Canonical's Bryce Harrington, one of their few X.Org maintainers for Ubuntu Linux, blogged this week about "Better gaming on Ubuntu 12.04." His posting basically comes down to making Ubuntu better for gaming by providing quicker driver updates to existing Ubuntu releases, in order to make updated drivers with game-fixes, improved hardware support, etc more easily accessible to Ubuntu users.
When Ubuntu Linux is released, the main versions of the NVIDIA and AMD Catalyst driver versions are frozen for that cycle. Recently they have been providing an "-updates" option too as an alternative for getting updated stable driver releases through their package repository, but they want to take it a step further by offering updated experimental/beta binary blobs.
Bryce says, "High end commercial games will often need bleeding edge driver support to get necessary fixes and features. But in Ubuntu we have to be very careful rolling out driver changes to users to avoid causing regressions, so this cutting edge support needs to be opt-in. With Valve’s guidance and advice, we’ve put together some solutions which will address the game requirements yet still be end-user accessible."
Canonical will be rolling out nvidia-experimental-xxx packages on the NVIDIA proprietary driver side where xxx is the major release stream, e.g. nvidia-experimental-304 right now. The experimental NVIDIA driver support will come to Ubuntu 12.04 LTS as well as the current releases such as Ubuntu 12.10. Canonical also plans to roll out similar experimental/beta drivers for the AMD Catalyst driver releases, but that has yet to be setup.
For the open-source drivers, there is the Ubuntu-X PPA. Updating the open-source drivers is a mess since it's not just one component but the Linux kernel, Mesa, libdrm, the DDX, and any other new dependencies. This is one of several challenges with the open-source drivers.
Basically the change to make Ubuntu better for gaming is that beta/experimental drivers can be more easily installed through the Ubuntu repository rather than needing to manually install the driver from the vendor's web-site.
Bryce ended his blog post with "All of the above is geared for leading edge adopters, as we want to help you get up and running on 12.04 with these games as soon as possible after release. For those wanting to wait a bit, in few months from now we’ll be rolling out a broader update for 12.04.2, which should include all the above updates plus some. But my hope is that going forward we’re going to see more and more commercial games come to Linux, and will be able to exercise (and improve) these new driver update mechanisms."