Is The Recent Popularity of Indie Games Just a Phase?

With many gamers unhappy about the lack of creativity within AAA titles over the last two years, a lot more attention has descended upon the Indie scene. Releases such as Minecraft, Limbo and Braid have proved that quality can be produced from the smallest of budgets, and their uniqueness often results in a large fan base. With the current generation of consoles dying an exceedingly slow death, has the Indie crowd simply capitalised on a current gap in the market? And will their popularity wane as quickly as it was garnered?

The Indie genre ruled 2012. Not only were some of the most popular and critically well received games Indie titles, the insurgence of crowd sourcing to fund projects, such as those featured on Kickstarter, have helped place developers in a strong position heading into 2013. Some of those which have been backed have the chance to challenge the majority of AAA games in quality, depth and scope, something not possible without generous funding from the public. While there have been notable successes, such as FTL: Faster Than Light, we’ve already seen a few developers stop production due to spiralling costs, and this is a very real possibility as more projects enter their final stages of development. This, coupled with what is most likely the launch of a new console generation, could spell disaster for Indie developers.

FTL is one Kickstarter success story.

FTL is one Kickstarter success story.

With the release of new consoles always comes the willingness for publishers to take risks. Gamers are most likely to invest in new IP’s at the beginning of a generation, and creating the next juggernaut is a tantalizing prospect for those dipping their hands in their pocket. Massive behemoths such as Halo, Gears of War and Uncharted were all released relatively close to launch of their respective consoles. With shiny new AAA tiles being released, boasting new, interesting design elements, a serious problem is created for Indie developers. Their games are renowned for their creative approach to gameplay and ability to construct a unique experience. Yet with their minimal marketing budget, much of their fan base could be drawn to massive new IP releases which simply offer something beyond the capability of many publisher free developers.

It’s very possible then that we could see the popularity and critical praise for Indie games enter a cyclic nature, much like that of consoles. As each console reaches the end of its lifespan, an abundance of quality titles appear by independent developers, wrestling the spotlight from games with large resource pools.

The Indie scene and its place in the spotlight could equally be here to stay though. The resurgence of the PC as a gaming platform to rival that of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 should not be underestimated. Couple that with Valve’s committed approach to supporting Indie developers, the dominance of Steam and the company’s first step into hardware will create an environment for titles such as To the Moon and Hotline Miami to thrive and prosper. This Indie utopia will help more quirky, unique titles to see the light of day, and can only benefit the industry and those seeking a career within it.

Their relatively good value, cheap production and critical recognition have already made many Indie games vastly popular, and I for one will be happy to see them stick around.

When Ollie Powell isn’t writing for Analog Addiction, he’s off galivanting on a magical unicorn to distant, mystical lands. You can follow his adventures here http://people.ign.com/majesticmaverick


2 replies »

  1. Great article, Ollie.

    I think Indie games are hear to stay in the industry for a while, as long as there is a way for them to reach mass markets. That is, as long as Valve keeps putting Indie games on Steam. Sure, there are some Indie games that get released on Xbox and PlayStation, but I think the main reason we don’t see Indie games on those consoles is because it costs too much to get them certified (at least for Xbox anyway). I understand that Microsoft and Sony are businesses, but what better way to sell a console than with a great variety of games?

    Like Vlad said, welcome to us!


  2. I think smaller developers will still thrive on platforms like the PC (through Steam), on Valve’s future console (again, because of Steam), and maybe on other consoles like OUYA, Gamestick and whatever else people will come out with. As far as Sony/Microsoft/Nintendo are concerned… I don’t think they’ll support them. They’ve got their own successful franchises and big third party developers like Rockstar, Ubisoft, EA, Activision and so on, to create big titles for them. They just won’t care when the next Uncharted/Halo/Zelda title will come out and sell millions of copies.

    By the way, welcome to us Ollie!


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