Linden Lab acquires Desura games distribution service

LL logoUpdate: Linden Lab sold Desura to Bad Juju Games on November 5th, 2014.

On Wednesday July 10th, Linden Lab announced they had acquired Australia-based digital distribution service  Desura Pty Ltd, which distributes games and related media online and which might be said to be somewhat akin to Steam.

The Lab’s announcement reads in part:

Desura puts the best games, mods, and downloadable content from developers at gamers’ fingertips, ready to buy and play. The free Desura application can serve and patch games, mods, and add-ons directly for customers around the world. Developers and publishers can share news, images, videos, and other content through their profiles, while every member of the Desura community can post comments, submit reviews, and upload screenshots from their own playing experiences. Desura also demystifies user-made mods and add-ons for games by making them as easy to find and install or update as professional titles.

“Desura’s talented team, thriving business, and impressive technology are a great fit for Linden Lab,” said Rod Humble, CEO of Linden Lab. “This acquisition gives us a global platform for serving creative developers of all kinds, and we’re looking forward to growing both Desura’s global community of gamers and its fantastic portfolio of thousands of games, mods, and other content.”

The Desura website
The Desura website

This is an interesting move on the Lab’s part on a number of levels, and one which is bound to provide a range of reactions. In terms of the former, for example, does it indicate that the link-up with Steam has been abandoned?

Announced in August 2012, the deal to promote Second Life through Steam never materialised. More recently, there had been unofficial hints coming out of the Lab that a technical hitch with provisioning the viewer through Steam may have delayed matters at some point. Whether or not these had stopped the deal dead in its tracks is unclear, but when talking to Rod Humble recently, I found it interesting he drew something of a line from the non-appearance of SL on Steam with the hook-up with Amazon which came towards the end of 2012.

The Desura acquisition is also obviously interesting in what it says about the Lab’s broader ambitions. Although somewhat similar to Steam – but nowhere near as large – Desura is aimed at a different market. Whereas Steam predominantly distributes titles from larger software houses, Desura leans towards smaller indie games produced by smaller developers who do not necessarily have the clout to deal with Steam.

In this, Desura would appear to be something of a potentially good fit for the Lab, giving their acquisition of small houses such as LittleTextPeople and Boldai – they gain the exposure they are seeking within the indie market by potentially building a name as a distributor of games and a host for the indie game / modding communities (Desura provides a strong modding capability for games and also boasts something of a community-centric environment for users).

The Desura community pages
The Desura community pages

There may also be some speculation as to what this might mean to Second Life. A potential attraction of the Steam hook-up was the possibility of enticing games modders and 3D content makers interested in building for SL (particularly given the opportunities for selling their content in-world and / or through the SL Marketplace). Depending upon how the Desura acquisition is developed and prompted, a similar opportunity might exist here. Time will tell on that.

If nothing else, the Lab had set itself a pretty big goal in acquiring Desura – which is available on the Windows, Linux and Mac platforms. This is, according to Humble’s quote in the Lab’s press release, “To invest and support the Desura team in making it the most open and developer-friendly platform in the world.”

It’ll be interesting to see what rebranding of Desura takes place (if any) as a result of this move.

Related Links

My thanks to Julian Slade for contacting me and pointing me to the Games Industry International article & this acquisition.