The Indie Distribution Services Roundup

The indie game boom over the last few years has thrust indie games to the forefront, especially in PC gaming. But while there’s a growing consumption of indie titles, it hadn’t necessarily translated to an increase in indie-devoted distribution platforms until last year, which also brought forth even more indie bundles.

It wasn’t until after the success of the Humble Indie Bundle that developers/publisher wannabes saw the commercial viability of an indie-only digital distribution service. Before that, we had only indie-mainstream hybrid platforms like Steam. But there are still many developers who still can’t get their games on Steam or even into the various indie bundles out there. That’s why I’ve compiled this list of indie-centric digital distribution sites for indie gamers and developers alike to explore their different options.

Note: I had the privilege of asking Francois Guibert from Frozax Games and Jay Margalus from Lunar Giant Studios – the guys of Delve Deeper fame — to give their experience on working with Desura and Little Indie. For Indievania and IndieCity, Anthony from Flaming Hammer Games and Ido Yehieli, maker of Cardinal Quest provided their inputs.   


Notable games: Serious Sam, Mount & Blade, Penumbra, Braid, Machinarium, Trine

The most established and well-known of all the services in this list, Desura is also the first to support all three major desktop operating systems in Linux, Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows. After first riding on the coattails of the Humble Indie Bundle — by offering free keys for games in the bundle for anyone to augment their purchase with — it has since developed into a legitimate service that seeks to define itself by being DRM-agnostic and building a strong community around it.

Download Client needed: Yes/No – Desura provides direct download links for those who don’t take a fancy to unneeded bloat, something I wish Steam provided. For those who love their community features, fear not, the Desura client comes decked with almost the same tabs as Steam’s client and more. There’s also a developer tab that provides the tools that could be useful for game developers.

Supported OS Platforms: Windows, Mac and Linux

Payment options: Credit card/Paypal

Gifting: Yes

Percentage cut: The traditional 30%. Also, they only let you withdraw your fund after you accumulate $500 in your account. Not a biggie, but notable.

Alpha Funding: Supported- subject to Desura’s approval

Getting developers’ games up: Games goes live after around a day and the general process of getting it up and running seems to be plain sailing–smooth and easy peezy was how Francois and Jay put it. Desura’s staff also provides lots of support for your game running on their service although developers still retain most of the control over content(pricing, upload screenshots, trailers..)

Tools/Functionalities for developers: Desura certainly appears to justify their share of the 30% by providing an array of tools, including auto patching, mods and beta testing. The big draw though, as pointed out by both Jay and Francois, is Desura’s integration with their sister sites, IndieDB and ModDB. It really speeds up the process of getting your game live since you can draw from the same pool of assets. Not only that, you can cross promote your game on those sites. Even if your game doesn’t get through the approval process, you can be assured it will find a place among IndieDB/ModDB.

Desura’s strength seems to lie in its community. “Their customers are, by and large, some of the best we have.  I’m not sure if that’s because people buying games on Desura are already used to the ‘rough edges’ that many indie games have, but I’ve really enjoyed interacting with folks who buy our game off their service”, mentioned Jay even though Delve Deeper focused more on their Steam fanbase. Francois on the other hand says, “They seemed to care about the developer and like the fact that they can talk to the developer directly.” Francois also pointed out that this interaction is not Desura-specific but more indie-specific. Nonetheless, who’s got a bigger indie user base in the first place?


Little Indie

Notable games: The Journey Down: Episode 1, Dark Scavenger, Telepath RPG

For a portal that’s been around for almost as long as Desura, the amount of titles on Little Indie is pitifully small; 18 to be exact. The fact that they don’t even bother to categorize their games should give you a clue about the variety of games on offer. Little Indie is powered by Jade:DS, a CMS platform developed by one of the three German game/software companies that are behind the running of Little Indie.

Download Client needed: Yes. A client is needed to download and play Little Indie games but similar to Desura, it’s up to developers to decide if they want DRM on their games. If developers choose to integrate their games with the Jade:DS system, players will get access to leaderboard and achievements.

Supported OS Platforms: Windows only

Payment options: PayPal

Gifting: No

Percentage cut: 20%

Alpha Funding: Supported

Getting developers’ games up: The duration of seeing your games go live depends on whether you wish to integrate with the Jade:DS system and the level of integration. It should typically take about a day without integration and up to three days if there’s integration, according to their site. Developers will get technical support through emails to help their games get incorporated into the Jade:DS system.

Tools/Functionalities for developers: Since Jade:DS is also a full CMS, perhaps the biggest plus point Little Indie can provide developers is having your own site with full support of the Jade:DS backend with no extra costs. Your game will be available on your own site and on Little Indie too.



