There’s an interesting piece over at IGN about one of the more prominent PlayStation Mini developers. Firma Studios has done a great job giving gamers great Minis to play (Zombie Tycoon, A Space Shooter for 2 Bucks), but, dissatisfied with the return on investment, they’re looking to produce full-featured PSN games instead.
It’s a little worrying that it’s not just the Minis platform that’s suffering from this issue. The criticisms of XBLA’s Indie Games section is well known. Indie titles get buried on the Apple iOS App Stores the minute EA or Gameloft decides to hold a $0.99 sale. No one makes any money from WiiWare or DSiWare, there’s been little third party appetite in the eShop so far and Steam… well, indies do ok on Steam, but you’re still competing for the same dollars that Skyrim is sucking up.
What happened? Digital distribution has been highlighted since the early days as the great shining light for indie developers. Finally they don’t need to go through the agonising disc production and distribution process. Finally they don’t need to deal with retailers, or unhealthy price markdowns.
And yet here we are with not a single mainstream distribution service being recognised as “excellent” for indie developers. There’s as much dissatisfaction and frustration now as there was back in the early days – if not more so because tools like Unity have made it far easier to make games.
Is it a marketing issue? Are the platform holders simply burying the indie games under too many tonnes of downloadable AAA-games? Are people only downloading Minis when they go free through PlayStation Plus? I always thought Sony did a good job pushing Minis out to the market by giving them away free to Plus members, but perhaps not.
Is it time to get a dedicated indie game console? What do people think? Sound out in the comments below whether you think indie developers and publishers are given a fair go on the current generation of consoles.
This is just a guess on my part, but to me it seems like Indie projects only get exposed to gamers that follow the industry with a passion. Great indie games get amazing word of mouth and can manage to break through the barrier, but in most cases they just sit on a server waiting for some love. This would signify a marketing issue, at least in my mind.
An example would be me trying to get a friend to download Mutant Mudds, but doesn't bother because it's not by Nintendo, Capcom, Sony, etc. He only cares about the Mario/Zelda games. He never goes on the eShop (well, besides when he downloaded the free Zelda Four Swords game) and never looks at gaming websites, so he never sees indie projects. He may hear about them from me, but it's just not Mario. A horrible attitude, but unfortunately it's an attitude that exists.
As to whether it's fair or not, Indies most likely know that it would risky going up against the big players, so it is at least somewhat fair. Though Apple, Steam, etc. should do something to make sure those games don't get buried. Good article by the way!
I agree that any indie that goes in expecting to beat EA on a download platform deserves the drubbing it's going to get – there's a reason EA spends millions and millions on elaborate marketing (not just advertising, but marketing) campaigns.
I personally just feel the platform holders do a poor job making the indie section of their shop portals visible. The minis platform very, very rarely gets shown off in that wonderful front page of PSN, for instance. About the only time I even see the Minis section is to pick up my monthly PS Plus freebies, and that's through the PS+ portal, not the minis section.
The other download platforms suffer similar problems. I don't think that's fair on the indies, when they are realistically committing the same energy into publishing to those portals.