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5 Ways Indie Games Are Changing Everything and One Way They will Doom Us All

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Posted October 19, 2011 - By Rob Manuel










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5 Ways Indie Games Are Changing Everything and One Way They will Doom Us All

The nerd flu from IndieCade has hardly left when it’s time already to send out applications for next year’s IGF Awards. Good luck to everyone participating. Next week, keep an eye out for some awesome preview trailers in this column. Honestly, I couldn’t help myself and snuck in one new game that you need to know about into this week’s column. I couldn’t wait. But this week, I want to talk about the importance of indie games.

We talk in future tense when mentioning the impact or role these titles fills in the future of gaming. I want to talk about the big impact these small developers are making in the gaming world. Take a step back and look at the bigger picture. You’ll see the industry moving around already to adjust to new technology, a new audience, and right smack dab in the middle of it all are indie games. Here are five big changes and one problem looming over the horizon for indie games.

The Five Ways Indies Change Everything

Going Digital

Often we point to future trends but rarely see them in action. The indie community embraced the ability for gamers to go straight to the source or through a third party to get games without having to set up shop in a brick and mortar store. When you hardly have enough money to complete a game, extraneous bits such as box art or even disks seem frivolous. Cut out the middle man and sell your wares from the virtual trunk of your station wagon. Bigger publishers quickly embrace the idea for many of the same reasons as well as one more – you can’t resell a downloaded game. If you haven’t already noticed, many companies such as Gamestop and Amazon have started working their way into the download business.

Going To New Places

About five years ago, the epitome of my phone gaming rested in a snake trying to eat little balls. I would have simply laughed at you if you told me that some of the biggest games now appear on the thing I use to call for a pizza. Look down the list of top selling titles and you’ll see small studios making the big impact. Small, unique, and extremely fun is what the indie community knows how to do best. Going back to the first point, creating a product that’s easy to download fits perfectly into the new platform that focuses more on digital delivery than physical media. What we’re seeing now are the big boys like EA and Sony scrambling for mobile content. But as I saw at IndieCade, even the smaller teams are dreaming big with Desktop Dungeons already dabbling in cloud saves to move information between devices. Imagine taking your game anywhere you go.

5 Ways Indie Games Are Changing Everything and One Way They will Doom Us All

The Price of Gaming

Paying 60 bucks a pop for your gaming goodness hurts no matter the title. When you start to think about games by the number of lunches you can buy for each title, you start to get a little stingy with what you’re willing to buy. Now look at indie titles coming down the pipeline often selling for half the price or less. Full price titles will never go away, but the demand for something a little kinder to your wallet has been on the rise. Capcom released Case Zero, a smaller version of their Dead Rising 2 game, to nearly half a million eager fans. Other games pulling from source material like Infamous 2: Festival of Blood. We’re also seeing games embracing their indie roots such as Serious Sam 3’s smaller titles - Serious Sam: Double D, Serious Sam: The Random Encounter, and Serious Sam: Kamikaze Attack! Maybe one of indie game’s greatest innovations is saving you a couple of bucks.

Always Something New

Innovation – I tend to sling that word around when talking about indie games. The word also carries an amount of risk. Gamers don’t always welcome change or new experiences. Think of indie games as a microcosm of innovation. What works will sale, and what doesn’t work will remain in obscurity. Thanks to games like Narbacular Drop and Tag: The Power of Paint; we get amazing titles like Portal and Portal 2. Indie games treed where the big boys only dare. With so many great games dabbling in interactive fiction, group play, and augmented reality; it’s only a matter of time before the bigger companies start to pick up on these innovative ideas. As we’ve seen with Minecraft, everyone will want to follow you if you create a great idea.

Everyone Plays

Not everyone is a white male between the ages of 18 to 35. Surprising as that may be, other people exist outside this narrow demo. In my world – everyone plays. Everyone gets a chance to be the hero, to save the world, or just to have fun. Already with indie games, we’re looking at heroes that don’t fit the mold white, male, or sometimes even human. Let’s give people a choice of whether or not they want sparkles on their vampires. Everything from They Bleed Pixels, IndieCade winner Deepak Fights Robots, to the new Iconoclasts proves that you don’t have to fit a stereotype to find your game.

And One Way They Will Doom Us All

The Tidal Wave

Everyone wants to follow the money. Thumb through the Apple Store sometimes and you’ll find clones for every game from Bejewled to Zuma. Add to that all of the games that come out every month and what you’re looking at are often an overflowing bin of apps from the smallest company to the largest developer. If you’re not at the top of the heap through reviews or sales, you’re nowhere to be found. The same goes for Xbox, Steam, and PSN. The ease of making and sometimes copying these smaller downloadable titles makes it harder for a new idea or even the original creator to make a buck. Sometimes it’s just a struggle just to find your audience. With this rush of games flying into the market, new developers may find themselves getting pushed aside as larger companies find a way to churn out someone else’s ideas on a massive scale.

Not all is so hopelessly lost in a sea of games. Just as with most consumer titles, reviews from bigger outlets will hopefully bring the best to the spotlight. Awards and nominations often illuminate those who deserve them and need a little extra recognition. I’m guessing that there will be less of a bubble and more of a realization that the system is changing. The swarm of copycat titles will continue as long as we clamor for great games. All we can do is be educated and support great games.

The Shoulds

5 Ways Indie Games Are Changing Everything and One Way They will Doom Us All

What You Should PlayFisher-Diver

Think of it as post-modern fishing. You play as a diver hunting for the biggest catch. Actually, you play as two round balls but nothing else looks like it should – except the boat. With limited air and storage, you try to knockout the best fish to bring back to shore. You get money for everyone you catch but you’ll gain more dough if you don’t rough up the merchandise too much. You attack with air and you get more money if you collect more before coming up. After every trip, you can up grade your equipment and try to survive a nightmare. Told you it was post-modern.

What You Should BuyReally Big Sky

Bullet hell meets disco inferno in this highly stylized shooter. The game controls more like a dual-stick shooter than your typical side scroller. Everything from the right of the screen still zips past to the left side of the screen – bullets, enemies, whole planets. That last bit will require you to drill through rock or zap your way past clots of gas in order to survive. A recent update threw in more enemies, modes, and more. It’s worth it to at least check out the demo.

What You Should Support Last Class Heroes

Calling it RPG eye candy isn’t far from the truth, but this iOS title is more than just a pretty face. Pilot your marionette as you battle evil one tap at a time. You’ll cruise for the halls of Vermilion Academy looking for items, runes, and a little bit of trouble. The character designs look amazing and battle looks as though they’ve kept it simple for the smaller screen. A donation of just 5 bucks gets you the game, but a little extra could score you and art book or a copy of the soundtrack.

5 Ways Indie Games Are Changing Everything and One Way They will Doom Us All
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