Indie Experience Points: The Future Of Indie Games?
Most of us envision the typical indie game development process as one of a struggling individual set up against the odds of major publishers, and tyring to eek out that all encompassing game, that classic indie title. The same type of developers such as Edmumd McMillen behind Super Meat Boy, Jonathan Blow of Braid fame, Phil Fish for FEZ also give us a great indication of the direction indie games will take in the future. Which I don’t think will necessarily be through the platforms we’ve seen so far over the past few years. Steam, XBLA and PSN will still be there, but other services and platforms may rise up and take the indie pie.
Platforms which I think are primed to be successful in the future of indie are examples like Desura, which is a community driven digital distribution service for gamers, providing developers with the tools to release mods, games and downloadable content to prospective buyers. What makes Desura different from the likes of Steam, XBLA and PSN can be summed up by the very intention of the platform’s creation which is vastly different from competitors. On their website they put it pretty nicely and say:
We don’t make games ourselves, so we are entirely focused on helping game developers and publishers show off their wares. All tools and functionality provided by Desura to game developers, are provided to empower them to create a better game, and share its features in all their glory with the Desura community. Developers control the flow of news, images, videos and content through their profiles – we don’t put up walls and barriers.
This is essential difference between Desura and the other platforms, with Steam, XBLA and PSN being publisher controlled entities in the digital distribution of games. The point of Desura is to foster a relationship between the developer and the player, particularly when a developer is starting out small and doesn’t have the resources or established presence in the industry, to crack a deal with Steam, XBLA and the like.
The problem with Steam and XBLA, both big indie distribution proponents, is the approval system an indie game has to go through to make it on to the platforms. As well as the cost of putting out updates for a game and having said update costing an arm and a leg, as is the case with XBLA, because the platform is expensive to run. Yet by the end of August Steam will be changing its tune significantly with the introduction of Steam Greenlight which will drastically affect the approval system for indie games. The introduction of Steam Greenlight will be different from XBLA and PSN because:
The prime difference is the size of the team that gets to decide what gets released. For many stores, there is a team that reviews entries and decides what gets past the gates. We’re approaching this from a different angle: The community should be deciding what gets released. After all, it’s the community that will ultimately be the ones deciding which release they spend their money on.
If this proves successful Steam will become even further entrenched in the indie landscape as a prime platform to release on, and XBLA, and PSN, might prove to be inadequate for future indie releases. But we mustn’t forget the plausible impact of the Ouya. But that’s a column for another time.