Interview: Desura’s Dave Traeger Talks Digital DistributionBy Kyle Mann | August 3, 2011 | Interviews | No comments | Share
Well over a year ago, DesuraNET launched its digital distribution platform, dubbed Desura. We got the chance to check in with Executive Editor Dave Traeger and ask his thoughts on the shifting digital marketplace, the future for Desura and indie development, and what makes Desura different from competitors like Steam and Origin.
Desura’s been out for over a year now. How successful has it been in connecting developers to players and providing a platform for indie distribution?
It’s been a productive year, we have had great success with a few titles both in sales and mod support. While we have a long way to go, games which are on Desura and have mods available like Mount & Blade go well. It’s great when developers like TaleWorlds embrace their community, and in the end their fans win and they win as their sales get pushed up and people play their games for longer. Our inbox is filling up daily with new requests for publishing and we do not have enough staff to handle all the requests, which shows us we must be doing something right.
At Desura’s release, there seemed to be a certain disconnect between Valve’s Steam service and indie developers applying for distribution. In your talks with developers, have you found this still to be the case, or has Valve improved developer feedback in recent months?
Valve seem to keep all conversations private so it is hard to comment, apart from what we read from developers on the web. We like to run an open door policy and be honest when developers ask us why we can/cannot support their game, so that’s a big difference between us. At the end of the day we simply advise developers to sell their titles on as many platforms as humanly possible, that’s just being smart about giving your players options and publishing digitally shouldn’t be hard or restrictive. However we have found if a developer is doing exceptionally well on Steam they won’t look elsewhere for distribution, which is kind of sad. VAC locked games are also difficult to support, we are looking into ways to support all games regardless of situation; some are just harder than others.
Have you received much player feedback on the UI and implementation of Desura? How has player input shaped the continued development of the platform?
We are always looking to refine our application so any suggestions we take seriously, after all keeping the user base happy just makes sense. Right now our focus has been on our Linux build of Desura and polishing what we have, you can track our progress via the Desura blog. Developers are also constantly asking for certain features and 90% of the time we are happy to implement them. We’ve just added a great feature for the Project Zomboid guys, and recently added the ability to upload videos via Youtube links. All of this effort does payoff in the end, as we slowly work towards giving control back to the developers and make a community driven digital distribution service.
What’s the Desura team’s take on EA’s launch of Origin?
Competition is great, we support it and look forward to seeing what comes from one of the gaming giants, we just hope gamers have the ability to activate their purchases via different stores. However, from what I can tell (and this is my personal opinion not that of Desura) the application is solid however some practices which do not make any sense to me. A great example of this is how your games will expire if you do not use them in two years. Not sure why they would want to create issues for themselves like that.
What’s your general take on DRM and its effectiveness against piracy? How should a small indie development team approach the sometimes-sticky issue?
Giving players a place to get the game, keep it updated and free from as many DRM services as possible should be what all developers strive for.
Desura is a DRM agnostic service, but we aim to have as many DRM free games as possible. From what I can tell there has never been a DRM service that has not been cracked, if people want your game and they want to get it without paying for it they will find a way. Giving players a place to get the game, keep it updated and free from as many DRM services as possible should be what all developers strive for. As mentioned before if a developer wants to have DRM on their title we will support it, we won’t force our practices on anyone if they don’t wish it.
Some of Desura’s community and developer-side functionality appear to be more robust than Steam and other competitors even now. How have developers been able to take advantage of this?
Our aim has always been to put developers in control of their profile, their news and their content and developer feedback on our patching service and mod support has been very positive. We still have a long way to go (our API isn’t available yet for example), but we’ve done a lot of the hard ground work. At the end of the day developers love being able to control the entire process, from beginning to release and it brings a big smile to us when developers get there mod community involved and get free content up as well for their fans. Everyone wins.
Desura is of course tightly knit with ModDB and the modding community. What degree of success has your team seen in providing a platform for mods to find some recognition?
Desura has had no issues supporting mods, however we have this weird problem, ModDB is such a huge beast that we cannot even pull many players from that website to Desura. For new players and outside communities that know a little or nothing about modding Desura is that gateway and will supply players another option for downloads but ModDB will always be king of the modding world.
We seem to be experiencing something of an indie revival at the moment, with wild success stories cropping up every couple of months. What do you think makes so many indie games so appealing?
When the AAA games become stagnant, the focus of the media and press move from one place to another. Indies are just getting their time in the spotlight...
Freedom? We have also found that a lot of mod teams are jumping ship for multiple reasons. After working on mods for so long they want to be rewarded, they want to get as many players as possible without limiting people through engines etc. I wouldn’t really call this a revival as Indies have always been weird, wonderful and inventive, but when the AAA games become stagnant the focus of the media and press move from one place to another. Indies are just getting their time in the spotlight, and it’s great to see.
What does the future look like for Desura? I recall at launch there was a long-term vision for major publishers to sign on to distribute games. Is this still a goal?
Yes that is still our goal, we want to support all games not just mods and Indies and given enough time we will get there. Our main goal at the moment is Linux and building our community in that direction. Supporting Indie developers on all platforms eventually. We also do have a few things cooking right now that I can’t really go into, just expect great things!
How do you see the digital distribution landscape shifting and evolving, if at all, over the next five years?
When we started building Desura everyone was still going on about how brick and mortar stores wouldn’t ever lose momentum, mobile gaming didn’t exist and Zynga wasn’t worth billions. I personally believe the same games will exist, just how you play them will change, as I feel you should be able to access the same game on your PC / mobile / tablet / TV no matter where you are. And with Origin starting up if it means more competitors, it means splitting communities and even more innovation. The digital market will be interesting to watch in the coming years.
Thanks for your time!
And thank you, dear readers, for following along. You can check out any Desura developments, and download the client to give it a whirl, over at the platform’s official website.