Lab divests itself of Desura

LL logoIn a press release made on Wednesday, November 5th, Linden Lab announced the sale of Desura, the on-line digital distribution service which they acquired under Rod Humble’s leadership in July 2013.

Desura has been sold to Bad Juju Games, the Indie Game and Middleware Tools Developer for the Mobile, Console and PC Gaming markets, and based in Aliso Viejo, California. In the brief press release, the Lab state:

As has just been announced, Bad Juju Games has acquired Desura from Linden Lab.

Bad Juju has taken over all day-to-day support, maintenance, and ongoing enhancements to the Desura website and service platform. The Bad Juju team will be reaching out directly to developers with games on Desura and are happy to respond to any questions they may have.

Transitioning Desura to a new owner is great for Linden Lab and our customers, as it allows us to further enhance our focus on creating the ambitious next-generation virtual world, while continuing to improve Second Life and growing Blocksworld.

Desura is a fantastic platform for game developers and players, and we look forward to seeing it continue to evolve and grow, now as part of Bad Juju Games.

Desura: just 16 months in the Lab's portfolio
Desura: just 16 months in the Lab’s portfolio

A press release from Bad Juju themselves indicates that negotiations over the future of Desura have been underway for some months:

Indie Game and Middleware Tools Developer Bad Juju Games®, today announced that it has officially acquired Desura™, a comprehensive digital distribution service for PC, Mac and Linux gamers from its former owner and operator Linden Lab®. The move comes after several months of coordinated planning by the companies to ensure uninterrupted operation of the Desura service as well as a comprehensive roadmap of new features that will significantly benefit both its users and game developers during the upcoming months and beyond.

It is unclear what the sale of Desura may mean for Scott Reismanis, if indeed it means anything at all. Reismanis, who founded the digital distribution service, and who joined Linden Lab as “Director of Digital” not long after the acquisition. With his experience in empowering creators to benefit from their digital content, Mr. Reismanis may already be involved in the development of the company’s “next generation” virtual worlds platform.

While this may sound a little like 20/20 hindsight, I confess to being unsurprised by the sale of Deura; I’ve actually been expecting news of this kind for the past couple of months, and particularly since the Designing Worlds interview with Ebbe Altberg. During that programme, Mr. Altberg referred to the Lab being in a process of cleaning up their product portfolio (some 3 minutes into the show), with the use of the present tense suggesting to me that the process was still going on, rather than him simply referring to the company’s removal of Versu, Creatoverse and dio from their portfolio. Given the statements of support that have been repeatedly given about Blocksworld, the comment in the DW show seemed to indicate something would be happening to Desura and / or Patterns.

To be totally honest, at the time I felt it more likely that Desura would be let-go than Patterns, as the latter at least seemed to fit with the Lab’s sandbox creativity philosophy, while Desura always seemed more of an awkward fit, and something more likely to generate a decent return if offered for sale. Of course, as it turned out, Patterns went first.

Confirmation also seemed to come when an enquiry on an unrelated matter led to a response from the Lab that all remaining advertising including Desura, would be removed from their remaining web properties (my.secondlife.com and search.secondlife.com). The reference to Desura chiming as odd, given it was ostensibly a Lab product.

I was broadly supportive of the Lab’s attempts to diversify their product portfolio, even iff the effort always did seem half-hearted. Companies with all their eggs in one basket tend to by very vulnerable to any number of circumstances not always of their own making – although equally, they can also sit very comfortably in a niche and enjoy a long life. Even with Blocksworld still on the books – and another repeated statement that the company will be standing beside that product – it now seems that for better or worse, the Lab has opted to keep only their golden egg, Second Life, and focus on perhaps producing another they can nurture alongside it.

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13 thoughts on “Lab divests itself of Desura

    1. I don’t know about applying semiotics; but often times this is how the rule of senior management works.

      That said, as much as I agreed with the idea of the Lab diverisfying when announced, nothing every really materialised in terms of direction or strategy.

      Creatorverse and dio – being honest – seemed little more than CEO whims, things Rod Humble wanted to to do, rather than things the Lab should have been doing. Versu was a good idea (and still is), but didn’t really seem to have a deep seated commitment to really make it happen (marketing-wise, etc).

      I did feel Patterns fitted the “creative sandbox” approach the company had at the time, and was growing its own legs (or seemed to be… maybe sales just died during the Genesis phase, leaving it with just a very small hardcore of users). Desura just seemed … odd, and Blocksworld, frankly, a lucky buy that happened past at just the right time – but which, strangely, has never been leveraged into the Android market.

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      1. Especially about dio, I never was able to find a tangible use-case scenario. It might have been a good way for creating pictorially-enhanced stories, or perhaps graphic-text adventure games, but most of the functionality needed for this just wasn’t there. Of course, I could very well be wrong.

