If you follow indie-developer news lately, you probably noticed since late 2014 that Desura, a online store prominent for small indie games, has been late to pay many developers. I was one of those developers waiting to get paid, although I did eventually receive what I was owed in January 2015. The only reason I post this now is that I feel some responsibility… several game news-sites have only recently started writing stories about Desura’s excuses, and most have specifically referenced a reddit page I made asking if this was a common problem.
The reason I bring this up is that I’m scarred. Legally, developers that have waited months for their owed payments have a case to sue Desura if they wanted to, but doing this type of action always seemed petty and out of anger and spite to me (America has a reputation of treating suing someone as a business rather than a legal action). I don’t think it’s worth the effort. I don’t think it’s worth the pain.
I have two reasons for hoping things settle down here: firstly, Desura was never meant as a major source of income for anyone. Or, maybe it was, but it hasn’t been to anyone for a long time as far as my knowledge goes. Steam, and maybe GOG and Humble Bundle, are the only potential sources that could sustain a indie developer’s salary, either for sole developers or a small team. But for most hobbyists and artists, it’s nearly impossible to get your game listed on these sites for discovery. Desura’s barrier of entry is so low, and in that field they have the largest audience, making them the best choice for starting developers to make their work available. But what little stats there are suggest that Desura’s audience is less than 1% of what Steam has. I’m willing to bet that even the most successful games on Desura, such as recent hit “Friday Night at Freddy’s,” haven’t made more than a few thousand dollars per game’s lifetime on the platform. Yes, that’s significant and appreciated, but I can’t believe anyone is seriously staking their living and operating expenses on what Desura provides them. That’s what prompted me to make the following tweet in Desura’s defense, followed by a second tweet when some developers took offense:
Most dev’s on Desura are each waiting for maybe $1000 at most. That shouldn’t be a make-or-break amount, you can wait a little longer.
— Dust Scratch Games (@Dust_Scratch) May 31, 2015
(If my comments in Desura’s defense offends anyone, I apologize. I just don’t like anger on the Internet. Hope things get fixed soon.)
— Dust Scratch Games (@Dust_Scratch) June 1, 2015
So while not a great source of income, Desura is a great stepping stone for making your game discoverable and available to an audience who has a history of supporting obscure indie games. That’s how I think it should be viewed.
My second reason to hope things settle down is that Desura HAS SUCCESSFULLY PAID ME after a few times of contacting them, and a handful of other developers also vouch for that. They are addressing the situation on their homepage. From released word so far, it sounds like the entire website and payment system for Desura is outdated and broken, and Bad Juju Games (the recent owner of the platform) has been trying to fix it. Until then, payments have to be made manually one at a time, making it easy for developers to get lost in the process. I don’t think this is a money issue, just a workload issue. From what I hear, the situation has blown out of proportion a bit, with less than 100 developers waiting for payment. Many of the most focal voices have in fact been paid (so I’m told), they are just adding fuel to the fire to support other developers still waiting.
Basically, while it’s not right that anyone is still waiting for payment, I trust Desura that they are trying to fix it, that things will sort itself out in the coming months without further backlash and hatred on the Internet…
… and then I hear today that Desura has filed for bankruptcy.
If everyone can help RT please, I can’t use company accounts, we are locked out. I can’t answer my email there anymore
— LadyKaiju (@LadyAijou) June 5, 2015
If you Google, Bad Juju bankruptcy, you find some very unfortunate news.
— Graeme Boxall (@uncomplex) June 5, 2015
I knew the hospitalization of Desura’s CEO sounded fishy (even though it may have been true), but I honestly wasn’t expecting this. Out of the blue, even without some of the best employees at Desura and affiliate IndieRoyale knowing, the company appears to have officially filed for bankruptcy. I hope this is purely a legal action to protect themselves against not paying on time, and that Desura will somehow regroup and come back, but that seems less and less likely.
Oddly, while most comments about Desura a week ago were out of anger and frustration, most of the comments I’ve read in the last 24 hours are of regret and sympathy. It’s a little heartwarming to see in a sad time. Desura was a haven for indie developers, and IndieRoyale became my favorite bundle site in the last year of trying other sites out. While Steam has been greenlighting games more quickly in the last couple of years, the barrier is still too high. Without Desura, most indie developers won’t be able to make much income at all, let alone a few thousand. We’ve lost a significant player today, I hope support for obscure indie games will continue.
All I can say is that I hope the good people from Desura find jobs soon. To people who have bought my one game “Drew and the Floating Labyrinth” on Desura or IndieRoyale, pickup a Steam or IndieGameStand key soon and let me know of any problems. To new developers, I highly recommend IndieGameStand as an alternative (and itch.io has a lot of fans, and also some interesting updates to their site). I’m sorry if any of my past comments have offended anyone or are misinformed.
Also, I would like to know exactly how many developers are left: who still hasn’t received payment from Desura even now? How much do they owe you? I suspect less than $100,000 total payments are still unaccounted for if anything has not been sent out, a large sum but potentially small should successful AAA/indie/publisher groups want to step in. If there’s another link where a list is being kept, or if you have further comments about the whole situation, please share it in the comments below.