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Amazon Luna runs on Windows — and yet it’s hiring Linux gaming engineers

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Is Amazon shifting its cloud ambitions?

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When Amazon’s cloud gaming service Luna launched last October, the fact it ran on Windows set it apart. Unlike Google Stadia, it wouldn’t necessarily need to convince developers to painstakingly port their games to an unproven platform. But it now appears that Amazon is considering a shift to Linux-based servers, too — the company is hiring three software engineers to bring Windows games to Linux (via Phoronix).

Like Valve’s Steam Deck — an upcoming gaming handheld that also runs on Linux — the idea isn’t to abandon Windows games. Both the Steam Deck and Amazon’s seemingly new Luna initiative will still run Windows games, but both of them will do it through Valve’s Proton compatibility layer.

“[T]his role involves working with Proton - a compatibility layer to run Windows games on Linux using Wine. Luna is committed to working with the open source community around Proton. This role will commit code to open source projects such as Proton and Wine in pursuit of running games in a stable and performant manner,” each of the three job descriptions reads.

All three jobs were posted on December 6th, and they also all mention “DXVK,” a helpful tool that translates from Microsoft’s Direct3D graphics APIs to Vulkan instead.

It’s not quite clear why Amazon might want to adopt Linux; Neowin speculates it might be about keeping Amazon Luna’s games easily sandboxed so that new updates don’t break compatibility.

The Proton gaming community will be quick to tell you that Windows games can often run well on Linux these days, though some have issues — and one category in particular, multiplayer games with anti-cheat software, can be problematic. Valve is pushing to improve that in time for the Steam Deck’s launch in February, though, and now it seems Amazon may help convince developers, too.

We don’t have any indications whether Amazon Luna has been a success. We weren’t very impressed in our launch hands-on, but I’ve heard it’s gotten better since. It generally gets even less buzz than Google Stadia, and it lost its head executive in February. But whether Amazon will follow through with gaming has been an existential question, period, and yet the company finally has a hit in New World, which has continually kept a place on Steam’s top 10 list of the most-played games since its September launch. Maybe things are looking up?

There’s an unusual opportunity for cloud gaming companies right now because next-gen consoles and graphics cards are so hard to find and so expensive to buy. Amazon has suggested that New World might come to Luna, too, and if it does, it’ll be interesting to see if that spurs a wave of adoption.

“We are always exploring ways to deliver a better experience for our customers, including working closely with game developers and the community on those experiences. Hiring employees with Proton and Linux experience is important for Luna and Amazon,” reads a statement from Amazon Luna head of engineering George Tsipolitis.

Update, 1:55AM ET: Added Amazon statement.