        As for Blocksworld, I think they haven’t bothered to port it to Android, and I think this could have to do with the fact that iOS device owners are far more likely to buy apps and proceed with in-app purchases than Android device owners. As a matter of fact, this is the reason why some mobile app developers I know in RL have moved completely from Android to iOS. In an even more radical move, one such developer has even left iOS and gone to Blackberry this year.

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        1. dio initially had some potential for those who perhaps wanted to have an interactive web presence that could be relatively easily configured and created without any missing around in code; certainly when I first played with it, it struck me as better than I’d anticipated, and despite an awkward-looking UI, was realtively easy to manage. The problems were a) just how big, really, was such a market – apparently not that big given most of the interesting bits were stripped from the product after its re-build; b) the rebuild left it looking like a solution without a problem, as I noted at the time:

          OK, so dio has entertaining little bells to it. You can embed pictures in pictures, text in pictures and video in pictures, you can link pictures with other pictures and so on and so forth. But, the question still remains – why? As easy as the new UI is, the fact remains that if you want to share a bunch of photos with friends, it’s still easier to slap them up on Flickr or a similar site, and all the pretties be damned. As it is, dio is increasingly looking like it is trying to be far too many things, and that like Jack, it’s going to remain master of none.

          Android: that’s certainly been (and is) true on within the ‘phone market. However, Localytics suggests that in the tablet arena (where Blocksworld sits), Android app sales have been closing the gap on iPad app sales, even coming close to matching them in some countries. In Germany, for example, they report Android apps sales average $3.14 per sale session compared with iPad’s $3.28, while here in the UK, Android tablets are reportedly generating $1.13 per sales session compared to the iPad’s $2.29 (up from $0.19 compared to $0.94 in 2013). True, the iPad is still generating the lion’s share of apps sales revenue, but the way the gap has been closed perhaps shouldn’t be entirely sneezed at.

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          1. Then the lack of an Android port for Blocksworld does seem even more like a missed opportunity than it did before.

            Re: “solution without a problem” – This was my sentiment not long after signing up for dio.

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    1. I think it is selling well enough to roll on for a while, although the fact any hope of it appearing on the Android platform seems to have poofed, and that narrows the market appeal – and possible longevity.

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  1. Well this took me by surprise but LL didn’t really seem to talk up the service and with other ventures being offloaded or deleted, I guess it shouldn’t have been that surprising really.

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    1. As noted in my piece, I genuinely did feel this was in the wind – moreso than Patterns going, in fact (I was actually anticipating an announcement that Desura had gone following the DW interview, for reasons stated. In that respect, the Patterns announcement sent me on a bit of a wobble.

      But really, Desura never really seemed to fit anywhere within the Lab’s product offering, and what potential was there evaoprated very quickly. Take Deserium, for example, and the plans to drive it forward in the open-source environment a-la the SL viewer. No sooner were they announced a year ago, than they seemed to evaporate (or maybe people just weren’t interested…).

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      1. I thought Desura fit a whole lot better than the other products. Desura required software engineering and knowledge in running a user-to-user economy, the two things Linden Lab can natively do. Those other products and games in general require artists, musicians, designers and writers, things Linden Lab doesn’t have and so they had to acquire other companies and their products to brand as their own.

        In my opinion Desura fit perfect, the other stuff didn’t. The major difference between Desura and Second Life business-wise was that Desura has major, larger competition and Second Life never has. It makes sense for Linden Lab to try and continue leading in virtual worlds rather than play catchup hosting an indie marketplace.

        I think more than being unwilling to do what it took to compete with services like Steam Greenlight, Humble Store/Widget and Itch.IO, Linden Lab just wants to focus on SL2 and that’s good. I get the “not all eggs in one basket” argument, but that’s a luxury of a thought when the basket’s still upright, not turned over like with Second Life with tier payers jumping ship and sign-up retention still being very poor. If Linden Lab is successful with SL2, then maybe they should think about more products. Rod pulled the trigger way too soon and too rapidly.

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        1. Point taken on the market element of Desura, although I’d say that’s more an adjunct to, rather than a reason for, acquisition; the market environments have somewhat different natures (one is primarily crypto-currency driven, the other isn’t, both perhaps offer limited opportunities to the other in terms of their target audiences). And as you say, Desura always faced larger, tougher competition, and like you, I doubt there was really the stomach to try to attempt to square-up to that competition.

          It certainly makes sense for the Lab to focus on what they’re good at – building VWs – and your point about the egg basket still being upright underlines this. My support over the initial announcement of the intent to diversify was largely down to the basket showing signs of toppling (as you note vis declining revenues from tier, etc.), and there seeming to be nothing on the table by way of an alternative. And even when it was indicated in October 2012 that the Lab was working on the idea of new VWs, efforts appeared to continue to be directed towards acquisition (Blocksworld, Desura), rather than genuine development (triggers and targets again), right up to Ebbe’s arrival and realignment of company goals.

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