Why gaming remains proprietary

Will Linux advance without gaming? Will desktop Linux ever reach the mass market without gaming? And will we ever see an open source game console?

Amid all the applause over Sun's decision on Java the consumer market is going in an entirely different direction.

Two new video game systems are coming to market this week -- PS3 and Wii (right) -- and both are entirely proprietary.

As client systems game consoles remain an overwhelmingly proprietary island. Early in the decade some thought a Windows PC might be a nifty game system, but that didn't happen. Instead Microsoft entered the fray with its XBox.

Everyone has to make hard choices in the game market. Developers must make hard choices. Consumers must make hard choices. If developer momentum moves to another platform from the one you are using you're stuck.

While some bemoan the waste of old, tossed videogame machines and software, the fact is that PC software also becomes obsolete. I always lost access to some old games when I upgraded hardware, and even if I didn't their primitive graphics and simplistic programming would send them to the trash bin in due course.

Note that a few paragraphs ago I said client systems. Online games run from servers, so they can run Linux. Some online games, like Second Life, have Linux clients. (But is the client any good?)

Online games requiring more than a browser, then, have the same strengths and limitations as Desktop Linux, while those that do just require a browser are as good under Linux as under anything else.

Still, is this good enough? Will Linux advance without gaming? Will desktop Linux ever reach the mass market without gaming? And will we ever see an open source game console?

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