Is Linux holding RetroPie back?

So it is my honest opinion that RetroPIe is the best front-end for retro game emulation, hands down. It works flawlessly, supports a wide variety of emulators (and makes installing them simple), and is very configurable.

With that all in mind, why isn’t RetroPie taking game emulation by storm, then? I’ve tried many other front-end packages for emulation, on Windows and Linux both, and no one comes even close to RetroPie for quality and ease-of-use!

Well, it comes down to two things, really: The Raspberry Pi platform, and Linux.

You see, RetroPie is mostly designed for use on Raspberry Pi systems, although they do support at least one other single-board computer, and regular PCs via their x86 variant. But when people think RetroPie, they generally think Raspberry Pi, and thus that platform is holding RetroPie back. Raspberry Pis may be fairly awesome, and I really enjoy using them for game emulation, but let’s be honest… They are a bit of a niche product.

And then there is Linux. RetroPie is built atop of a lightweight, Debian-based flavor of Linux, or – in the case of RetroPie x86 – installed onto a PC already running Ubuntu Linux. Regardless, in either case, the user is required to make use of some version of Linux in order to be able to run RetroPie. While I may be comfortable with that, and most people willing to use a single-board computer (such as a Raspberry Pi) for game emulation will be comfortable with using Linux, the vast majority of people won’t be.

You see, the vast majority of people using personal computers will be using Windows as their operating system. And that means they are, as a general rule, dumb as a bag of rocks, when it comes to using other operating systems, such as Linux. Many of them might just break down and cry if you presented them with a command line interface. So, basically, Linux really will be a bit of a steep learning curve for most average users.

And here’s the thing: While retro gaming might still be a bit of a niche hobby, and retro game emulation even more of a niche hobby, until and unless products like RetroPie start to support Windows, they will eventually no longer be able to expand their userbase. And without being able to grow their userbase, eventually products like RetroPie and Recalbox will fail. It is just a matter of time, really.

Now I know some people will bring up products like Launchbox as somehow being superior to RetroPie, but I’ve tried both, and believe me… it isn’t even close. While Launchbox looks better by default, right out of the box (pun intended), RetroPie just works. Launchbox… not so much.

If the RetroPie team were to port their x86 variant over to Windows, I can almost guarantee it would become, in very short order, the top emulation front-end on the market. No doubt about it, RetroPIe simply is just that good. But if they don’t eventually support Windows, and just stick with Linux, RetroPie will eventually just fade away into gaming history.

3 Replies to “Is Linux holding RetroPie back?”

  1. The issue isn’t Retropie or Linux, the issue is Emulationstation. The exact same setup as Retropie can be set up on a Windows computer by installing Retroach and the Emulationstation front end. The problem with Emulationstation is that it can be very hard for some users to configure it to work correctly. Did you actually do any research on this?

    1. Yes, I considered Emulationstation, and it wasn’t even worth discussing, because the point of the article is that most Windows users need something simple, something “Plug & Play”. ES is not that. Launchbox is not that. Retroarch is not that. But if RetroPie created a branch of their software for Windows, as they have with the Linux-requiring RetroPie x86, they would have a lot more people using their platform.

      But hey, thanks for your thoughts on the matter.

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