Hollow Knight. Cuphead. Undertale. The Long Dark. Inside. Night in the Woods. Stardew Valley. To The Moon. Celeste. The Witness. Ori and the Blind Forest. Firewatch. Journey. Darkest Dungeon. Old Man’s Journey. Shovel Knight. Oxenfree.
We’re currently living in a golden age of indie titles. These unique and thoughtful games, typically costing no more than 20 or 30 dollars, have slowly carved out a space for themselves both in the gaming world and in our hearts. It’d be no stretch to say that today’s game industry would lose much of its soul if you were to take away all the wonderful indie titles and the hardworking, talented developers behind them. To be clear, I’m not here to bash AAA studios and developers; without a doubt, they’re still the driving force of the gaming market. Rather, I’m here to praise and acknowledge the smaller developers that are quickly becoming an absolutely integral part of that market.
The indie scene in the gaming world is so vibrant and inspiring. When you look at the level of creativity and passion behind most of these games, you can’t help but feel a sense of awe. With many titles, it’s simply the incredible presentation that blows you away. While I don’t intend to reduce games like Journey or Ori and the Blind Forest to music and art alone, there’s no denying that these two elements in these two games will have a profound effect on almost any player. With other games, like The Long Dark or Darkest Dungeon, it’s the challenging, unforgiving, and addicting gameplay that draws you in. And then there are games like To The Moon and Undertale that will stun you with their narrative strength.
The point is that there’s such diversity in the indie scene, and that diversity is punctuated by the unprecedented quality of most games. I often find myself scratching my head when playing these indie games, wondering how a small team or a single person could create something so polished and beautiful. And as if all of this wasn’t enough, the willingness of these devs to go above and beyond when supporting and improving their games puts most AAA companies to shame. Just look at ConcernedApe, the individual that created Stardew Valley. Since the game’s initial PC launch, he has ported it to all current consoles (including the Switch!), and has released countless, huge free updates focused on polishing the game and even adding entirely new content.
With more of these indie gems being released each year, it’s safe to assume that this fantastic part of the industry will continue to grow and prosper. Thanks to the funding tools available today (Kickstarter, Patreon, etc.), the marketing potential of social media, and sales mediums like Steam, small teams have everything they need to succeed. Proof of this is, once again, in the barrage of excellent indie titles we’ve been lucky enough to experience these past few years.
What does this mean for you? Well, it depends. If you’re a gamer, it means you’re lucky enough to get to play countless amazing games, most of which are no more than $20. If you’re someone who might be interested in entering the world of game development, on the other hand, the implications of this are much more meaningful.
The system that is sustaining these indie studios and allowing them to prosper is very organic. They take their passion, creativity and talent, combine it with dedication and hard work, and create a game. Some will look to crowdfunding to propel their projects forward, others will seek government grants, and some will simply work on their games in the evenings when they get home from work. Many will utilize social media to market their games themselves, while others will invest in professional marketing. And most will use a platform like Steam or the Nintendo eShop to sell their finished products.
What are you waiting for?