Indie games are on the rise, but why? What makes indie games so special compared to games worked on by hundreds of people? To find out, let us think about the indie games that have come out in the past few years.
A few examples of indie games would be the new cult classic Undertale, Harvest Moon-esque Stardew Valley, the gritty sci-fi game Transistor (a personal favorite), and the hilarious The Stanley Parable. Why are games like these so popular? What’s the appeal of non-AAA games? I’ve got a few answers.
First off, everybody likes a bargain. As a college student, I like them even more. It is hard to justify paying $60 for one game, but $5 or $10 is an incredible deal in comparison. Most indie games are under $20, even less if you get them in a bundle or when they are on sale. When you can still get a quality game for a lower price, it makes the indie genre more appealing. You can justify it even if there is a chance it may not be a game you like. Who cares if it was sub-par or not what you were looking for because It only cost $5 anyway. This means more people will at least try indie games, even if they are unsure about them. If the price is right, indie games are likely to, at least for some gamers, be curious enough to try.
How often do you see AAA games having interesting mechanics and taking risks by doing something strange? It is not very often. AAA games are made for the masses, meaning that those developers are less likely to make any sort of innovations or risks in their games. An example of an indie game that takes risks and has interesting mechanics is Undertale. For instance, this game allows you to go the whole game without fighting a single battle. Sure, a lot of big games have more passive options, but the entire game? Who in the game industry would pitch, “Let us have a game where you have the option to just walk through the world, die a lot, and fight no one if you want to get the happy ending. It will have names with bad puns, dogs whose heads go to the moon, an evil flower, and even a celebrity robot.”
Maybe someone would take it—someone took on Pac-Man after all and that had to be a strange pitch—but big companies are more concerned with making lots of money. Larger developers often choose the same mechanics over and over again because they still work, and they know they can milk it. Indie developers, more often then not, choose to be risky. The Stanley Parable is basically a walking simulator, but it works at keeping people coming back for the strange and interesting story and because it is not complicated.
When you think of companies like EA or Nintendo, who do you imagine working there? Many likely imagine big-shot CEOs out to make money, even if the game quality has to take a hit. Now, imagine the kind of person working on an indie game. They are a regular person who is passionate about games. They care about their fans and take pride in their games. It is a whole lot easier to relate to an indie developer and even give them a bit more leeway in the process. If, for example, there is a glitch on level 3 on some indie game, you are more likely to feel like reporting the issue. It might still take awhile to fix some glitch for a small team, but it is more likely that it will be addressed. You might even feel like harmless glitches add character to the game.
On the other hand, you expect big-shot game companies to get it right, and if they don’t respond immediately, it feels like they just do not care. Aren’t these AAA developers supposed to have the greatest resources? Being able to relate to indie developers means you and I might still like their game better despite glitches and other problems. We understand that it can happen. Big companies do not get that kind of leeway.
Now you can see why indie games are growing in popularity right now, and I see them being popular for a long time. With the ability for developers to purchase game engines and even VR equipment for a decent price, it makes it possible for indie developers to keep finding ways to make games interesting. I look forward to the next batch of indies that 2017 will bring.
Know any other reasons why indie games are so popular? Do not hesitate to mention it in the comments below!