When is Canonical Going To Start Making Games?
Over the last two years I have been asking myself this question frequently. Canonical producing first party titles for Ubuntu going to happen. Perhaps not today or a few months from now but someday. Why?
First lets look at this from the demand side: there is a huge demand for quality games on Ubuntu. This means even if Canonical could convince 12% of it’s 8 million plus users to buy a $20 game Canonical can generate a revenue of over $20 million. Just as a side note: if Canonical managed to sell a game to 1 million people (12.5% of 8 million) it would become one of the top selling PC games of all time! Now you have to wonder is it possible? Could Canonical really make a game appeal to 12% of it’s users? Well it would be difficult but it certainly is possible.
This brings me to my second point: Canonical needs to demonstrate that Ubuntu is a great platform to develop for. Not just for open source applications but also proprietary ones. The economics of the video game market make it highly unlikely that ALL or even most games will ever be open source, it is just too easy to make a profit on them. Moreover, many games already for allow for huge amount of customization and innovation without being completely open source (just look at Starcraft/warcraft). So most of the time game companies have very little to gain and a lot to lose with open source releases. Demonstrating the success of a proprietary title could bring more of these games to Ubuntu.
Now if Canonical were to release propriety games it would face a lot of backlash from certain community members. Yet, releasing propriety games to the platform is better solution than the “free core” model. In that model a company sponsors the development of a distribution but sells a “enhanced” version of it. This of course introduces some conflicts of interest which could make the overall quality of the free distribution suffer. As well Canonical would have a lot more reason to contribute to various background services projects (kernel, xserver/wayland, open source drivers).
I know some people still aren’t convinced but the fact is: Canonical has to sell something to make money on Ubuntu! Money has to change hands and I much rather Canonical start selling games (something that Ubuntu lacks) than the alternatives: applications and closed source services.
If Canonical were to make a highly successful game release on Ubuntu you know other companies are going to take notice. Which could spur more major publishers to release more Ubuntu games.
Lastly, Canonical could build Ubuntu One integration into their games. Not only would this be a great feature: it would allow Canonical to open source the server side code of Ubuntu One. Why? There would finally be a great reason to use Ubuntu One instead implementing a small instance on your own server. With features like saved game sync’ing, achievements and a central server for gamer IDs/voice chat shared between games (like Xbox live and Battlenet): people would have a great reason to use the central Ubuntu One service even if they have to pay a few dollars a month.
Many other platforms have been highly successful in producing first party games. Where would Nintendo be without Mario? The Xbox without Halo? How about Steam without Counter Strike? It is time Canonical step up and build an amazing game.