Indie games continue to be extremely popular but the creators behind them are struggling with a saturated market. With AAA titles, other indie games, and even those in-between these two categories being released at such an impressive pace, indie developers are left to wonder how they can make an impact in an industry when there’s so much competition from all sides.
In the wake of Cliff Bleszinski’s studio, Boss Key Productions, closing their doors after three years, the video game industry has taken note of this massive misstep. Boss Key Productions’ independently released, “Radical Heights”, fell flat and couldn’t make up for the massive financial loss their previous release, Lawbreakers, left behind. If a studio led by such a prominent name in the video game industry can’t break through, indie developers worry if there is any room left for them to make their mark.
It’s a Blessing and a Curse
Indie developers might struggle when dealing with a tiny budget when compared to AAA games but it can be both a blessing and a curse. Development might take a little longer and they may only have access to limited resources but one failed game won't always sink an entire studio. Boss Key Productions had 65 employees as of September 2017, but Studio MDHR, the developers of Cuphead only has 15. These smaller developers have much less responsibility to produce a financially successful game right out of the gate. They have a chance to build an audience and community as they work on their next game. Indie studios are much more agile when compared to larger studios and can discover what works for them through trial and error.
Even with the benefits of being an indie studio, the indie market isn’t immune to over saturation. A recent report from SteamSpy’s Sergey Galyonkin showed there were an incredible 7,696 games released on Steam in 2017, up from 4,207 in 2016. This is making it challenging for indie developers to bring attention to their games and get the recognition some of them deserve. Still, time and time again, an indie game will pop up and make waves worldwide. Just like Cuphead mentioned above or even Illfonic’s Friday The 13th: The Game, the community still appreciates these games but sometimes they can just get overlooked.
As the video game industry continues to mature, the fear remains that these independent developers might be pushed out of the market by not only AAA developers, but the massive increase of indie games making their way to both consoles and PC.
The Double-Edged Sword
In a previous article on GigamaxGames.com titled, “The Best Time For Indie Developers” it looked at the current indie market from a different perspective. It focused on the technologies available and range of marketing methods at indie developers disposal today and on one hand, things are looking up for these creators. However, with a studio like Boss Key Productions closing their doors, it’s a stark reminder that even having the resources, technologies, notoriety, and capabilities to create a game like Lawbreakers or their independently publish Radical Heights, at the height of Battle Royales popularity, isn’t enough to turn a small studio into a major player within the video game industry.
One thing is for sure, the video game industry in its current form is still relatively new and trying to figure itself out. The popularity of indie games is growing exponentially but all the uncertainty surrounding the market might steer would-be amazing indie creators away from releasing their games to the world.
When quality content is released to the world, people will notice. Indie games aren’t going anywhere any time soon as they continue to find their place. It’ll be vital for these creators to keep a close eye on the market to see how this sector continues to progress and work on finding their own spot in this amazing industry.