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Matthew Handrahan from GamesIndustry.biz thinks that indie developers are slowly moving into a dead end. Distribution is getting less streamlined and customers are becoming more and more particular about their choices.
Handrahan says that the last decade was especially favorable for flexible and agile small companies. New technologies and distribution methods allowed 1-3-person teams to flourish and achieve impressive results both on PC and on mobile. However this golden age of indie development has ended.
The main problem that bugs modern game developers is the inability of big stores to cope with a huge quantities of game releases. There’s still no easy way to navigate hundreds of thousands of games on the virtual shelves. With the lack of proper discovery methods indie devs cannot gather enough money to continue working in the industry. Steam was considered to be free of these problems but not any more.
2014 was a breakout year for the platform. With Early Access and Greenlight hundreds of new games flooded the shelves of Steam. The market became so overcrowded that now the only way to get featured is to get a big discount during the season sale. Discounts became a “matter of survival” with no alternative. Although many developers feel like these marketing methods devalue PC-games they continue to use them. Curators and journalists help but not much. There’s still a ton of games flowing below the radar.
Kickstarter is no longer a good place for indies as well. Crowdfunding platform faced many problems in 2014. Less projects are getting funded than a couple of years ago. Developers still haven’t figured out how to balance their own abilities and their own desires. Some studious gather millions but fail to deliver a great product. Some companies can’t gather enough to get their projects going due to bad reputation or lack of experience. Less than 40% of projects find the necessary budget on Kickstarter now. The peak of the service is apparently over.
Although Handrahan is not very optimistic he does believe that indies will survive against all odds. He thinks that a career in game development is becoming more and more interesting for all sorts people, which means that we will continue to see cool new games. The problem is that there will be too many entertainment products.
The author thinks that the games that shall prevail are the ones sparkling with talent and originality and not the ones with the biggest marketing budged. Although a bit naïve, we can’t help but to agree with this thought. After all we all want games that “deserve the investment of time and money”.
Indies will have their own place in the sun because like never before personality remains of great importance on the market. Creating a game and pushing it to the customer is much easier when the product has some unique features, remarkable visuals and great gameplay. In short, to win this battle you have to make great games. Indies don’t have any right to make lazy derivative titles expecting them to get millions of dollars. There’s no place for puzzle platformers or broken RPGs with dated graphics. Overcrowding means greater responsibility, so try to shoot for the stars and create something like Monument Valley or This War of Mine, instead of making another inferior clone.