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Keighley on Dave the Diver Qualifying for Best Indie Game

Can you really be an indie studio with a powerful publisher behind you?

Dave the Diver is a surprising hit of the year, you must have heard about it even if it's not your type of game. Developed by Mintrocket, it lets you jump into the water, catch fish, reveal secrets of a mysterious nation, and then become a waiter in the evening – there's a lot of stuff for all kinds of players.

The game has gathered a lot of attention, selling over a million units in the first two weeks after its release, and was nominated for various titles, including The Game Awards 2023, where you can vote for it as the Best Independent Game. And here is where the little problem lies.

Mintrocket is actually a small subdivision of Nexon, a huge South Korean publisher that makes billions of dollars every year. This is definitely not what we expect from an indie studio.

Image credit: Mintrocket

Some players have the same reservations it seems because during a Q&A session on Twitch, Geoff Keighley, TGA's producer and host, was asked about his opinion on the legitimacy of this game being in the category. As reported by VGC, he replied that the term 'indie' is hard to define and it’s up to the jury to pick nominees.

"You can argue, does independent mean the budget of the game, does independent mean where the source of financing was, does it mean the team size? Is it the kind of independent spirit of the game, meaning a smaller game that’s sort of different?

"I think everyone has their own opinion about this, and we really defer to our jury of 120 global media outlets who vote on these awards, to make that determination of ‘is something independent’ or not."

Image credit: Mintrocket

He pointed out that the game industry simply doesn't have any criteria to define the word. Should it be limited by the budget? Can you have a publisher if you're an indie studio? There is no answer.

Some people argue that Larian Studios, the team behind Baldur's Gate 3, is independent, and it's partially true: it doesn't belong to any other massive company. However, its latest RPG was heavily funded by various organizations, so it doesn't qualify for the indie nomination anywhere. The same can be said for Kojima Productions' Death Stranding, "some people say that’s an independent game. And even though that’s an independent studio, of course it’s funded by PlayStation."

Image credit: Mintrocket

But back to Dave the Diver. Keighley didn't have an answer to how right it is to nominate the title for the Best Indie Game. Mintrocket is a small studio, "independent in spirit," with a supposedly small budget, but it's a part of Nexon, so only players can decide whether or not it's fair to consider Dave the Diver an indie game.

"But the fact that Dave the Diver was on that list meant that out of all the independent games that the jury looked at, or what they thought were independent games, that was one of the top five that they looked at this year."

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