Find Creative Games with Desura

Digital distribution of games has proven itself. There’s Impulse and GamersGate.

Of course Steam, by Valve, is the 800-lb gorilla in this space, but those with a taste outside the mainstream should take a look at Desura.

Getting Desura & Signing Up

The Desura client can be downloaded at their website. The client installs like any other Windows application except for the sign-in process.

The Sign-In Window

Must be a member to join. Just click on “New Account.”

If you’re not already a member of Desura, then you’ll need to sign in. The sign-in process mentions that one can log in with a MODDB or an INDIEDB account. The former is a website for those who make modifications of commercial games. The latter is a website for those who make games independently of an established game studio. Both sites are owned by DesuraNET Pty. Ltd., the company behind Desura. Little wonder that they accept those login credentials, but the connection becomes more apparent later on.

What the sign-in window doesn’t say, but which can be learned from Desura’s about page, is that you can also join Desura using your Facebook, Twitter, Google, or Steam accounts. To my annoyance, I only found out about this after I had created a Desura account.

Uncheck the last box.

In case you’re so hopelessly addicted to video games.

Here’s another annoyance. Earlier in the installation process, Desura offers the option to start up at login. It’s nice that the developers try to make things more convenient for users, but if double-clicking on an icon to get a gaming fix is too onerous, then someone needs to re-think his life. To be fair, though, you can leave the option un-checked.

The Store Itself

If all is successful, you'll see this.

If you can see this, then you already received the confirmation e-mail.

After creating an account, you will receive a confirmation e-mail. Click on the link provided in the e-mail and you will be able to buy games on Desura. The red bar at the top of the window of my Desura client did not go away for several minutes after I had clicked on my confirmation link, even after I pressed the refresh button on the client. On the subsection for mods, that red bar was still up after more than two hours.

Aside from the red confirmation bar not going away, the Desura client is very responsive, more so than the Steam client. Menus and buttons respond immediately. Videos play smoothly, putting to shame the choppy playback that I get with my Steam client. Another nice touch: videos do not autoplay with sound turned off by default after the page for a game loads. Valve, please take notice.

The page for each game has a button called “Track this game.” The tooltip indicates that it is meant for keeping track of news and downloadable content released for that particular game. Nice, but it’s not the same as a true wishlist. Another departure from Steam is that user comments and even the developers’ Twitter feeds are included below the game description. On Steam, community features are geared towards players facing each other in the games. On Desura, community features are geared towards developers forming a relationship with the players.

Head to Head

Comparisons between Steam and Desura are unavoidable. Whereas Steam has mass market games from big-name publishers, Desura focuses on independant game studios and mods of existing games. The sections for developers and modders far surpasses what Steam makes available. Even the Greenlight section of Steam doesn’t measure up. Think of Desura as being devoted to what Steam Greenlight does, except that even smaller game studios have a shot at releasing a game, and they don’t need to put anything to a vote. This leads to a bifurcation of titles between Steam and Desura. Most of the games available on each platform, aren’t available on the other.

At one with this difference of approach is that Steam is focused on end users, including casual gamers, while Desura gives more allowances to developers and lets them have their way. As Steve Reismanis made a point of noting when he introduced the service, Desura gives more control to developers so that they can build a rapport with their users. The comment sections of the game pages show this. In Reismanis’ words: “Developers control the flow of news, images, videos and content through their profiles — we don’t put up walls and barriers.”

Combine the above with the fact that many of these developers are basically bedroom programmers and the results can be charmingly button-down, even compared to the quirky sense of humor that Valve is justly famous for. Many of the videos on Desura aren’t trailers so much as fan-made walkthroughs where the players curse and scream (there are quite a few survival horror games on Desura). Bathroom humor isn’t out bounds in these videos, either.


If you’re the kind of passionate gamer who tires of what the major game publishers put out, then Desura has new titles you won’t find in the major press, or even Steam. Being experimental, game quality can be hit-or-miss as the comment sections in Desura attest. But if you want to be one of the first to play that cutting-edge gem before the mainstream finds out about it, then you have a chance of finding it on Desura first.


Despite some annoyances, no other digital distribution system for games provides as rich a platform for independent game makers and modders.