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Posted on May 29th 2015 at 08:14:40 AM by (Fleach)
Posted under Opinion, Indie, Games, Bloodstained, Yooka Laylee, Elsinore, Game Development, Kickstarter, Crowdsourcing


Video games are expensive products to make. The multi-million dollar project is not uncommon in the modern game development industry, in fact it's become the standard. It's like proclaiming the cost of production is some kind of bragging right owed to the developer. But now it's become popular to discuss how minuscule a game's team was or how it was made of a six figure budget.



Enter Kickstarter, the crowdfunding source for many small time, and some big name, game creators to get their project off the ground. Since the successful funding and release of Double Fine's Broken Age Kickstarter has been vindicated as an accepted viable means of collecting the monetary resources required for game development. Now more than ever, creative teams are flocking to this crowd funding option to pitch their idea to the world and rely on the generosity of gamers.

Crowd funding isn't a clear topic for either backers or creators. As a backer, you're more of a shareholder in the project than a simple benefactor. Essentially you are paying for development kits, software, utilities, and staff with your pledge of support so it's not unjustified to feel that your generosity ought to be rewarded - that the developers are in a way beholden to you. As a creator, not only are you concerned with getting your project funded, but you're also competing with numerous other fundraising campaigns. This is where smaller teams might get somewhat bent out of shape.


First, the term "indie" is a surprisingly vague one. Of course it means a project or group that has released a product without the affiliation with or belonging to a major publisher. This can be represented by anything from a one person project, to a team of three working out of someone's basement, or a fully staffed office.

When I read an article on Polygon about "actual indies" struggling underneath the greater presence of "big indies" I had to do some further research. The author of this article, Katie Chironis, is a member of the team behind Elsinore, who, at the time of this blog's release, has received almost three times their campaign amount. Her claim was that large development companies are benefiting from the fact that vast majority of gamers are oblivious to the actual costs of game development. She doesn't go on to explain how "big indies" are killing actual indies as her headline claims though.

Certainly there's more to game development than meets the eye. There are many unexpected and hidden costs and Chironis' piece does an excellent job of outlining the real cost of making a video game. She doesn't have high opinions of these "big indies" though and says they are in fact much costlier undertakings masquerading under a smaller price tag.

While this may be true, the article on Polygon did more to generate support for a smaller project than to enlighten the public. Chironis was probably disgruntled that the clock on her game was ticking and it was only half-way funded, while Bloodstained and Yooka-Layla blew past their crowd sourcing goals within days.

The truth is that indie is indie. The size of the team or the project or the budget is irrelevant. Whether a portion of funds are collected prior to a crowd sourcing campaign isn't an issue - perhaps the campaign is what the developers needed to get the last amount to get their project going. If assets are outsourced that's fine too, because indie is a broad umbrella term. An indie project is one that was born out of passion and creativity, where and how the creators get their money doesn't disqualify them from being "indie."

http://www.polygon.com/20...are-killing-actual-indies - The Polygon article
https://www.kickstarter.c...dventure-game/description - Elsinore Kickstarter


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Comments
 
A lot of these so called 'little' indies might fail to see that a lot of the 'big' indies are big for a reason. The biggest video game Kickstarters out of all of them are mostly sequels or spiritual successors to some original series. Brian Fargo's been one of the biggest names in PC game development since the mid-80s, inXile is his company and technically independent. InXile has two of the biggest video game kickstarts of all time so far with Wasteland 2 (a sequel) and Torment: Tides of Numenera (spiritual successor). I'm sure he knows how much it costs to actually develop a game, especially one with more size and scope than a lot of indie devs can pump out. Throw in all the other big Kickstarter names and you have Tim Schafer, Keiji Inafune, Koji Igarashi, those are the successful ones! You know why they were successful? Everybody knows who they are! Name recognition is extremely important, and no small indie dev can go up against the likes of these names, Interplay founder and RPG legend, point and click adventure god, creator of Mega Man, and Castlevania guru. They just can't compete on the same level.

And for all these huge successes there are just as many failures, even for developers that have been around forever.
 
You are absolutely right. Many industry veterans you branch off to create their own teams or the creators without big publishing affiliates are still indie.

I think that sometimes the little guys feel like they can't escape the shadow of the big name indies. That's probably what happened with the team in question here and maybe if they had spent some time and effort into promoting themselves things could have been different.

This article was a little bit rant-y but I think it also demonstrates how not to promote a project.
 
While I don't normally pay much attention to industry stuff, nonetheless I can't help but notice the hubbub surrounding the "What is Indie" question, and I can't help but think that much of it has to do with the amount of coverage and exposure Indie games get in these modern times.  Not ten years ago most Indie houses scrubbed in the dust of obscurity, often finding exposure only in niche magazines like PC Gamer or Maximum PC occasionally writers on Internet websites.  Now Indie titles crowd the marketplace, not only on the PC (their traditional stomping grounds), but on consoles for two generations now.  As a lover of these games I can't help but applaud, even though the sheer amount of games makes it difficult follow at times.

I do feel sorry for many of these smaller Indie Devs, especially those that are forced to turn to Kickstarter for help.  Sure, its a great platform for exposure, but its such a fickle friend.  Not even big names are a guarantee for success there.  Remember the David Crane game, or the Howard Phillips game?  Dust in the wind.  But then again there are a ton of great smaller devs that have stayed small and successful for decades.  Illwinter Gamer Design and Spiderweb Software immediately spring to mind.  They have many been serving up their niche games for a long time now (since '94 in the case of Spiderweb), and this explosion of interest in Indie games have benefited them as well.  Maybe that's the thing to do: ride that Indie wave as long as one can, gathering as much interest, audience, and maybe even some loyalty in the process.


 
The rise of social media has definitely been beneficial to indie game developers. It's also caused the downfall of one. The internet age has created celebrity from the most unsuspecting backgrounds and many don't know how to handle their fame or how to use social media to push their brand forward.
 
The idea that big titles are crowding out smaller devs assumes that Kickstarter is a zero sum game, which simply isn't true. I doubt that many people have fixed budgeted amounts that they will regularly look to spend on Kickstarter projects, and are somehow drawn to the bigger ones before they look at the smaller. People fund what interests them, regardless of size. If your Kickstarter isn't drawing enough attention, maybe there is another reason that the dev should consider.
 
Its tricky how 'indie' is now a label instead of a descriptor.  It is considered a marketable element instead of just a mark of passion.  Like any other market, buyer beware. 

That said, there are more and more passion products created through 'indie' means that represent the best of modern gaming. Smiley
 
The other element people sometimes forget is that, with big budget studios and AAA titles, they work with exorbitant budgets and large-scale staffing.  Even as far back as the PS2 era, the team that worked on a game like God of War was quite large.  Today's games take even more people.  Indie studios have expenditures that they can't always calculate, and they don't have the benefit of previous successes to help them ride out the financial hit taken when a game is late to market, or when it's on time, but riddled with bugs.  Indie developers of all shapes and sizes have to deliver their product much more bulletproof than the AAA companies, because they don't get a 2nd chance at a first impression.  With Microsoft, Sony, EA et al, everyone already knows what to expect when it comes to day one patches, buggy releases, etc.  Most indie developers unfortunately are held to a higher standard than the larger, more established firms, for some backwards reason.

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