Linux users twice as generous as Windows users

Crunching the numbers on the pay-what-you-like Humble Indie Bundle package, the Wolfire people noticed a curious thing: Linux users contribute twice as much as Windows users. "So far, the average Mac user is donating 40% more, and the average Linux user is donating 100% more!" I've got a half-formed theory in my head that living in a world where people are generous and share makes you generous and sharing, while living in a world where people are stingy and proprietary makes you stingy and proprietary. This would be why Econ students play the Ultimatum Game more cruelly than civilians.


  1. <wry>Maybe the people who have the spare time to tinker with a command-line interface in 2010 are the same ones who have more disposable income.</wry>

    1. Why on Earth would you use a command line interface with Linux? Are you still on a Pentium 150MHz machine with 32MB of RAM?

    2. Maybe the people who have the spare time to tinker with a command-line interface in 2010 are the same ones who have more disposable income.

      lol we wish!!
      OT, but seriously tho, you’re missing the idea if you think GUIs are automatically better than terminals & that the latter are just relics.

  2. Corellation is not causation, Cory. It could just as easily be that people who are more generous with their money are also attracted to the OSS world, not that they have been touched by the OSS fairy and magically turned into more generous, caring, all ’round better human beings.

    As for Mac users being 40% more generous… I wonder how well that corresponds to the performance/$ mark-up that Mac users have accepted when they bought into the platform.

    1. I knew this would touch a nerve. Coming to these comments didn’t disappoint.


  3. This study is of course adjusted to account for differences in income and age…

  4. Or Linus users consider the goods to be twice as valuable as windows users do, or consider the charities in question to be twice as deserving (or some combination of both).

    All of that skips the question of why, if the charities were worthy causes, donors have to be bribed into donating with a collection of games.

  5. It’s just supply and demand. The supply of Linux games is lower than the supply of Mac games which is lower than the supply of Windows games. More desperate people are willing to pay more.

    (I’m a Mac user. And yes, my appreciation for their support of my platform, and the fact that I don’t already have a lot of games to play on my iMac did figure into my purchase of the bundle.)

    1. Ernunnos is spot on.

      It is just basic supply and demand. Supply of games are more scarce on OSX and even more so on Linux, hence users of these platforms are willing to pay more. It is interesting that even under a donation model such market factors are apparent.

      Showing the price donated by platform is a clever method of trying to boost the donation price. it would be interesting to know the number of sales for each platform.

      1. I wonder if that won’t backfire actually.

        Some people may be motivated to pay more, seeing that the amount they were thinking of is lower the average. But people who were going to pay considerably above the average may now decide to pay less, seeing that they were going to “overpay”.

  6. Oh please!

    Twice as generous when donating to INDEPENDENT DEVELOPERS, yes. Big deal.

    I’m guessing PETA would be more generous to a pet rescue center over a slaughterhouse, too!

  7. @Ernunnos you may have something there. However I also believe that GNU/Linux users choose their OS as an escape from the corporate thieving MAC and MS users are subject to.

    They are paying more because they appreciate a bit of honesty.

  8. Or maybe Linux users are just more educated in this kinda thing and understand better how the Indie economy works.

    fyi, I’m on a Mac (in case you want to do statistics on the comments ;-) )

  9. I like Annika’s version, but that doesn’t make it true.

    This being a blog comment thread, it would of course be sacrilegious to point out that the answer is likely “some combination of the above explanations in unequal proportions”.

  10. My guess that it’s also because commercial games are very common on the Windows platform, less common on Mac and abysmal on the Linux platform. Thus casual gamers on these latter platforms are more inclined to motivate developers by generosity.

    (Also, I oppose the suggestion that Apple systems would be 40% less stingy and proprietary than Windows systems. Maybe from a fanboy perspective, but not otherwise.)

  11. Stingy and proprietary, yep that’s me. I’m a regular Montgomery Burns.

    You can also tell I’m arrogant because of the shoes I wear, and short tempered because of what kind of soda I drink.

  12. There’s a much simpler reason; Windows 7 Currently costs between $100 and $200 depending on the version. Linux? Many distros are available FOC.

    If I had $200 laying around after loading up my computer with a free OS, I’d probably be more generous too!

    1. why would you be more generous? i thought that the point of free was actually saving money.

      1. If you take a moment to think about it the benefits of a no-money interaction go far beyond savings.

    2. Buying a new computer that fits your needs(*) without a Windows licence is near impossible in many parts of the world. I’ve unvoluntarily paid for two Windows licences since november, I’ve also got a OS X lisence and another Windows license from computers I bought years ago. I don’t use Windows at all and I allmost exclusively use Linux.

