One of the current “trending” subjects that has been talked about in the last year/month/days or so is the infamous “indiepocalypse”, or the possible popping of an indie “bubble”. So today, I thought I would share a few interesting reads that I’ve recently stumbled upon.
The first one is a (sad?) tale about a developer having trouble getting sales and all the work he did to develop and market his game. You can find the article here. I also really recommend reading the comments at the bottom of the article. A lot of people seem to critique his musings and conclusions and the whole page makes for a good read.
The second article I’m linking was written by Ryan Clark, maker of the Crypt of the NecroDancer. His opinion is basically that we should not worry about the “Indiepocalypse”. You can find this article on Gamasutra again.
The next set of articles is by Jeff Vogel, an old-school indie (1994!), who originally wrote an interesting article on the indie bubble last year. One of this latest articles is basically a follow-up to that article and actually links the other two articles that I’ve mentioned above. I recommend reading both.
Another really good article is this one here. It looks back at the history of video games and compares past events to the one we are currently witnessing. It also makes an interesting parallel between indie game development and photography.
My opinion on the indiepocalypse
Really, there is no apocalypse. It’s all really just another market that is quickly, and chaotically, transforming as more players enter to fray, trying to get a part of the money in the “market”. Let me give you a similar example.
Back in 2005, Nintendo released Brain Age, a casual brain training game for the DS. It quickly sold millions of copies, while also moving many of Nintendo’s handheld system along with it. And the people buying these “gaming” products were basically people that didn’t usually buy this type of product. Seeing this opportunity, many of the big names in game publishing also tried their hand at the market. While a few companies made some money in the process, a lot of them didn’t, and one of the reasons why this happened is easy to understand.
Competition, with different levels of product quality.
When Nintendo released Brain Age, no one was doing products like this on this market. They basically (sort of) invented a new market. Being the only ones in that market, along with a strong marketing machine and some inexpensive hardware, they took the industry by storm. But when other companies tried to do the same, they quickly hit a wall as dozens of similar products, varying wildly in quality, entered this new market.
If you feel like you’ve heard this story before, it’s because you have. The same story can more of less be told with the release of the Nintendo Wii console, and with the iOS/App Store (and everything mobile that followed). New markets in which new developers have struggled as the competition became more fierce.
Now, each of the three stories I briefly explained are similar, but existed in different times and social context, so they all evolved differently. And I believe the same can be said about the “indie market”.
The biggest difference with the indie situation is that instead of large companies butting heads in the cutthroat market of making and selling games, you now have “ordinary people”. And because of the high number of people who have decided to take the indie plunge, we tend to hear a lot stories of people failing. Not only that, but we also tend to identify to those people more easily than a large company.
With this in mind I think that what we are seeing is simply the following: people are realizing that developing games is a business, just like any other. You need to build your company from the ground up, think of everything to make it run. You need to get the word out about what you do and find some clients (players).
The romantic ideal of making a game you like and then thousands of people saying “Look! It’s an indie game” is over. It may have lasted a few years, months even maybe, but now that more players are in the game, just like any other market, playtime is over. It’s time to get down to business.
I don’t want to end on such a dire note. Making games is still fun and it doesn’t have to be a chore, nor does it have to be your life, professional or otherwise. But if you want it to be, you’ll still need to work hard, just like any entrepreneur.