Desura and Linden Lab: through the founder’s eyes

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

I came across a short interview conducted by the Linux-focused Root Gamer with Desura founder Scott Reismanis held shortly after the news broke that the Lab had acquired the digital distribution service, but which seems to have gone unnoticed elsewhere.

Since the announcement of the acquisition, there has been considerable interest in whether it means Desura / LL will compete more directly with others in the same marketplace – notably Steam. In a recent interview with Gamasutra’s Kris Ligman, which I also covered here, Rod Humble had a few pokes at this himself (although some of his comments on competition would appear to have a much wider context which includes Second Life). Reismanis sees the “competition” element of the acquisition in terms of providing Desura with much-needed additional ability to pro-actively attract games developers, rather than having to react to overtures from games developers, commenting:

Scott Reismanis
Scott Reismanis

At the moment we are largely dependent on developers reaching out to us about getting published – that’s what our small team had time to do. With Linden Lab help we will expand our team working with the game developers helping us target and bring more on board.

In reading both Reismanis’ and Humble’s comments around the acquisition, it would appear that both are very much of the same mind in how they regard the Lab’s initial relationship with Desura and in terms of future plans.

Both, for example, couch the Lab’s role as initially being more supportive than directive; providing additional muscle in key areas to assist the Desura team to carry on with their business in a more structured and focused manner, rather than the Lab charging in and absorbing everything and trying to reinvent the wheel. In this, the approach appears to be more of a partnership more than an outright acquisition and, given the marketplace is new to Linden Lab, not an unwise move.

Not that this means there won’t be any visible changes. Work is already underway to overhaul (or at least update) the Desura client in order to make the Lab’s involvement more apparent. Exactly what form this will take isn’t clear at present, but the work is seen as priority, although dependent upon Desura (or the Lab?) bringing in new staff.

Desura and the Lab: proceeding more as a partnership? (image courtesy of Root Gamer)
Desura and the Lab: proceeding more as a partnership? (image courtesy of Root Gamer)

The interview also hints that both Humble and Reismanis share the same grand ambitions for the future of a service – and that the ambitions may have been there prior to the acquisition (and by extension, might have been one of the reasons the Lab was attracted to Desura).

Commenting on the Desura blog about the acquisition following the formal announcement, Reismanis give additional insight as to what he believes this means for developers and customer using the service:

To date Desura has been built and run by a dedicated small team – and it’s grown to the point where we list over 1,000 games and have served over 1,000,000 customers. We are very passionate about the developers and community we represent, and I want to assure you now this policy isn’t changing.

With Linden Lab’s support, we plan on expanding our team and providing you with more co-ordinated coverage, sales, marketing efforts, reporting, and assistance from us. We want to solve challenges like discoverability and giving your customers’ choice, and we look forward to doing so. We are going to continue to polish and innovate so Desura stands out and does its most important job better: getting your game into customers’ hands.

So far reaction to the acquisition from within the Desura community appears to be mostly positive, with those responding to the news wishing Reismanis and his team good luck, although there are obviously some questions about what it means in practice for game developers in terms of publishing, DRM, etc., – all of which are liable to only become clearer once the initial dust has settled and both the Desura team and the Lab have worked out priorities and directions and have settled into working together over long distances.

It’ll be interesting to see how this develops over time, starting with the roll-out of the new Desura client, and whether the approach does develop along lines of a partnership rather than a buy-out, and if so, for how long.

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