Just the other day, I was playing Outlast for the Playstation 4, while I was cautiously turning down the sound at regular intervals and making sure the curtains were closed at all times (even though I live on the 8th floor) it got me thinking about why indie games are becoming more and more popular this day and age.
Think of gaming these days as like the film industry, big gaming conglomerates are releasing blockbusters that are financially successful drivel and the Indie developers are small art house companies that release games that send postmodernists into a frenzy. Let us begin with the definition of what an Indie game is, according to Wikipedia (great journalism there I know) an Indie game is; “created by individuals or small teams generally without publisher financial support”. Without a backing publisher, developers are free from time constraints and creative input meaning that the developers are free to go whatever direction they want to take the game. Face it, the video game industry has become a shadow of its former self in recent years, many, nearly all of the major game companies are now more concerned with squeezing as much money as they possibly can out of gamers through the use of paying to use online service of their games, charging for DLC for games that should have been on the disc already, (or in some cases, to unlock features that were in the game’s code but needed DLC to activate it) and then of course you have the constantly yearly “blockbusters” like Call of Duty and Battlefield which is basically the same game over and over again albeit a few minor tweaks to the gameplay. This is where the indie games come in.
There are two things that I personally enjoy when it comes to games, I like games that have incredible style, visually and narratively. You get two people together, they are both lifelong gaming fans, they throw some ideas out for a game, they spend five years developing just one game, with little to no money, what do you get? You get a game like Amnesia, how about just one man, who is fascinated about the concept of shaping an entire world by using only textured cubes, what do you get, you get Minecraft. The reason why these games get so popular is because of all time and effort that these people put into these games in order to make it truly unique. Watch the film Indie Game: The Movie and you see that all the developers describe the games as extensions of themselves, a little bit of them is put into the game in order for them to feel like they are creating something truly unique. We have games that are visually beautiful and have the best narrative seen in modern gaming like Journey, and you have games that just tickle the nostalgic armpits of gamers who grew up with Nintendo and Sega with games like Braid. These people often take an old concept that is universally loved, and then they modify it to make it modern whilst all the while making the players reminisce about the days of Mario and Link. But then you have the problem with advertising for these games, indie developers don’t have bucket loads of money to spend of advertising campaigns, all they use is gaming websites and social media, and even then their reach could get extremely limited. This is where YouTube comes into it.
YouTube is one of the main reasons why Indie games have become so popular. The “Let’s Play” formula of gaming channels is the most popular sort of YouTubing, and the Indies have benefited greatly because of it. Amnesia became so popular because Felix Kjellberg AKA PewDiePie constantly featured this game on his channel, not only did it make Pewdiepie an internet sensation, It also promoted Amnesia to a wider audience. Over the years, we have many Youtubers such as Nerd3, Total Biscuit have also used Indie games in order to promote their channels, all of them getting a considerable amount of views (rocking up to the millions). Because of the little to no advertising that Indie games get because of lack of funds, many Youtubers are committed gamers, who enjoy true quality in gaming, and one can only assume that because they see these fantastic games being made, they often like to showcase them on their channels.
And finally we have to talk about Steam, Steam has been fundamental in the accessibility of Indie games to the masses, Indie Game: The Movie talks about how Steam has given the Indie developer the tools to be able to distribute their games, which meant that Playstation, Xbox and a few others have followed that business model of online marketplace. Developers can sell their games at a very reasonable price (many big publishers sell their games on steam for a retail price of £40, while Indie games are mostly sold for mostly less than £20). It is ideal for gamers for want to play a perfect game without paying full retail price for it. Plus the Steam sales are awesome!
Overall the future continues to look bright for the world Indie games and they only continue to keep getting more and more popular as the years roll by. I am personally looking forward to see what the Indie developers will keep producing in the future.