Since the breakaway of the first 3rd party developers from Atari to form Activision, Indie and home development for consoles and the home computer has gone through several ups and downs. Bedroom developers of the 80s found their way into the AAA studios of the 90s and today and with the rise of 3d modelling, many found themselves unable to produce anything by themselves or in small teams.
Then 2008 came and Indie games blew up the industry. Self-publishing and Indie marketplaces are a tangible reality. The question is, will they be here to stay? My gut feeling is to say yes, though as the market grows, it’s becoming easier and easier to wallow in obscurity and people are already talking about ‘Kickstarter Fatigue’. That said, there are amazing projects coming up from all quarters, especially Kickstarter and the backing doesn’t seem to be stopping. Whilst there is a risk for the backers that it will fail, I think that the accessibility to the developers and the feeling of being heard, shaping the project, contributing, is what makes it’s so appealing.
Despite outcries, petitions, forums, social media and the like, AAA developers don’t always meet the fans expectations, they seemingly destroy franchises in the fan’s eyes. That’s not always the case but Indie developers are more accessible and often more focused on smaller groups of players so have the luxury of reaching their audience more intimately.
The Indie sector has been good to gamers the last five years. Lower priced games, meeting niche markets, a resurgence in retro art styles and hardcore games but as with any trend, it’s come with a price. Clones are flooding the internet at an astonishing rate and the rise of casual games can make it a little harder to dig for other titles. However, Steam and GOG seem to remain unfettered. Once the next generation of consoles is truly underway, we will be able to see how this will affect console users as well. With their lower prices tags, Indie titles are often much-loved alternatives for those of us who don’t always have the funds for a full priced game or having to wait to for sales to be able to justify forking out. I firmly hope that Indie games are here to stay. They can often take games in a direction that AAA is either unable to under the size of their teams and expectations or are just plain unwilling to go.
Braid, Lone Survivor, Limbo, Binding of Isaac, all brave games that try something different, toy with a style for the love of the game itself. It’s a healthy place for self-publishing to be in. AAA still has a lot to offer but there are many cracks in the industry showing as it struggles to deal with escalating budgets and higher demand for micro-transactions, superfluous DLC, there is only so long that a customer wallet will stretch and the Indie devs will be ones to help fill the gaps.