How widespread is now such a concept as “indie games”, or rather, not even a concept, but this very combination, because many perceive its essence in different ways. What was born as a definition of the form of publishing a game has turned into a whole conventional genre, which is actively used in everyday life. And it is misused.
What are we now used to consider an indie game? Visually unpretentious projects that do not pretend to be the hit games of the entire generation, but conquering with their special, specific, I would call it “old”, beauty, their, as they say, soul, interesting ideas in terms of mechanics, and sometimes very serious subjects. But does an indie game have to be like this?
Warm Wing Publisher
I’m afraid I’ll have to start with the duty phrase about the definition of the word “indie” itself. Indie is an abbreviation for the English “independent”, that is, “independent”, and thus we get the main aspect that separates indie games from non-indie – is it whether the developer studio has a large publisher behind the back or takes the entire marketing routine to me. And dependence here should be taken not as a metaphor, but in the most direct sense. Why? Let’s start with who is a publisher?
A publisher is a company that a developer comes to, presents his idea, and if the publisher likes it, he takes this developer under his warm wing, feeds him, and pleases him. This continues until the developer brings his idea to life in the form of a new game, and then the publisher helps to promote this game so that as many people as possible learn about the game, and most importantly BUY it. And the publisher himself receives a large percentage from this and depending on the contract concluded with the developer, also the right to publish all subsequent games in the franchise, if any.
It follows that the more successful the game is, and the success is always measured by the number of copies sold, the more profitable the publisher. Therefore, the publisher will do everything to not only advertise and launch it to the masses, but also make it interesting for the mass player, and not for individual groups of interested parties. And this is done in a very, let’s say, “unpleasant” way: the publisher begins to invade the developer’s “personal space” and dictate his own terms.
The game development company understands that without a feeding trough, his idea will not reach the final, and therefore he has to make compromises with the publisher:
- cut off everything that he doesn’t like;
- add what the publisher considers necessary.
And this directly affects the concept of the game, starting with the plot and ending with specific mechanics. And it happens even worse: the publisher begins to demand an urgent release of the game, tying its release to a certain date or event, and as a result, the games come out raw, bugged, or with a bunch of cut content.
New ideas are scary
And so it turns out that games with the grind, towers, etc., which, it would seem, everyone hates so fiercely, turn out to be the most successful. The mass audience is much more willing to buy grind games, rather than story-driven, deep-in-concept projects. Publishers love money, and can they be blamed for that? I think no, this is the business.
Among the developers, there are many talented guys who hatch brilliant ideas and dream of translating them into their games. But ideas are not always met with enthusiasm, no matter how unique they may be. Everything is subjective, and the players in their masses are capricious and not always ready for “updates” in the usual scheme.
A good example is Resident Evil 4: it is objectively excellent but met by many fans of the previous parts very coolly for the bias towards the shooter and the overall increased dynamism of what is happening. And I know that the game is now considered a great part and paid off handsomely, but it cannot be denied that many refused to accept it in the years of its release only because of the innovation.
I just want to say that not everything that is indie that is a pixel, like not everything that is pixelated, is indie. Indie games are, on the one hand, a simple concept, but on the other hand, it has very blurred boundaries, so it becomes not so easy to say that there is an indie game and an indie game development outsourcing.
A huge number of cheap (in terms of budget) pixel-style game crafts that have flooded into Steam in recent years, prompted the players to select a special category for these games, somehow generalize them, come up with a common name for them so that in one word it would be worthwhile whether their attention is playing or not, and that word has become “indie games”.
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