Can Ubuntu reclaim its gaming crown? Based on a new job opening added to its careers page, Canonical thinks so.
Ubuntu’s chief sponsor is recruiting a “Linux Desktop Gaming Product Manager” whose job will be to ”…make Ubuntu the best Linux desktop for gaming”.
“We work with partners in the silicon world to ensure the latest graphics drivers and tweaks are built-in for optimal frame rates and latency, as well as with partners in the gaming industry to ensure that mechanisms such as anti-cheat capabilities are available to ensure fairness and product availability,” the listing explains.
When Steam for Linux debuted in 2012 Ubuntu was Valve’s recommended Linux distro for gamers wanting to thumb-flex with Tux (indeed, at that time Ubuntu was the recommended distro for pretty much else too).
Today Ubuntu is not considered the premiere choice for Linux gaming. Users increasingly turn to rolling release Linux distros like Arch as they deliver Linux kernel and graphics driver updates more frequently. They also tend to provide easier access to experimental apps and cutting-edge features that assist gaming and/or game streaming.
Ubuntu has tried to counter some of its (relative) deficiencies in the gaming area over the years. We’ve seen developer outreach initiatives, graphic-centric PPAs, and lots of community marketing. However, even this has dried up in recent years.
Fact is, for users, having to sift through forum threads, add PPAs, and install unsupported kernels just to game isn’t an attractive proposition. Not when they can install Pop!_OS (which now comes with the latest Linux kernel and graphics drivers) or Manjaro and have most of that effort done for them.
Valve clearly agrees, too. It chose Arch as the base for Steam OS 3.0, the software that will power its upcoming (and hugely in-demand) Steamdeck handheld gaming PC.
So why is Canonical suddenly interested in gaming? After all, a few years back it was content to break Steam entirely, and only back-pedalled following a huge backlash. Mir didn’t exactly endear the OS to GPU vendors and games developers, and the insistence on Snaps as primary packaging mechanism continues to put people off.
I do wonder if recent YouTube dramas involving big-name channels exploring Linux gaming have made Canonical aware of how absent it is. None of the ‘influencers’ currently making headlines (be them good or bad) are using Ubuntu. The distro is just not in the conversation around Linux gaming, and that’s quite profound.
So Ubuntu’s dedicated desktop gaming manager is going to have a busy time ahead of them.
Amongst their tasks they’ll need to introduced better desktop graphics choices in Ubuntu, expand on and (re)build partnerships with graphics vendors and gaming studios, and lead an engineering effort that can put Ubuntu back in people’s minds when thinking about gaming.
Think you’ve got what it takes? You can check out the role in more detail on the Canonical careers site.