Misconceptions about the Independent Games Industry

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When the topic of the independent games industry is raised within your group of friends, assuming that a good percentage of them are gamers, theres a general sense of confusion thats bound to accommodate their lack better judgement. This confusion is either surrounding preconcieved notions, or absolutely no idea on the topic, probably because they’re general gamers who have purchased a system and like to buy a steady flow of whatever their friends tell them is good, who are incidentally people in the same situation. The next event is you attempting a construct and answer as to what the independent video game industry is, and them thinking you know way to much about games and immidiately loose interest, allow me to explain.

The independent game industry is comprised of companies that create games without the financial backing of a publisher. These game don’t have to be of any particular orientation, but are generally smaller titles bordering on the artistic, namely because they don’t have publishers breathing down their necks, telling them what the “people” want. These games are then usually distributed digitally by means of web portals (www.newgrounds.com) or via digital media distribution services as such as Steam or the Xbox Live Arcade, the purpose of this is to limit or erradicate unwanted overheads in order for the company to derive as much profit from these titles as possible.

Teams in these companies are predominately smaller, ranging from Number Nones’ team of two all the way up to an entire 100+ company. The reason why these companies are often smaller in developer numbers is so that the team can really work closely together in order to maximise efficiency and production quality, due to the fact that they often have less resources at their expense and need to make use of everything they have without wasting precious time or funding. You may think that because they smaller teams, that there would be less ideas, the truth is quite the contrary. By adhering to the “two pizza team” strategy, teams of this size can often produce better ideas, because thoughts and concepts aren’t lost in translation between departments and their designers.

Probably the largest misconception about the independent industry is that every company that starts out “indie”, is amalgamated with a larger company, or joins a publisher, this is by no means true. One example of a company that has grown to incredible proportions whilst still remaining independent is Insomniac Games, a Burbank base company that found its humble origins in 1994, that is now producing its thirteenth title, and has created 3 incredibly well known franchises.

So you can see, the independent video game industry isn’t just a “pretentious load of art snobbery”, or “that thing, I think it’s the same as the video game industry”, it’s about hard working developers who have opted not to tie themselves to a publisher so they can design what ever they believe is necessary to stimulate a particular genre or avenue of the industry, regardless of how large their company grows.

I’d just like to point out that I have a huge amount of respect for the games industry workers, indie or not. They’re all good, hard working people, who have devoted their lives to the passion which is game development in order to help the industry evolve and transcend, and in the midst, make us all happy.

Miles

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