      The applications I use (mostly free of cost and open source) are much harder to install and behave much buggier on Windows and Mac, if they are at all possible to port. Windows and OS X is buggier too and have annoying user interfaces that are complicated to change, adding to the annoyances. There are some payware doing similar tasks, but they often cost thousands of dollars, have crappy user support (OSS internet forums beat any pay-for user support I ever have had to use), are not as usable and don’t play well with other applications. The only thing that used to be better with payware was the included user manuals (books) and help files, nowadays you usually don’t get any physical books with your software and the help files are outdated and poorly written, and OSS-books you buy from a bookstore is usually a lot better than those written about propriatory software

      You don’t use Linux because it is cheap, you use Linux because it fits your needs and is better for you then other OSes. If you wan’t cheap and only do “regular stuff”, most parts of the civilized world have computers that is free to use in public libraries and other places.

      (*) Buying a computer that fits your needs is hard whatever platform you prefer and whatever needs you got. I guess computer manufacturers don’t listen much to their customers. If you are a “normal user” and don’t agree with me, then why are you paying five times as much as you should for a gigantic, noisy, energy inefficient, hard to use computer when the only thing you do is surf the web, organize your music collection, reading and writing email and, on rare occasions, do simple word processing and video-/photo-editing.

  13. Maybe Linux users are more generous because it gives them yet another reason to be smug and self-righteous.

  14. I don’t know… most of the Linux/FreeBSD/AltOS folks I know are something akin to neo-hippies who also happen to be die-hard computer geeks. We tend to be more giving as it reflects our belief system.
    Of course, we also tend to be poor…

  15. And maybe Windows gamers have to divide their monthly gaming budget between many releases while Linux gamers… yes, exactly.

  16. This is seems like compelling evidence for the ‘ugly dates are more grateful’ hypothesis.

  17. I agree with the vagabond astronomer, except for the poverty part.

    I do have poor friends (some by inclination, some by choice) but I am also friendly with several dot-bomb millionaires. Hmmm, lately Dug and I have been setting up our poorer friends with linux too, but they aren’t consciously choosing it, that’s just what we are giving them.

  18. Well, as a Linux user who paid above the average, I’ll explain my motivation. This is my motivation only, I make no claim it represents any other Linux user’s thinking (I expect many to disagree):

    Long term, I’m attempting to provide some motivation for developers to make Linux games, and for indie developers to keep going. I also really like the lack of DRM, which is well worth supporting.

    Short term, I get some games!

    @Cory: You’re generally correct in that I’m much more likely to give money to those who are nice, than those who are controlling.

    I refuse to give Apple (for instance) a cent of my money, but will make a special effort to reward initiatives like this one.

    For me this is a general pattern. I refuse to deal with any kind of DRM online. I make a special effort to avoid TPM, laptops with BluRay, monitors with HDCP, and any such schemes in general.

    I VERY preferentially pay for open hardware and software. I will prefer hardware that does not support DRM, even if it’s optional to use.

    @Invictus: You’re correct in that I’m not really a “more generous, caring, all ’round better human being”.

    This is most deliberate decision, not out of the goodness of my heart, but of cold calculation of the outcomes I want to contribute to.

    In fact I went for a custom 50/50 developers/EFF split, excluding Child’s Play, because I explicitly want to contribute to long term effects. (Not that I think there’s anything wrong with it, mind. I just have limited money and try to use it optimally)

  19. As far as Cory’s theory goes, that is a very well-studied and proven theory.
    There is an “habit” of sharing (and the other way). Just ask your next Sociologist.

    Also well known is the fact that (@VagabondAstronomer) poor people share what they have more willingly and freely than richer people.

    Of course, viewing this study alone, the questions from the first comments are valid. Its a science by itself to get a study without build-in flaws ^^

  20. You mean to say that people who could justify paying thousands for their macs gave more than me and my $124 scratch built PC!? That’s odd. not

  21. I think there’s a problem with the idea of “generous” there. If I have little money, a donation of £20 could be very generous. If I have lots of disposable income, a donation of £20 could be proportionally stingy. Basically, I’d want there to be a definition of generosity that takes into account what income people have to begin with, and then looks at what proportion of their income they were donating.

    Rather than simply measuring up donations against each other. So another possiblity is that perhaps the Windows users in this case were generally from a lower income group, and were actually being proportionally more generous than the Mac or Linux users. Without more data, I don’t think you can tell.

    That aside, I find it in bad taste to speculate about this in a way which may leave some of donors feeling bad about themselves for donating anything in the first place. I happily donated money towards this, because I thought it’s a good cause, and I like games. If I’d known that my donating money towards this was going to be used for this kind of speculation, I wouldn’t have wanted to take part.

    I guess I am questioning the generosity of what you are doing with this. You could, for instance, be saying instead that it’s wonderful that lots of people made the effort to donate something. But I guess that depends on your having a fund of goodwill towards donors which is greater than any other assumptions you might have about their flavour of OS. Maybe this is generous for you. I don’t know. It doesn’t feel good to me, and I am regreting I donated anything.

    1. @27 I think you’re overthinking this.

      Pay whatever you like, anything is better than nothing after all.

