Why We Need… Independent Developers

Innovation- it’s a word many gamers would like to see more of in the games we play. Instead, we get a word some would consider a bad omen; repetition. Repetition can be used to describe most big publisher’s releases ( CoD, and anything with a 3 after its name, is often given this word).
“Where are the new IPs?”
“When are we going to see something different?”
These are questions many gamers will bring up at some point.

Enter Independent Developers, or Indie Devs for short. For those not in the know, independent developers are game development teams who publish, distribute and market (although this is usually just from word of mouth) their games on their own- no EA, no Take Two, no THQ, etc. Indie teams are usually pretty small, from as little as 1 person to maybe 10 or 20 maximum, compared to development teams who develop for a publisher like Ubisoft who might have close to, or over, 100 people working on a game.

Game of Thrones being built in Minecraft

Now that we’ve familiarised ourselves with the basics of Indie Devs, let’s get back to the question at hand. Why do we need Independent developers? It all goes back to that one word, ‘innovation’.

While the big name publishers are creating franchises with multiple titles (that probably won’t change much on the gameplay side) which they hope will make them money, most Independent developers have nothing to lose- and everything to gain.

Minecraft, Torchlight, Dust: An Elysian Tail, Journey, and The Unfinished Swan are all games from various Independent studios. With little marketing available, the only way these games were going to sell was by doing something different; something that would make them standout.

The good news is, they all did (in one way or another). Be it Minecraft’s open world where anything is possible; Torchlight’s homage and reinvention of classic the dungeon crawler; Dust’s unique art style and intriguing story; or Journey’s and The Unfinished Swan’s short ‘experiences’, indie games are always trying to find new ways to innovate because that’s how they will get noticed.

Journey’s Soundtrack has been nominated for a Grammy

I want to look at what Mojang did with Minecraft. Minecraft is a critical and commercial success, having sold overย 8 million copiesย on PC and over 5 million on 360 (as of publication). This success has pretty such paid for the development of Mojang’s next couple of games and had also allowed them to become a publisher of other Independent companies’ games. This helps other independent developers get noticed, continue to innovate and continue the cycle.

Furthmore, this innovation that must be present for Indie success causes other developers to take a step up and find something new for their game. This event starts another cycle and gives us, as gamers, some really great and refreshing games.

Indie games are also great for gamers on a budget. Most Indie games sell for 2 to 3 times less than big budget titles. Personally, I think that is a better business option because I’m more willing to invest money in a $10-$20 game that I’m not sure about, than a $80 game. Think about it for a second… would you rather have three great titles like Minecraft, FTL (Faster Than Light), and Limbo, or one AAA title?

The number of Independent Developers, and great Indie Games, is currently on the rise and doesn’t look like slowing down. I wonder if we will see another Indie game become the next big phenomenon in 2013? Only time will tell.

I hope I have opened your eyes as to Why We Need Independent Developers, next time I’ll be discussing Why We Need… Sequels.

Nathan Manning is an Editor for AnalogAddiction. He loves Independent games and all the different ideas they present to the industry. You can find him on Twitter.


2 replies »

  1. Very nice piece Nath, the games you listed there are all great selections. You know my love for Dust and Unfinished Swan, I am completely happy for more games of such quality to exist. Let us hope 2013 is full of even more independent gems.


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