[collage of internet abuse]

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6 thoughts on “Discussion: Let’s Punch An Indie In The Face

  1. On the indiepocalypse: I’m just wondering, has the videogame scene ever *not* been in a state of flux and uncertainty? The videogame boom of the 1980s was barely started before the crash came in ’83: Sierra’s wildly popular “Mystery house” was in 1980, and the crash came 3 years later. (Sidenote: my videogame history isn’t that hot, was the PC market affected by the crash or was it mostly consoles?)

    Similarly, we say “will our indie models today be viable in 5 years?” but it was only 7 years ago, in 2008, that we had World of Goo and Braid, which I think of as the games which kicked off the whole indie thing. And it was only 3 years before that, in 2005, that Darwinia came out – and at the time Darwinia was the ONLY indie game (apart from a few very niche CRPGs and a handful of others). At the time, Introversion’s tagline was “The last of the bedroom programmers”, and at the time it felt completely appropriate: “Yes, I guess there are no bedroom indies any more, just AAA developers.” (They’ve now dropped the line.)

    My point is, yes, the indie scene is changing economically, yes it’s in flux, yes our current models will be hopelessly outdated in a short time, but wasn’t this always the case? Surely the indie market has always been a series of bubbles within bubbles and niches within niches?

    I’d also like to point out that if AAA games die off (or at least become rarer), people will presumably still want to play flashy games, right? Maybe the AAA market slot will be picked up by high-end indies? Maybe as a result of that people will become more fluent in the language of indie storefronts, more willing to check there, and the AAA audience might begin to trickle in?

    That’s a lot of “maybe”s, but… well… the other argument seems to be that the “indiepocalypse” will be the death of all indie games forever and ever, which seems ridiculous. People will always make games. They might have to get part-time jobs while they’re doing it, or they might have to change the kind of games they make, but they will make them.

  2. Hi James,

    The 80s crash was a videogame console crash and I don’t think it had any impact on the home computer market. But you are right – markets are always in flux. If someone works out an easy way to make money today, tomorrow 20 people will be doing it, 200 the day after until it is no longer an easy way to make money.

    My particular black spot is the time spanning the end of home computers (around 1990) to around 2000. From Bedrooms to Billions suggests that there was a gap between home computers and affordable PC gaming that wiped out the hobbyist market and, while you could have indie games (I think Bennett Foddy cites Lemmings as an example) you needed to tool up a bit. (I’m a bit weird in the fact that I like to differentiate between the home computer market of the 80s and the PC market of the 90s – these are very different beasts.)

    I think the Introversion’s tagline was offensive to some as there were other independents, we just didn’t have lots of indie support sites on the web like now. Ragdoll Kung Fu preceded Darwinia to Steam and we had plenty of HL mods, including something like Gunman Chronicles which became a commercial release in 2000. And that’s putting aside someone like Jeff Vogel who I think you might have been alluding too 🙂

    The main worry is that there are things you can do with a budget of 10X that you cannot do with 1X. The funny thing is AAA spend, what, a quarter of the budget on marketing? (Estimate pulled out of ass but I remember it was large.)

    But every new vacuum is an opportunity waiting to be exploited.

  3. Certainly for 8-bit home computers things were just warming up in 1983 – the Spectrum and BBC were designed for learner programmers (The Commodore 64 was fine once you got to machine code but not so helpful before that step – it had its own programming gurus like Minter and Braybrook and was popular with users who were happiest just to run software rather than create it, like consoles). There was a clear path through from native BASIC to more advanced bedroom programming and a selection of magazines that gave some space to small/hobbyist publishers as well as commercial games:
    Later on expectations were raised and ‘professional quality’ software required extra hardware so as not to use up the machine’s own resources on development tools, so the necessary budget increased and established companies took the spotlight more.
    The next opportunity for amateurs/indies came with the rise of shareware, first on the 16-bit home computers and then as PCs took over. Most of us didn’t have internet connections at the time, of course, so the software came either from magazine cover disks, sharing with friends or ordering from shareware libraries that placed ads in said magazines.

  4. Joel, I think your British perspective is very valuable here, and I am not making a joke. As I understand it, (because I am much, much younger than you) the British and American home computer markets of the 1980s were pretty different.

    But I also think a forgotten point in all of these discussions are: mature markets act differently than immature ones. Is the App Store market maturing? I don’t know. But it’s not new, either.

  5. Hey, if you want to read about the differences between the British and American home computer markets in the 1980s you could do a lot worse than checking out the Digital Antiquarian archives at filfre.net.

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