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Defender's Quest - Our Steam Linux Sale Results
by Lars Doucet on 02/28/13 01:01:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


(Cross-posted on my personal blog,

Shortly after we published our giant sales report, Defender's Quest: By the Numbers, 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 working 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

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Kevin Reese
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Maybe it's just my personal home PC situation I'm in, but I think it there is a massive untapped demand out there for Linux-gaming.

For myself as an IT guy I'd much prefer to use a Linux-based OS for my primary operating system, but I can't, because I'm a gamer. WINE has come a long away and there are a few good Linux ports but it's nothing compared to Windows game support. I'd leave Windows in a heart-beat if this wasn't the case. (Instead currently, I do mostly everything non-gaming in a Linux-based virtual machine running in Windows 7, and switch to Windows when gaming). And I think there is a vastly under-estimated amount of people that are in the same situation.

If there was a steady stream of just a few quality games being ported to Linux a month, I'd bet anyone a hundred bucks that Linux-based desktop use would just sky-rocket.

Especially with -- caution, disclaimer: opinion here -- how totally unappealing Windows 8 is, how insecure Windows is compared to Linux kernels, and how fantastic many mainstream *free* Linux distro's are getting, such as Mint.

I can not really stress enough how understated I think the impact gaming has on the uptake of home operating systems. Even back near the begining of things, the most popular computer of all time (I think the record may still stand actually), was the Commodore 64. Which had an incredible amount of games from the get-go. It's a chicken-and-egg scenario, but still...

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"Needless to say, this "feature" makes me want to replace FastSpring at the first opportunity"

Humble Store? I think they want 5%, and then it also opens up Google Wallet and Amazon Payments.

Supposedly BMT Micro has the ability to offer non-expiring download links also.

Jeremy Reaban
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Doesn't everyone hate Adobe Air, though? Even as a Windows user, I've refused to use programs that used it.

Lars Doucet
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That's definitely true, but Linux users hate it even more.

On Mac and Windows (but not Linux, thanks to the dropped support) we can compile the game without the Adobe AIR runtime dependency. Instead, it packages the Adobe AIR libraries as dll files (and the mac equivalent), so the game is totally stand-alone and doesn't require an Adobe AIR install, which is much less annoying and (presumably) more secure.

Still, Stigma aside, we've found Defender's Quest runs more smoothly on Linux than certain other "natively ported" Linux-compatible games where little attention was put into the port.

Christian Kulenkampff
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Thanks for the information!
Your findings match with the experience of Puppy Games:
Steam Linux sales stats, units (all our [their] Steam games, last 2 weeks):
Windows: 6,122
Mac: 399
Linux: 1,369

lizi fox
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Interesting numbers..

Some perspective from a linux buyer:
I'm one of the buyers of the linux sale, bought about 7 games during the sale because steam on linux is useless without linuxgames in it. :)
I prefer linux for daytoday usage but since most of the +-50 games in my steam library are windows only, steam probably counts me as a windows user due to most time played in it.
When I bought the game, i did indeed do it from windows. Only this week I took the time to finally get steam setup and running on my ubuntu system and start playing the games.

I love not having to boot to W to just play games (and then getting stuck there because i'm too lazy to reboot to do other stuff).

Good luck with the game! And thanks for supporting linux!

E Zachary Knight
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Didn't realize that Fast Spring downloads expired. I better make sure that I activated my Steam copy.

Lars Doucet
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It's mostly a problem with our legacy customers from January 2012. Back then the links lasted only about a week or so! We bugged FastSpring over and over, and now the links last for a full year, which is still too short in my opinion.

I get emails every day from old FastSpring customers who just found the game on Steam and want to redownload their old copies from Jan 2012, and I have to reset the links manually (which I'm happy to do).

In any case, I am totally ready to kick FastSpring to the curb. In other news I'm talking to a man who represents a certain non-preposessing store widget...