You’ve probably heard someone trumpeting the latest indie game. You’ve probably caught wind of the Humble Indie Bundle. You’ve probably seen someone advertising an indie title on Kickstarter. If you use Steam, you might have even seen EA’s Indie Bundle (they’re doing it wrong, by the way). So what is an independent game? Just what makes a game ‘indie?’ and where do you draw the line?
At first glance, this might be a pretty easy definition, right? Well…not so much, actually. Believe it or not, there’s actually no universally accepted definition of what constitutes an indie game – or an indie developer, for that matter. Still, most independent games share a lot of things in common- let’s see if we can’t come up with a definition.
An independent game is a title where the publisher – basically, the middleman in video game sales- is cut right out of the deal. This is made possible by the Internet, where the developer only has to worry about bandwidth and server costs, rather than distribution via physical media. In particular, organizations such as Valve and the Humble Bundle crew are a godsend for independent developers, allowing them to spread their game to the masses without having to worry about shelling out for a colocation facility just to handle the bandwidth from all the downloads.
As for indie developers, they tend to be a lot smaller than AAA developers (though this is not always the case). While many more established game companies might have somewhere in the area of several hundred employees, an indie developer might only have somewhere in the area of ten to fifty. Occasionally (as in the case of Pixel’s Cave Story), a game might be developed by a single individual. Sometimes, an organization might utilize kickstarter in order to get their game off the ground.
Oh, and they’re almost always cheaper, falling into a price range between $5.00 and $20.00.
Since indie developers don’t need to be concerned with publisher approval or mass market approval, they can take risks that a lot of larger corporations would completely blanch at. They can take their products in a unique direction, and completely break the mold in terms of what their games look like. Oh, and they also tend to be pretty nostalgic, taking the form of 8 or 16 bit platformers or RPGs (but again, this isn’t always the case). These factors, coupled with disillusionment at the poor behavior of many larger developers and publishers these days, has lead to a huge rise in popularity for indie gaming.
So, basically…an indie game is a title which is (usually) created by a small developer, without publisher intervention in the design process. Distribution usually falls to the developer, and is almost exclusively digital. The game is usually cheaper, slightly smaller, a bit simpler than AAA titles, and more unique than most mass-market games.
Image Credits: [Digital Trends]
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