Why I Think Now Is A Good Time To Be An Indie Game Developer

I’ve entertained the idea of going indie for a long time. The challenge, creativity and opportunity of creating a game from start to finish was always intriguing to me. Unfortunately until recently it was merely an unrealistic dream. Tools were expensive, access to market for a lone indie almost non existent and the mainstream players haven’t quite realized what they wanted from their gaming experiences. All that has changed now and the following is my list of why it’s a golden period to be an indie game developer.

Unity, UDK Are Now Accessible To Anyone.
Several years ago game engines were expensive and not very user friendly. The editors that were provided with games as modding tools seemed more like afterthoughts with very little support. Now you can get basic versions of the most powerful engines used to make top notch games for free or royalty based terms. In addition, a community that has built around these game engines is usually very active and when questions arise the support is usually quick and prompt.

Steam, Desura, App Stores, PSN, XboxLive etc.
Let’s say few years ago you managed to finish your game. You put in the work, got something that looks good and plays well. Getting your game out to players was not easy. Now If you actually do manage to get your game done (the harder part), the variety of options on how you can distribute your game is almost a non-issue as there are a lot more options. You will find multiple ways of distributing it in one way or another. And you just know, as time goes on the options will keep increasing.

Improved Ways of Communication
Getting feedback, promotion and direct interaction with media and fans has gotten a lot easier through the widespread use of social media and more direct communication methods. We’re now able to to connect with peers and supporters all over the world giving us a 24 hour support system independent of time zones. This allows us to compare latest production methods, pricing models, and keep open lines of communication with future players to find out what type of experience they are looking for.

Niche Markets a Plenty.
I think its safe to say that at some level everybody enjoys playing games in some form or another. It’s our nature to play. The people who are not playing games these days don’t because the games that are out there don’t resonate with them at any level. This doesn’t mean they wouldn’t engage in playing if the right game came along and caught their interest. There is a growing market of players looking for something different. Exploring these spaces opens up a whole spectrum of creative possibilities.

At Some Level We Crave The Connection With The Creator.
Initially when blogging started many were skeptical and questioned its validity. Now eighty percent of my online reading is from blogs. The connection you get knowing that the person behind the work is real makes a huge difference. The connection to the creators gets stronger as the group that makes it gets smaller. The big appeal of games made by smaller teams is  there because they fill that void that creates the connection. The connection increases ten fold if a game is made by an individual. That connection was there in the early stages of the game industry, lost somewhere in-between and now slowly making its resurrection as we move towards smaller more niche productions.

Disruption of the Games Industry
Over the last ten years we’ve seen huge changes to both the music & film industries as we’ve seen them transition from physical to digital. Self-publishing is now becoming a hot topic in book publishing and a lot of writers are moving away from traditional publishing and self-publish themselves online.  The internet is charging forward and changing the way we communicate, study, work and play. After finishing my last project I thought about how these changes will affect me and my work in the future. My conclusion, at least in my mind at the moment is that the future for independent game developers looks promising and it’s something I want to be involved in right now.

As always these are only my humble opinions? Where do you think the Indie Game Dev is heading? 
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4 Replies to “Why I Think Now Is A Good Time To Be An Indie Game Developer”

  1. Tomasz, I hope your last outcome possibility is the one that comes true! Games boomed in the 80’s when they were experimental, different and simple. Formulas were later discovered for making games that pleased the masses. As more money began pouring into game development, we lost the experimental games spawned from pure creativity and instead settled for ‘proven’ ideas that were safe to go to market. I’m excited to see that small garage games are back and back like never before! Good-luck in your projects, I look forward to seeing what’s possible.

    1. Before it was hard for developers to get the game to the players. It was a physical product which had to go through the whole chain of manufacturing it, distributing, marketing etc… All that costs money, risks were high and publishers needed to be safe to maximize the ROI. A lot of that expensive part of the process has disappeared now. Publishers will have to think of different business models to see how they can still provide value and what cut does that value deserve. Nonetheless I’m also excited to see where all this leads, thanks for stopping by Steve.

  2. Hi Tomasz –

    As one in a similar boat (industry game design vet now going indie), I’m glad I stumbled across your blog. Thanks for sharing it. I certainly hope now is a good time for indies – my livelihood also depends on it! :)

    I’ll be looking forward to what you come up with, and hearing your thoughts on tools, development, release cycles, production quality, etc. on indie games. I, too, am following a muse, and trying to make games that are different than anything I’ve seen out there. I’m trying to make games that let us connect to one another as human beings again, not just as avatars or victims. Good luck to us both!

    1. Aaron,

      Several years ago I read something that Will Wright said about how back then you went into a bookstore and you were able to find books on all sorts of topics, but then you went to buy a game and had a very limited choice covering a very small demographic.

      I think we’ve come a long way since then, there are more choices these days covering a bigger demographic, but at the same time there are still a lot of areas not being explored. That unexplored space is exciting. Finding the balance between exploring that space and providing something familiar enough to be able to sustain ourselves as indies will be the challenge going forward I think.

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