Linux users show their love for indie game

When I released my indie game Mystic Mine, I had no idea if the Linux version was going to sell. But 7 months later, I must say the results are quite surprising.

Recently I got interviewed by Linux Gaming News about my indie game Mystic Mine, and one of the questions was how many Linux copies I sold. I looked into it and saw that I sell the most copies for Mac OS X, then for Linux, and the least for Windows. I didn’t make much of it, because as an indie game developer it’s easier to get noticed on Mac OS X or Linux than on Windows. And selling games is all about exposure. But after people started to ask questions on this, I looked further into it, and what I discovered really surprised me.

Before releasing Mystic Mine, I honestly had no idea if it was going to sell on Linux. I expected it to sell well on Mac OS X and Windows, because other indies have already reported this, but on Linux, I had absolutely no idea. My initial thoughs were that Linux users are used to getting quality stuff for free, so I didn’t expect them to pay for software. So would they pay for games? Probably not. But now I know how wrong that assumption was. Just look at my findings below.

I released Mystic Mine the 3rd of February 2009, so currently there is 7 months of statistical data. Let’s first take a look at the web visitors I got during that period:

Web visitors by OS

So I got 40.29% visitors using Windows, 36.30% using Mac and 22.58% using Linux. Nothing special with these figures, because it’s easier to get Mac or Linux exposure, but there are still a lot more Windows users.

But if you look at my sales, that’s quite a different story:

  • Mac OS X: 42.72%
  • Linux: 33.98%
  • Windows: 23.30%

Linux represents 1/3rd of my total sales, which is quite a lot if you compare that to the number of Linux visitors I get. And now comes the cool part. Below are the conversion rates per OS for my Mystic Mine game. Conversion rate means the number of sales I get per visitor (Remark that indie game developers normally work with sales per demo download, not per web visitor):

  • Linux: 0.43%
  • Mac OS X: 0.39%
  • Windows:  0.19%

As you can see Linux is way up there, which is quite a surprise to say the least. For every 232 Linux visitors I get on my website, one of them buys my game. If you compare that to windows users, I need 526 of them to get a sale. For Mac OS X it’s 256. So who would have thought that Linux users are the most eager to buy an indie game? Certainly not me.

Of course these statistics are for my game only. Therefore I would love to see some other indie game developers release their sales statistics on this, because if they get the same results as me, Linux is a more viable gaming platform than anyone currently assumes.

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42 thoughts on “Linux users show their love for indie game

  1. Windows gamers tend to get their games for free quite often as well, unless it’s an MMO or pay-to-play game, by nature of the fact that pirating anything in windows is just second nature at this point. The expectation for just about any application, indi or otherwise, from even the not-computer-saavy at this point is that everything is just so expensive, you can always ask your ‘computer friend’ to find you a copy (and this attitude tends to, in my opinion, stem from the cost of basic software in a windows world).

    Mac I can’t comment on, as I’m not very positive about Mac at all.

    Linux however, people are used to paying nothing for excellent things, but one realm that many many people, espicially those that just tinker with linux on, would love to see improvement on is the game aspect. So already you’re in a decent spot, because there just aren’t as many games, unless you use wine – in which case it’s how many game ports, that people have access too. Linux folks tend to also be much more friendly with the idea of spending money (This is a statement from very limited experience, as I can only think of myself and my friends) because everything is naturally free, and it’s easy to hit the ‘donate’ button and send a few dollars someone’s way when a product is outstanding.

    This could be totally off kilter, but it was just my brief thought, and I figured I’d add the comment as well :) We’ll see if I’m a buyer after I get a chance to play the demo.

    Arch Linux – running Chakra/KDE4.2, though I did download your app/will be trying it on Win7 Enterprise Ed., simply because I’d devoted my day to tinkering with it anyway :)

  2. I took a peak at the game site and it does look like an interesting game. Thanks for making it available for gnu/linux !

    What are the requirements for gnu/linux ?

  3. I’ll agree with Vryali. Windows users tend to pay for everything. From expensive hardware to ruin the latest versions of the programs to software for commons needs, like watching DVDs and burn CDs. So when they are going spend even more money for not necessary things like games, they’ll think “How much money spent for the computer-thing lately?” and because they’ll find they spent enough, they’ll say “Hmmm better to find a crack for it and if I can’t, because is not a famous title, I’ll look for another game”.
    With Linux users we have the oppossite story though. They tend to spend nothing, no need to buy software or good hardware since Linux runs everywhere. So its easier to give something just for the fun they have all the time, even if it a game or another type of software.
    I played the demo and I liked it. Thank you very much for the 64 bit support as well. I think I’ll buy it.
    Good luck with your sales :)

  4. Even though there are a lot of free loaders that use FOSS, I think many of them, myself included, enjoy paying for well written software. You see, in many ways FOSS is like a rebellion. Many times it’s some programmers saying “Why am I paying for this crap! I can do better!”. So, those same people are probably pleased when they use well written software. Games are somewhat of an art piece. I can make tools and machines and logical things, but art is enjoyable and I’m not all together that artistic. So I appreciate it when someone else does a fantastic job.

    I’m not a gamer. So I could be way off. Good luck with your game(s)!

  5. Get in touch with the developers of “World of Goo”. I believe they did very well when they released their game to run natively under Linux.

    I agree totally with Florian Sievers’s comment re the atttitiude that users would have to the inclusion of any DRM into games (or indeed any software) available to be run natively under Linux.