Notable Games: Brand, A Valley Without Wind, Trauma, Project Black Sun

There was a lot of buzz when IndieCity was first announced. It was part of their announcement that a major feature would be a recommendation engine that gives each gamer a personalized homepage of titles that appeals to their interests. It was a soft launch though, and by the time they finally came out of private beta it had allowed Indievania to be launched before it. I recently got another buzz about IndieCity when I found out they were partnering with indie developers from my home country to bring our games to you guys. So go follow the link and play some awesome Singapore indie games for free guys!!

Download Client needed: Yes. As with Little Indie, IndieCity requires a client to download and play games, and again it’s up to developers if they want to use IndieCity’s ICELib wrapper. There’s your standard achievement and leaderboards, and since IndieCity is still in beta expect more features to come. Two unique things about their client is the fact that it uses P2P sharing if you turn it on and of course the much talked about recommendation engine. Turning on the P2P setting will also get your games auto-downloaded and installed. Demos that gamers might be interested in will also get auto-downloaded.

Supported OS Platforms: Windows, Mac and Linux

Payment options: Credit card

Gifting: No

Percentage cut: 15% – if developers integrate with their wrapper
25% – if developers choose not to integrate with their wrapper

Alpha Funding: Supported

Getting developers’ games up: A panel of developers identified by IndieCity are responsible for approving any games that get sent through their way. Both Ido and Anthony indicated that the approval process can be a little tedious and take up to a few days, but there’s support. The FAQs are there as well which helped Ido and Anthony get their games running on there. There’s a lack of transparency about what it takes to be on that approval panel, but there’s a clear checklist of criteria at their forum which gives you an idea of what is needed to get your games approved.

Tools/Functionalities for developers: “They all suck in various degrees and are pretty cumbersome to use”, was how Ido thought of the tools and functionalities, while Anthony didn’t think too much of it as well. “For the most part things just seem like they were tossed together and don’t provide anything that’s useful to me.” To be fair, IndieCity is still in beta so that could be why their tools are still very basic ones like viewing stats (page views, downloads, etc).



Notable games: Wizorb, Ichi, Blocks That Matter, Squids, Cthulhu Saves the World

Indievania was set up by the guys behind Capsized. What started out as a way for the two-man team to sell their own games, it has since evolved into a full-fledged distribution service for indie titles. Skepticism arose over two of their prominent designs for the site in which there is no screening process for games submission and the fact that all the profits go to the developers. One might be worried whether no screening might lead to having to trawl through lots of rough stones before finding the polished gems, but a quick glance over at Indievania indicate there’s still a certain quality about the games there — I’ve even managed to find one or two freeware gems. Since Indievania is entirely funded by optional donations each time someone buys a game — there’s not even ads on there — there’s good concern about the longevity of the service.

Download Client needed: No. A email with a one time download link for the game you purchased will be sent to you. To re-download a game, all you have to do is to visit the account section of the site.

Supported OS Platforms: Windows, Mac and Linux

Payment options: PayPal

Gifting: No

Percentage cut: None. Indievania pays directly into developers’ PayPal accounts with no need to wait until developers accumulate a certain amount in their account before they can withdraw funds.

Alpha Funding: Supported

Getting developers’ games up: “Indievania’s process was more straightforward and intuitive to me.” Anthony was able to get his game, Collaptris, live on Indievania within 24 hours. Due to having no screening process, Indievania is the quickest option to get your game up and running on a distribution service and the process is pretty easy as well, as Ido told me. Developers get to put their Twitter feed, website, Facebook link, etc….on their game’s page and retain full control over how their games are sold.

Tools/Functionalities for developers: None

© 2012 – 2013, The Indie Mine. All rights reserved.

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Author:Sue S.Y

Sue is currently taking a games development course at Temasek polytechnic and hopes to be either a game designer or video game journalist someday. He is hopelessly addicted to the football manager series and uses it as a form of escape from actual football played by his favourite club , Aston Villa

5 Responses to “The Indie Distribution Services Roundup”

  1. June 22, 2012 at 7:18 am #

    A useful article. I’d heard of all these services but have no experience with them. Little Indie sounds, frankly, very discouraging. The write-up of Indievania seems promising though, so I might have to take a look.

  2. June 22, 2012 at 8:37 am #

    As a consumer, I’ve only used Desura. As a journalist, I love its tie-in to IndieDB and all of the information I can gather through there.

    But yeah, of the others, Indievania looks pretty solid. The notable games listed for it are of good/great quality. Will be very interesting to see how these all shake out over the next year and see who’s still standing.

    To our readers: If you’re a developer, I encourage you to leave feedback on your experiences so that other developers can learn a thing or two.

  3. July 1, 2012 at 7:12 pm #

    Thx for this article. it isexactly what we were looking for.:)


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