So here’s a realization that I had about being an indie game developer, and it hit me when I was about to open up a project that I had no strong feelings for and wished I hadn’t started.
We indies get to make games that AAA developers don’t.
Stuff about quirky indie games and why we get to do them follows the break!
Games like MineCraft, They Bleed Pixels, Offspring Fling, and other quirky titles would be just plain unlikely from a AAA studio since they would not be guaranteed sellers. (Face it, MineCraft sounds awful on paper from the perspective of a risk-avoiding publisher, even if it works very well in practice.)
Those games are (at terms of cost vs. revenue) successful. Offspring Fling has its fans, They Bleed Pixels even has fan-art, and MineCraft was a smash hit as far as indie games go.
Those examples are a bit narrow, but they kind of illustrate what I’m talking about.
An indie game doesn’t have to sell nearly as many copies as a AAA game, even at the much lower prices indie games sell for. AAA games selling for $60 USD have to sell hundreds of thousands of copies to break even. (That is, to make as much money as was spent on making them.) Indie games, not so much. I don’t have numbers for it since it varies so much between projects, but it’s nowhere near as much as the multi-million dollar budgets common for big developers.
Some times we get caught up in trying to do things that AAA developers usuallly do. I don’t think that’s always the best option. In fact, it’s almost never the right option.
We get to make weird stuff that big developers don’t.
We get to make niche games (there’s a Star Trek-style starship bridge simulator that requires six players, six computers, and a freaking projector, though I forget the title of it), extremely difficult games (Super Meat Boy, anyone), games with unusual stories (Offspring Fling is about a woodland creature gathering her scatted children after a run-in with a big dinosaur thing), and games that are unconventional in their mechanics (AirMech is a hybrid of RTS and arena shooter). We can make games that vary in other ways that I can’t even think of.
And, well, we have to.
Trying to make a game that would take a team of dozens of people multiple years to make isn’t going to work for a small team with little/no budget, much less for us solo indies. We just can’t do it like they can.
But we can do weirder, more unconventional, more risky things that they can’t. We can afford to.
These developers (as pointed out by another post from someone else) have huge costs to cover. Indies, for the most part, have little to no budget. We don’t have the kind of expenses that Activision, Treyarch, or Ubisoft have.
I guess the point is this: We indies get to make games that are unusual, niche, or just plain silly because we don’t have the same standard for a financial success as the major developers.
Keep in mind that indies get to do more “out there” kinds of games. To my indie brothers and sisters, indulge yourself in a fun, silly, or just unconventional project now and then. That’s kind of one of the best parts of being indie.
Peace, love, and a little something nice,