few months. As I plainly stated in the article, only time will tell.

I'm sure plenty of Mac users use the App store, and if we ever get on there I will include that data, but in a comprehensive sales report comparing sales data from all sources. I haven't gone through with it yet because Apple has a very cumbersome developer registration system.

Furthermore, I'm only making statements about Mac vs. Windows vs. Linux on personal computing platforms. Mobile doesn't come into this at all. This isn't about the total apple market share - if we were to go that direction we would also have to consider that Android is built on linux and consider that part of the "linux" market I haven't tapped into. But that'd be irrelevant to this limited sales report anyway, which only focuses on two stores:
Steam, and our direct sales website.

Thanks for your time everyone.

Bob/Paul said...

"and by your own FAQ is not available for the iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch. "

MacOSX is a different platform than iOS. This game only runs on desktops. Lumping iOS in with MacOSX is explicitly wrong.

MacOS X is as related to iOS as Linux is to android, and Android is way bigger than iOS. If you're going to lump OSX with iOS, you have to lump desktop Linux with Android. But that's all moot since this is a discussion about desktop gaming platforms.

HoneyPot FP said...

Steam stats shows that 1~2% (if you count others, wich maybe non ubuntu linux distros) are linux users.

this is the total number of players on steam not players who buy your game.
but if you count
titles avaliable / number of users
you see why linux is great to indie developers.

BTW the second Pie chart sum reach 101% =P

im on ubuntu right now, i buy 17 games on linux promo.

sorry, i guess i dont buy your game xD.

Daniel Butler said...

I don't understand the update you posted from steam. Is that saying that after the 7 days reclassifies it, and then it never classifies it again?

Lars Doucet said...

@Daniel Butler:
Correct. When you purchase a game, Steam looks at your OS. Let's say it's windows. Steam adds a "windows user" to that game's internal sale records.

7 days later Steam looks at your playtime stats on each platform. Let's say you have more minutes on Linux now. It removes one "windows user" and adds one "linux user" to the game's internal sale records.

2 months later you've logged 100 hours of playtime on your mac, far more than on windows or linux. Steam ignores this, and you will forever be considered a "linux user" in the game's internal sale records.

Daniel Butler said...

@Lars Doucet

Thanks for the clarification. That's too bad, theres a lot of games I'll play on linux with steam now, but I'm probably marked down as a Windows user. Like all the humble bundle games I've claimed on Steam, but mostly have played on Linux without steam.

Jesus Emilio Villa Giraldo said...

83+7+11=101% math doesn't wrong.

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