Is Ubuntu finally taking Linux gaming seriously?

Can Ubuntu regain its gaming crown? Judging by a new vacancy added to the career page, Canonical thinks so.

Ubuntu’s main sponsor is hiring a “gaming product manager for the Linux desktop,” whose job will be to “…make Ubuntu the best Linux desktop for gaming.”

“We are working with partners in the silicon world to ensure the latest graphics drivers and tweaks are built in for optimal frame rates and latency, and with partners in the gaming industry to ensure that mechanisms such as anti-cheat capabilities are in place to ensure fairness and availability of the product,” the announcement explains.

When Steam for Linux debuted in 2012, Ubuntu was Valve’s recommended Linux distribution for gamers who wanted to try TuxCart (at the time, Ubuntu was the recommended distribution for many others).

Today Ubuntu is not considered the best choice for Linux gaming. Users are increasingly turning to Linux distributions with rolling releases, such as Arch, because they release Linux kernel and graphics driver updates more frequently. They also provide easier access to experimental applications and advanced features that help with gaming and/or game streaming.

Over the years, Ubuntu has tried to address some of its (relative) shortcomings in the gaming area. We’ve seen developer outreach initiatives, graphics-focused PPAs, and a lot of marketing in the community. In recent years, however, even that has dried up.

The fact is, for users, having to dig through forum threads, add PPAs and install unsupported kernels just to play is not an attractive proposition. Not when they can install Pop!_OS (which now comes with the latest Linux kernel and graphics drivers) or Manjaro and do most of that effort for them.

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Valve apparently agrees with that, too. It chose Arch as the basis for Steam OS 3.0, the software that will run on its upcoming (and hugely in demand) Steamdeck portable gaming PC.

So why is Canonical suddenly interested in gaming? After all, the company was ready to abandon Steam entirely a few years ago and only backtracked after a huge backlash. The world didn’t really favor the OS with GPU makers and game developers, and the insistence on Snaps as the primary packaging mechanism continues to alienate people.

I wonder if the recent YouTube dramas involving prominent channels exploring Linux gaming have made me realize just how far behind Canonical is. None of the “authorities” that are making headlines right now (whether good or bad) are using Ubuntu. The distribution just isn’t part of the Linux-gaming conversation, and that’s a big deal.

So Ubuntu’s manager of desktop gaming is going to have a tough time of it.

Among their tasks are bringing the best desktop graphics solutions to Ubuntu, expanding and (re)building partnerships with graphics manufacturers and game studios, and leading the engineering efforts that will help bring Ubuntu back into the minds of people thinking about gaming.

Do you think you’re up to the task? You can read more about this role on the Canonical website for career development.

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