The New Frontier of Indie Game Development

Ah 2010, I remember it like it was yesterday. Minecraft was in beta, Braid and Limbo were winning awards. It seemed like the future held no limits for indie games. If studios of one or a few people could create such wonders, what would come next? The answer was Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, Steam Greenlight and Early Access. The future was now and we were getting directly involved with the development of these games, even getting to know the developers as individuals.

Then at some point, as inevitably happens, reality caught up with us. Those indie developers started to get caught up in the churning maelstrom of marketing and publishing across multiple platforms. Kickstarter campaigns falling behind or disappearing without a trace became so common, memes developed left and right. What’s even worse, almost every project that involved a legendary studio or creator breaking away from a big publisher went down in flames. By the beginning of last year, it seemed that indie development was truly a fad. Journalists jumped over one another to declare it dying or dead.

Then something magical started to happen.

That “invisible market correcting arm” nonsense actually worked for once and a new publishing model started to emerge. Companies with no track record of publishing games, started looking into ways to create a new paradigm. Facebook suddenly had a gaming service. Gamestop was publishing indie games, playable in your web browser. Most unexpected of all, limited runs of physical collector’s editions became a popular trend in indie games. This is where we come in. Suddenly, creators of collectible merchandise like LootCrate, ThinkGeek and us here at Geekify in sunny Broomfield, CO, were not only making posters and keychains, but also printing game discs and cases. We became game publishers in the most unlikely way.

This is just the kind of new market shift that can create incredible innovation. Traditional publishers are very top heavy in comparison to indie developers. It just doesn’t make sense to spend millions and employ 50 marketers, to promote a game developed by ten people for thousands of dollars. It also doesn’t make sense to over-monetize indie games, trying to milk DLCs and quick sequels out of them. Indie games generally thrive on their audacity and originality, so that model immediately kills their internet street cred. Microsoft may have pulled it off once with Minecraft, but they also kind of broke the mold for anyone else’s use. Consumers are now extremely leery of games that turn into 0 games. So blowing a pile of money on marketing, hoping to make it back with further DLC, is not such a viable scheme anymore.

Fortunately, digital publishing has become extremely low-entry on most platforms. Almost anyone can manage to get a game on Steam and Sony has made great strides to reduce the barriers on their PSN as well. Even Microsoft and Apple, traditionally the slowest and most difficult to publish on, have made their application processes easier. Nintendo is still Nintendo, but they are at least giving us a little hope these days.

With this process no longer requiring a long and costly negotiation, the role of the publisher can be much simpler. If no further negotiations are required, it really comes down to marketing and the production of any physical copies. With indie games, physical copies are generally very limited-run and packaged with lots of goodies. So why not just cut out the middle men and have the companies that make that stuff do it all?

After all, none of those corporate suits are as hip as we are. We’re already at the conventions where you want to show off your game. The streamers and services that you would want to promote you, are often already our customers. We don’t see your game as something to profit from or a piece for our portfolio, we want you to make it so we can play it! Most of all we can do it cheaper, faster and more grassroots than those big bloated dinosaurs. The biggest contributor to the problems I listed above is studios running out of money, because they spent it on marketing and publishing costs. With smaller, more agile and younger companies stepping into the market void, we can start to change that.

Here at Geekify Inc, we’re aiming to be right at the center of this. Not only are we establishing relationships with developers of the games currently in progress, we are thinking and planning for the healthy indie game industry of tomorrow. We have a few projects down the pipeline to revolutionize licensing and publishing for you, the little guy. Because our goal is for you to create the things we all want to play. We want you to stay creative and keep developing, not get beaten down by the corporate game machine and go start your own brewery in Timbuktu instead.

So keep your eyes on our blog and social media accounts in the coming months, for updates on this exciting new development. Our partnerships in Kickstarter fulfillment are just the first step into a larger world.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *