As the title says I'm going to talk about some of the differences between all of the above.
WINE is basically a windows emulator for Linux operating systems. WINE allows you to run some applications on Linux that does not have Linux support or installers ie: Office 2007, World of Warcraft and many others. This is not a how-to but more a idea of what is going around and what its all about. WINE is the underlying technology for all the above applications. But lets face it, this was made so we could run the nice M$ games on our Linux distros. I for one love to game and I really would like to have more games written for M$ and Linux. I can't figure out what the big deal is as most games are written in C++ and could be compiled for any OS type.
Games is a major stumbling block when it comes to people moving from M$ to Linux and most don't have the knowledge or time to sit and try figure out how to play there favorite games on Linux. Here comes the solutions. Some are free and others not but lets take a look at them a little more.
WINE is easy to setup but hard to configure. Most of the time you need to install things like flash, msfonts and direct X to make things work. So far I found that if you don't want to physically install something from a CD or download it, the best option is to use WINE on its own and check out WINE AppDb for some useful tips on how to run some of the applications. WINE has some add-on tools to make life a little easier like winetricks and others.
Cedega also known as WINEX
Cedega is a commercial application that will cost you around $5 a month if you want to play games on Linux but it does support some really nice games. It's a frontend that was built on top of WINE which runs basic scripts to install the needed applications to run specific games. Now, as South Africans in a recession this is not a viable option as we already have to pay monthly subs for some games and then also just to run it on our system.
Crossover has two versions: Crossover Linux Professional and Crossover games for Linux. And as you can guess it is WINE with some scripts and uses WINEPREFIX to run its applications. I must say if I had to pay for applications this would be the one. Its a once-off charge of $39.95 and no monthly subs.
This is exactly the same as all of the above its uses WINE with scripts to make installations easy. The big difference here is that its absolutely free and according to their site will remain free. But with all free things there comes a price. Their application support is not as big as WINE and they are still working out what all is needed to run what applications.
Now for my 2 cents worth on the entire subject is that if you have all the install CDs and your looking for less fuss and more play time then get either Crossover or PlayOnLinux as they are reasonable and less hard to work with. If you have all your games on a external hdd like me from Windows past then WINE with winetricks is about the best option. This is a work around for playing games on Linux and until supplies start recognizing that the Linux gaming community is growing rapidly and start selling games for all OS's this will have to be the workaround.Oh, the one thing that all the others do is use WINEPREFIX with different names. Crossover calls it bottles and PlayOnLinux something else. But what it basically does is install your game on its own little windows framework so that if you install something that might help one application but break another then they don't affect each other. CodeWeavers Crossover also gives you a 30-day trial on CrossOver Games Linux if you want to check it out before you buy it.