    I’m not a gamer, but I *do* appreciate well written software and have paid for commercial software for Linux previously…

  6. Requirements of the game are not that high. Video card or memory doesn’t matter that much, but make sure your processor is fast enough (probably >=1.5Ghz). Best try the demo first, and if that works fine the full version will too.

    About the DRM: I would use it if it worked, but in practice, it doesn’t. DRM currently doesn’t stop piracy, all it does is make it difficult for people who actually buy the product. I care about my customers, I want them to have the best experience. Therefore you won’t see any DRM in my games. If I can make my customers’ life easier and the pirates life harder, I would do it, but DRM actually does the opposite.

    I’m a Linux user myself (Mystic Mine was developed in Linux using FOSS), and the reason is because I like quality software and clean API’s. As I already said in the article, this is truly an eye-opener for me, in the good sense. Linux users are not just freeloaders, they appreciate quality software, and are definitely willing to pay for it. Thanks for the support guys!

  7. Thank you. I get crap from Windows users about the “lack” of quality commercial software, especially games, for Linux. I really don’t know what they mean, the games that are available for Linux are of very high quality, as this game shows.

    And as hinted above, it’s the Windows advocates that are the first to jump to the subject of warez and cracks when the high cost of many commercial applications is brought up. F/OSS answers the demand by making usable commodity software gratis, so that money is made on specialist an high-end applications.

    DRM by itself is just a tool, but it’s an ugly tool that assumes everyone is a criminal. Yes, freeloaders exist and have always existed in every culture. It is human invention that is needed to deal with the “free rider” problem, not restriction.

    Certainly the online system that charges for connection but give away the client is one way, so is charging for service and custom work. What will work for downloadable games? I don’t know, but someone will think of it.

  8. I found the only requirement that I didn’t already have installed was sdl-ttf. A quick installation later (emerge sdl-ttf in Gentoo) and the game was ready to go.

    re: rich; Instructions:
    tar xzf mysticminedemo.tar.gz
    cd mysticminedemo_1.2.0
    ./mysticmine

  9. I like the way magnatune.com works. Free download of the entire song – mp3 or ogg quality, no restrictions. If you want and can pay, then you pay what you think the album is worth, but at least the minimum (I think $5). I have bought at least 2 albums from them and zero songs from ITunes, etc.

    I am a Ubuntu Linux user. I was about to buy your game. But sadly $20 is above my very tight economic situation at the moment. I promised all the kids a trip to Disneyland and we’re sacrificing to make sure it happens this time. We have nine children. Nine children plus two adults doing anything is expensive.

    Anyways, a few months ago, or a few months from now, or a lower price, and I would have bought the game. I played the whole demo and it plays well on my old computer.

    Good luck.

  10. I’d say Mac OS X and Linux simply have more buyers per viewers because those users are more supportive of their growing game markets. Windows users have nothing to worry about there.
    Another thing is, Windows users have loads of on the shelf titles with several million dollar productions. I’m not saying that instantly makes a game better, but it’s at least more appealing to the masses just from looking at the box. We Linux (and Mac) users are more likely to be excited to see a game on our platform at all, do a bit more reading and then judge that, well yes, it’s an indie game, but it still looks like a good one.

  11. Let’s face Linux users like myself understand that some of the best products don’t come from the big studios their made with usability in mind, and in this case playability. I love indie, and I love Linux.

  12. I prefer using windows simply because I don’t want to fight with my OS when I want to install something or find software I need to use. I like the consistency of it. Since one company makes it the naming conventions and builds are easy to figure out.
    Don’t get me wrong, I still have a soft spot for linux (hate mac though) and I would use it more. At this point, there is too much inconsistency and non-standardization in some things that makes it hard to get things done. I’ve run into a lot ‘elitism’ on linux support and help forums too that just make me not want to learn enough of linux’s intricacies to use it on a daily basis.
    I develop programs and games also and it always irks me that there aren’t more games for linux users though. On a system where a plethora of other software is being developed (nearly as much as for windows), it seems like game development isn’t very popular. I’ve never tried programming for linux either, so maybe the available tools aren’t that great for game programming?

    Anyway, good job on the game. I haven’t played it, looked at the sight though. Hopefully linux gets more programmers like you!

  13. I fight almost every day with linux and every day that i learn something i realize that Windows Sucks in every possible WAY!. Yes, it’s true, linux has too many distributions, too many Windows Manager, etc, but, the core is the same and when you stick with a good distribution like Gentoo, in my case Arch you’ll notice that is fantastic and i cry and i said: WHY the games are not in this platform, god why?????. Linux is almost twice most faster than windows, twice more power in your hands that windows, twice more security in certains aspect and almost NO VIRUS and stupid annoying background programs, twice more free software that windows, the console is a fantastic tool… When big games are on linux… I’m sure that Windows will die!!!.

  14. Linux users buy games at such a high price as long as they have nothing else to buy.
    I’m a Windows user and I always pay the minimum price possible and I still spend over $300 a year on indie games.
    You can only spend so much of your money on games. As soon as the supply of Linux games increases, the gamers will stop paying such high prices.
    I don’t think that Linux users are inheritly more generous, than Windows or Mac Users. If Android is any indication it’s rather the opposite. The open source mentality is not known for it’s “Yeah, I’ll pay money for that” mindset.

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