How Indie Games Are Changing the Industry

The last 10 years has brought us a huge shift in the gaming industry as an increasing number of indie-developed games have out shone the big stars of the franchise world. More and more passionate people have made their own way into the gaming industry, making the games they want to play for one reason or another.

You can put this down to the increasing amount of DLC needed to have a full game or the fact that people are bored of games like Call of Duty. Either way, you look at it, the last decade has been the age of indie games.

Every year we see games with huge multi million budgets lose money or hardly make any money at all and part of this is due to the success of high-quality indie titles. There’s great potential in developing a new kind of games and having a large team working on an already existing genre doesn’t always mean success for the big studios.

Indie games seem to be the most exciting things happening in the industry right now, which new and innovative projects popping up all over the place. There seems to be a large divide in that the larger studios are creating somewhat predictable titles – which can still be fun, but they now have a lot of creative and talented indie developers to compete with.

Browse around your local game store or on platforms like Steam and you’ll find plenty of games developed by teams of up to 10 people. Talented people who clubbed together to make the kind of games they want to play. I guarantee you’ll find more than you thought you would.

The ever-changing landscape of video games has brought us games like PlayerUnknowns Battlegrounds, Rocket League and Goat Simulator. Games that can compete with titles from major studios, all made by smaller teams than that of a Call of Duty game.

The more easily and accessible development tools available have most certainly had an impact on this and has allowed a wider audience to try and tackle the beast that is video game development. Add that to platforms like Steam, which allows digital sales and thus reducing the cost of getting games into player’s hands and you have a recipe for success.

Indie games are being made popular by their audiences and with the help of influencers on YouTube and Twitch, you have instances where these titles are being played by millions of people.

PlayerUnknowns Battlegrounds started out life as a modification of another game. In a battle royale kind of mode, players are dropped into a wide-open map for a game of the last man standing. Players scavenge for gear and weapons and aim to be the last person alive.

PlayerUnknowns Battlegrounds is currently the number 1 game on steam and at this year’s E3 Microsoft announced that it will also be coming to Xbox One. Currently, with over 800,000 players active at any one time it has more players than games like DOTA and League of Legends.

It’s so important to gamers that the industry continues to reinvent itself in this way. Success breeds success and if you look back at the history of video gaming the games that tried to introduce new and exciting mechanics are the ones that stuck with us. The ones that brought sequel upon sequel without really changing much are the ones that fall behind.

Yes, they might look a little better each time and for each new game, but after a while, we all get bored of playing the same thing. The games I talk to my friends most about are the ones that surprised me, the ones that showed me something different. Not the ones where studios have spent big bucks on a project to include segments like ‘Press F to pay your respects’.

The success of games like PlayerUnknowns Battlegrounds means the industry is about to change. It’s become clear that you don’t need to spend big money and employ hundreds of people to make a product that sells. It doesn’t mean that spending lots of money is a bad idea and that you can still make a good and profitable game, even with spending millions, but it does mean that this is no longer a prerequisite.

We are constantly reminded of this with the many ambitious indie games out there today. Games like Star Citizen have changed gaming forever and proven that ambitious crowd funded game can be a reality.

I’m not saying all these big changes will happen in a week or a month, this will take some time. Your Call of Duty’s and Assassins Creed’s will still be topping the charts for a while yet, but if you look at the recent sales for some of these games you can already see their decline. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare saw 50% fewer sales in its first week than previous years. It still sold over 2 million copies, but 50% is a huge dip for a game that likely cost millions to develop.

My reasoning behind Call of Duty’s dip in sales was due to the lack of experimentation. When you looked at the game, there wasn’t anything new here. It was the same old tried and tested game, but with a little face lift. The lack of imagination meant players turned to the wealth of other shooter games available in the market.

To reference PlayerUnknowns Battlegrounds again - the magic of this game is that there are many different twists in this genre that could be equally as popular, but because no one is experimenting like PlayerUnknowns Battlegrounds did, they won the race.

It’s a new dawn for video gaming, as we know it and because of the increasing cost and therefore risk for large studios, it might not be too long before we see more games becoming as popular as PlayerUnknowns Battlegrounds. I for one welcome our new indie overlords.

Constantly threatening to write a book, but always with a story to tell. Tom has a typical northern English soul. He may sound as mundane as Jon Snow, but at least he tries to articulate. Lover of video games, comics, geek pop culture and wishing he could play Dungeons & Dragons.
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