      I don’t see why would you regret it. They got money, you got games, where’s the problem?

      Still, the statistics are what they are, and the reasons why are interesting to discuss.

  22. It might be worth bearing in mind that the Mac platform has a pretty strong tradition of paying for shareware, and a more recent one of charity software bundles. OS X and Linux users might want to give more of an incentive to develop for their platforms, too.

  23. Most open source download sites have a Donation button. People who are used to using Open Source products will see nothing new in the “give what you like” concept. In the past, Linux users have generously supported Indie DRM-free games, in the hope of stimulating the creation of more new games.

  24. “Studying economics also seems to make you a nastier person. Psychological studies have shown that economics graduate students are more likely to “free ride” — shirk contributions to an experimental “public goods” account in the pursuit of higher private returns — than the general public. Economists also are less generous than other academics in charitable giving. Undergraduate economics majors are more likely to defect in the classic prisoner’s dilemma game than are other majors.[6] And on other tests, students grow less honest — expressing less of tendency, for example, to return found money — after studying economics, but not after studying a control subject like astronomy (Frank, Gilovich, and Regan 1993).”

    Doug Henwood, Wall Street, 1997, p143

    1. So the only way that people remain “non-nasty” is when they’re ignorant of the consequences of their economic decisions?

      People who haven’t studied physics are pretty awful at it, too. Apparently being _able_ to assess economic interactions precisely makes one prone to do so.

  25. Windows users pay less money, because there is a glut of indie games on PC. There are so many indie games on Windows that I don’t even have time to keep up with the daily indie game releases, let alone actually download and play them.

  26. An NPD study found Mac users far more likely to pay for music.

    When I look at the results, I see a direct correlation to the availability and quantity of games on each platform. Linux is a platform starved for games, so offering more to support the EFF and indie developers for games makes a lot of sense. I think you’re seeing something that just isn’t there.

  27. I suspect that the stats would be more telling if we had more information other than just the operating system.

    Linux users are on their OS intentionally, meaning that they are more than likely developers or open source enthusiasts.

    Windows on the other had could be considered the ‘default’ setting for the vast majority of computer users.

    If only we knew the age or profession of the people purchasing the bundle, then maybe we could draw other conclusions as well. It might be possible that the other developers or computer professionals are being more generous (regardless of which is their primary platform) due to their knowledge of the effort in development required and their knowledge of EFF and Child’s Play.

    The windows stats are possibly being brought down by the general users on windows that simply see a way to buy five games for $0.01 and really have no interest in EFF, Child’s Play or the business struggles of indie game developers.

    But of course, this doesn’t change the fact that ‘over all’ windows users are statistically less generous. (at least in this example)

  28. Here’s a metastudy of the reasons. It is probably a combination of all of the above:

    • Cory’s “we’re ensconced in a giving culture so we are more giving.” As LennStar pointed out, there is mountains of evidence on this. Undergrads do studies on this for Psych course projects because it’s so easy to confirm.
    • The demographic for Linux skews heavily towards people with more money. This is probably true for a lot of reasons…
      • Linux tends to be used by developers, and believe me when I tell you–as a person who hires developers–you will be earning more on average if you come in with lots of Linux knowledge. And you’re far more likely to get hired in the first place.
      • Linux users are probably slightly more likely to be older. Any 12-year-old on dad’s computer could have grabbed this bundle for $0, and probably did. That computer’s probably already being used for games. Linux computers are pretty hard to use for gaming, so they’re probably being used for work, which suggests an older demo.
      • Linux users are more likely to be men. I don’t like it, but men do make more money than women.
    • We value these games higher, because it’s harder to get people to make games for Linux. Yep.
  29. Isn’t the Mac even more proprietary than Windows, where there are a lot of shareware, send-a-card, free, open source etc. programs available?

    Let’s draw the three point graph: Unproprietaryness on the x-axis, going from mac to win to linux, amount of money spent on the y-axis, 9.8 7.3 14.0. Anybody spot a trend? Me neither.
    If the xaxis was along the first character of the operating system, though… or mean user age divided by residental latitude… Fascinating.

  30. So the big spenders in this indie deal dropped $20 (in my currency) on these games? Big woop, I’m a Windows user and I spend an average of $90 per game. Wow I’m so generous (either that or Windows has a whole friggin’ lot of games to choose from, all the time, and this little indie package just isn’t that exciting).

  31. This is why Steam is coming to Linux! We save so much money on software we can spend it on games!

    Choosing Windows as the only gaming operating system has lead PC gaming to almost disappear. There is so much software piracy on Windows (I’m not saying that Linux users don’t pirate software) that game developers are looking towards other OSs like Mac and Linux in order to keep alive. That’s why Steam might accelerate Linux adoption.

  32. “This would be why Econ students play the Ultimatum Game more cruelly than civilians.”

    Yes. Calculating to the mean over time moves you into a descent.
    So much for “value free” intellectualism.

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