The budding business case for linux

Wolfire games has teamed up with some of the other top indie game developers and put together a cross platform game bundle that is selling like hotcakes. It includes the games World of Goo, Aquaria, Gish, Lugaru and Penumbra. Their “pay what you want” game bundle has made them half a million dollars (and counting) to be split amongst the developers from the participating studios as well as selected charities (EFF and Child’s Play). While the sale of the bundle is generating some good money, it’s also generating some fascinating statistical data:

Windows ~90% of the market 65% of donations 52% of revenue
Mac ~6% of the market 21% of donations 25% of revenue
Linux: ~1% of the market 14% of donations 23% of revenue

There is plenty of conjecture about why they numbers shake out that way but, pretty much any way you look at them there it is looks like a pretty solid business case for supporting Mac and Linux. Until recently there was precious data about what it might be like selling into the Linux community. Most simply wrote it off assuming that the ~1% market share was all there was to the story. While not every company will have the same experience as Wolfire, I think that they have proved there is more going on there than the 1% suggests.

This bodes particularly well for Valve and their imminent release of their Steam platform for the Mac (curently in Beta), and their upcoming version for Linux. It will be really interesting to see what kind of numbers they come up with after running Steam across all three platforms. If they are anything like the numbers from Wolfire, the next couple of years are going to be pretty interesting for Linux.

I also wonder if the bundle method could also be harnessed as a broader method of funding Free Software development. Imagine a web of cross promotion where developers with easily monitized software (like a game) include a donation to a less easily monitized project (like a bittorrent client) exactly as was done with the EFF in the Humble bundle. Wolfire has done something inspirational, and shown there are lots of possibilities to explore. Go and support them!

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