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Linux vs Windows: Which OS Is Better For PC Gaming

A few weeks back, a survey was conducted in the US showing which gaming platform is the most popular in different states. Unsurprisingly, consoles were leading the race, especially with XBOX in the lead. This should be no surprise, as Microsoft has more fans in the West than in Europe or Asia.

Still, it’s hard to deny the fact that PC gaming generates a lot of revenue for game studios. It’s an ever-growing market, and Windows 10 is the choice of our generation for PC gaming. But let’s have a look at the wildcard.

That wildcard just so happens to be Linux OS. It’s already pretty popular among developers and programmers because it’s easier to work on. But how good is just for gaming?

Linux vs Windows: Which OS is better for Gaming?

Before we even get into this debate, we’ll give you a quick history lesson. Back in 2013, Gabe Newell himself said that Linux could be the future for PC gaming in general. That’s a very confident claim, especially coming from the co-founder of Steam.

Fast forward to 2019, and unfortunately, that claim is far from reality. While Linux is still a pretty popular OS among many users, the average person still prefers Windows. But why is that so?

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Game Availability

Steam is probably the biggest advantage PC gaming has over consoles. One place for all your games is pretty convenient. Multiplayer, single player or even couch co-op games, it’s all on steam. And it’s a pretty impressive library at that, definitely nothing to scoff at.

Right now in 2019, Steam has over 30 thousand games in its library. Fun fact: 50% of these games came out in 2017-2018. So as you can probably imagine, the library is growing rapidly. But how are things on the Linux side?

Steam was announced for Linux back in 2013. Valve made their best efforts to port over most of the games from Windows over to Linux, so they can run smoothly. People always say Linux doesn’t have any games compared to windows. Not exactly true, since Linux does contain about 25% of the Windows Steam library. However, it’s pretty obvious Windows has the upper hand here.

Performance

We don’t think we need to talk about performance on the Windows side. Over the years, developers have been working for so long on Windows that most games work very well. Driver optimization also helps out a lot. AMD and Nvidia are always pushing out updates to make sure everything is up and running smoothly.

New features also hit Windows first. Things such as hairworks or ray tracing work on many newer games out of the box for Windows. While Windows updates and driver crashes cause a few hiccups, things are generally butter smooth.

On the flip side, there is an old myth that Linux just can’t run games. This is definitely not true. Most of the native Linux supported games run straight outside of the box, just watch out for updated drivers. This is because of a new developer API known as “Proton”, which makes everything butter smooth.

Remember how we mentioned Linux only has 20-25% of the Windows library? Well, these days you can run non-native games from Steam as well. The development cycle has gotten much better and due to the new API, more than half the Windows steam library works fine.

While performance does take a bit of a hit compared to windows (and some games don’t work at all), Linux is still not that far off from Windows.

Controller Support

A tonne of people prefer playing some of their games with a controller. These are mostly racing titles or platformer games. For Windows, this isn’t an issue. You just plug in your Xbox controller and you’re good to go. For the Dualshock 4, you’ll need software. Other 3rd party controllers are also plug and play.

On the other hand, this used to be a huge problem for Linux. Thankfully, the Xbox 360 or Xbox One controller now works natively on Linux with most games. With a bit of tinkering, you can even get the Dualshock 4 to work. Although, other third party controllers might still face a few issues.

The Final Answer

If you want a straight answer, it should be pretty obvious. Windows will still be the go-to platform for most people. Performance is generally slightly better, you have a lot more options and it’s just easier for the average person.

But if you are someone who prefers Linux for whatever reason, maybe you need it for your workflow, then Linux gaming has improved massively. If you are a Linux user, you aren’t missing out on a lot compared to Windows. And with things always improving, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Linux become more popular for a lot of the power users out there.

Updated on September 9, 2019

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