The State of Indie Development

The State of Indie Development

Life as an independent video game development studio has never been more opportunistic and, at the same time, more difficult than it is today.

In a world largely governed by the weight of intellectual property (IP) rather than the combined weight of the development studio employees, independents find it difficult to nurture, build and market their own IP with so much noise, spend and focus going on elsewhere.

Despite incredible, almost undreamt of opportunities on platforms such as the iPhone and iPad App Store or Facebook, where true critical mass gaming audiences are available on a level playing field, visibility and getting “a moment in the sun” is infuriatingly tough for all but a select few.

For example, with a thousand or more apps clamouring into the App Store on a weekly basis, the pressure to get a promoted spot on the dash or become some viral overnight success is incredible. Gaining momentum and traction in this vibrant new marketplace is difficult given that the basis for that success can be a complex combination of factors, only one of which really concerns the gameplay.

This is of course, not to say it is impossible: Angry Birds, the hit iPhone app from little known Finnish developer, Rovio, has been a worldwide phenomenon. Its almost impossible for it to go unmentioned when talking in groups of people about games. It’s a very simple game, with a very simple hook and exceptionally well delivered – all aspects of its delivery, including a low price of just 99 cents have combined to make it a tremendous success.

The same could be said for Facebook, with fairly rudimentary social network “games” such as FarmVille “raking in” multi-millions of players who seem happy to be waving their number of virtual cows and tractors at their friends as some kind of modern day trophy. The casual gaming movement, however exciting and pioneering, has a lot to answer for.

A few years ago, had you mentioned success on these levels for a hitherto unknown indie dev team, you would have been squarely laughed at, with most indie gaming studios being focused on trying to earn a crust on difficult, traditional console deals with third-party publishers seemingly hellbent on such low-risk investment in new IP that creative juices were certainly on the wane.

Thank God then for new gaming platforms and new opportunities. To reset the playing field and remove the corporate risk tied to huge projects has meant a resurgence of new games. It matters not that the majority of these will fail, but only that they are happening.

About Martyn Brown
Martyn is co-founder of Team17 Software, a fiercely independent UK video game publisher and developer, currently celebrating 20 years in the industry. He currently heads Team17’s business development as it looks to take its successful Worms IP to the social gaming sector.

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