If you read this in hopes of getting a clear answer to what indie games are, well I am not going to give you one. All I know for sure is that indie games are not defined by their budget. If you consider the case of Witcher series – CDP calls it an indie game, and they have all the rights to do it. The reason for this is that, in spite of what haters might say, CDP have done this game quite differently; with the no DRM-attitude and the capacity to admit their mistakes – that I believe is being indie. It’s not about what budget you have or how you decide to call your game, but it’s all about how you act.
The indie movement (as I call it) is something that was missing in the industry in the past years. At least indie on the mainstream market. But right now, things are changing, we can see new trends, the industry is transforming. Gamers might not notice it because they usually only care about playing. Once they get their platform and few games, that’s all they want to know. They don’t give a shit about the struggle behind the scenes, an ongoing battle for survival. However, that is not what I want to talk about, this post is about indie games. And money.
Let’s think of Steam for a minute - it works like a democracy. On Steam you cast a vote with your money. Simply, you like a game – you buy it. Seems like a beautiful concept except it is still not fair to the indie devs. Why? Because of the game prices. What I would really like to see is an option to actually pay more for a game. Yeah. That’s right.
Why do I want to pay more for an indie game?
First and for most, indie developers are afraid to ask for more. Believe me - many companies worry about money from the very beginning. Unless you have a pile of cash laying around or a big name to get $ from kickstarter you worry. Of course, the worrying has its advantages as well, like providing extra motivational kick to actually finish the game ☺ But what most people forget, is that after the game is done we need to keep the team busy and start working on another project; all this, before we even start to get cash from the sales of the first game. Don’t get me wrong – more money doesn’t make you more creative – but more money allows you to do things better, or at least faster. So we could have better indie games, if we were willing to pay more.
I wish for more indie games, and for bigger indie games. In fact, it’s something we all would love to see happen, but a sudden increase in kickstarters doesn’t seem to be coming any time soon. We need to go back to the traditional methods of payment for games, funding is not a solution. Only if we do that indie devs will be able to get more for their hard work.
You might ask, how did it all start? How did we get here? Well, when indie devs started publishing they had to find a way to be competitive. The only weapon they had was prices. They got the attention they wanted, but alongside they also got something they didn’t wish for – their actions shaped the identity of indie games as cheap product. Think about the game industry just a few years ago. We had games, just games, for PC or console. Back then, it was all the distinction we needed. Nowadays, we have games, indie games, AAA games and a huge range of business models to sell them with! Is that a good thing? Probably not. Many of these will be found ineffective and disappear in the process of evolution, only those that generate best results will stay.
Personally, I like to keep things simple. I’d like to stick to the premium model. I pay for a game and I become its owner. I don’t want to pay for it again. If developer is making money – sometimes even more then he thought he would have made – I expect free DLC. Alright, he can occasionally reach for my money if he has good deal to offer like an add-on with lots of new stuff – including new adventures. But in general, DLC should be a way of thanking the gamers; showing that the game achieved a success and sharing that success with those who played a substantial part – the gamers.
I’m afraid that right now indie devs are trapped. CDP has to release its game with the help of a big publisher because no one would pay $50 for an indie game, only because it’s indie. It makes me think that somewhere along the way, we must have gone wrong. The practice of identifying indie games with cheap games needs to stop. Don’t get me wrong. I love to buy games for only a few bucks (either from Apple Store or the sales on Steam), and I don’t want to banish or criticize cheap games. I just want to see indie games with price tags of over $20. If we want to see better and bigger games made by others than just big developers, we need to be ready to pay more. It’s just the way it is. Right now, there are gamers bitching about indie games being sold for “high” prices but they are not demanding big productions like CoD to drop theirs. A bit ironical isn’t it?