I’m back! Tonight we continue on the Future of Gaming series, tackling an important question about indie game companies and the future they hold in the gaming world.
“What does the future hold for indie game developers and companies? Will they overshadow the big name companies?”
Alright, so to answer any question regarding the future, usually one has to look at historic trends to recognize patterns and make an estimation as to how those patterns might change or stay the same in the coming years.
In the past 10 years, indie game companies have exploded—both in popularity and relative success. Many game titles that we have enjoyed on Steam are from indie developers. I, for one, just experienced Cuphead, created by indie StudioMDHR, for the first time this last summer and I have to say: Bravo! But, I also have to recollect that successes on that scale are extremely uncommon, and for no small reason: The time, skill, and money required to create and pitch a successful game these days is immense, and the competition is fierce. I have been part of the writing community for quite some time, which has a similar sense of elitism and competitive bias when it comes to getting original work published, especially from someone who is a “nobody.”
And so, what is the future for indie games? I believe indie games will continue to be a popular route for many developers and designers, as it should be. I don’t think this is going away any time soon, but I also think that this realm will only become more crowded. It sorta feels like the popular house party in college—it started out “cool” with only a few folks, a “chill” sort of party to mingle and have a good time, and then more and more people rang the doorbell and the music turned up and suddenly you’re smashed in an overcrowded, sweaty room with mysterious bodies swaying to the beat. That is not to say that success cannot be found in this realm—in fact, the opposite. Examples like Cuphead give hope that the extremely talented and dedicated can indeed achieve greatness in this world. (If you don’t know anything about Cuphead, check it out here!)
However, keep in mind that more and more people want to “make it big” this way and when there is that many people, making yourself stand out amongst the pack with new and original ideas that are well-planned and well-developed will become ever more difficult.
On the flipside, the second question, “Will indie games overshadow the big name companies?” is far from what I think the reality is. Globally, but especially in America, consumerism favors big-name companies. AAA studios. In fact, all evidence turns to the rise of “mega-corporations” that will buy out and consume its rivals, and game companies are not excluded from this trend. Money in business is like a black hole—wherever there is a surplus of its mass, more is sucked in, taken from the lesser beings on the outer fringes and crushed into the center, growing larger and more formidable. And, ironically, games were the teacher in this economic reality, the main culprit being Monopoly.
It’s not to say that indie developers have no shot at being successful. They do. But big-name game companies grow richer and more formidable every year. All evidence points to big-name companies overshadowing other companies rather than the other way around. Think about American-based major airlines—20 or so years ago there were dozens of airline companies to fly with…now there are mainly 4 large companies that dominate the airways, and those companies are growing larger. Same with technology corporations—Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon.
Game companies are no exception in this phenomena, and they are, in fact, trapped in its vacuum, same as the rest.
The future of indie games is bright but I agree they will not overshadow AAA games. Mainly because as people, gamers tend to gravitate to games that everyone else is playing. Take fortnite for example a year or so ago no one really played the game until popular streamers started saying how great it is.. Now the whole world is on it (not to mention playing for free having a great impact as well). Indie games will likely not get much exposure like that because streamers tend to focus on games the audience wants to see instead of trying a game that no one knows. Great post!
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The thing with indie developers is that they really rely on their name getting out there somehow. Look at Scott Cawthon with the FNAF games – if not for the right YouTube personalities playing his first game the. I doubt he’d have made it to where he is now.
Again, this comes down to money. Who has all the cash to get a game’s name out there? Big name publishers! Many indie studios know this and will sign up with publishers (are they still indie?) just to get their first game off the ground.
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Great question! I guess that ties into the bigger question of how we should define “indie” in a general sense. So if someone sells their idea to a big name publisher, are they still considered an indie developer, or just part of that larger vacuum of “big business”?
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To my mind, indie is a team not beholden to a publisher in any way. But I think that concept has changed a lot in the last few years (although there are still some that manage it), so perhaps teams that have sold to a publisher but the publisher is entirely hands-off?
Kickstarter has been a big help with this as it allows teams to get the funds they need. Having said that, there are a lot of “successful” Kickstarters that have resulted in no game being released.