Are you Indie enough?

23 Jul

No one will contest there has been a rise in independent game development in recent years. The vanguard of the renaissance that brought us Castle Crashers and World of Goo inspired an entire generation of developers to chuck their employers and make a go at indie game development. We’ve had an explosion in accessible platforms with the introduction of the iPhone and iPad, Facebook and social games, as well as a revolution in project financing with the introduction of crowd funding, and – let us not forget it – an increased level of involvement from traditional publishers interested in getting a piece of the action.

But what has been happening in the living room? With the repeated success stories on consoles over the years, you might think that the world of do-it-yourself development has become a rosy place. What outside observers often fail to see is how increasingly competitive and selective these marketplaces are becoming. With a limited number of release slots in the XBLA & PSN market, we’ve seen a steady increase in production values – from two guys in a cafe (World of GooBraidto small, dedicated teams (LimboBastion), to the ‘not so small’ indies (Journey comes to mind). So the question begs the answer: what’s “Indie?”.

With the uproar around EA’s recent “Indie Bundle” on steam, it’s clear that we’re talking about a subject that the development community feels ticklish about. The truth is that – even within the spirit of being the indie garage developer – making great games does requires some money. The folks at PlayDead got funding through Venture Capital firms (story), many of us get government incentives in the form of tax credits or grants, and some sign publishing deals (something you’re obligated to do if you want to release on XBLA!). So I ask you – why is signing with a publisher viewed like such a cop-out?

I don’t think that Journey deserves any less props than Dear EstherSure, ThatGameCompany was backed by the financial might and marketing machine of a mega-corporation; but does it in any way dilute the creative and commercial risks the team took while shaping their product?


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