From Angry Birds, to Inside to Minecraft Indie games have come a long way and have also done their part in raising the bar for the industry as a whole. However, there was once a time when the abundant plethora of games on the market wouldn’t have even been possible. The very nature of an indie developer is to innovate or to create from a place of passion, problem solving or niche filling, but that also normally goes along with a lack of resources and funds on the level of a major studio flush with cash to see their dreams become a reality. Yet today no matter where you look you have access to every game of every genre of every flavor under the sun. How did that happen?
The world of gaming was once stuck in metaphorical solitary confinement. Some of the first gaming systems such as the Atari 2600, Intellivison, Colecovision and even the Nintendo Entertainment System, while highly entertaining and fulfilling at the time, were closed systems whose lack of connectivity lent themselves more to isolated gaming experiences than anything else. This ecosystem also lent itself more toward the bigger developers at the time to flex their production muscles with a resultant domination of the market. Sales for the latest cartridge skyrocketed while lesser known titles with a lot less backing had to scale the same barriers of marketing, ability to reach consumers and just plain old being a little too niche to appeal to a large enough consumer base to justify climbing those barriers in the first place. It was the equivalent of “hey we’re over here!” but not enough people were able to hear the squeaky cry of help over the boom of the big guy. With the advent of home computers, there was a bit more of a spike in indie games as the hunger for all forms of content coupled with a more knowledgeable and tech savvy demographic to seek them out, but still the audience was too small to entice none but the bravest of souls to even attempt to be heard.
Indie games would have circled around and around until the end of time, and probably gone away with a whimper if these conditions had stayed the same. However it wasn’t until one very important introduction to the market debuted that everything changed in an instant.
In 2008, when Apple launched the app store, suddenly the closest thing to a level playing field since the dawn of humamankind existed. A boon for the indie developer, the cost to create a product could become its primary concern or hurdle to leap, while the cost to ship that product practically went to zero. With the overall cost and risk becoming much lower, the amount of money needed to market a product dropped significantly as well.
In addition to this, the ability for consumers to purchase these items became so touch-of-the-fingertips easy, that even a casual user could buy a game with the littlest of efforts. With this mobile gaming gold rush, indie gamers who may have held off before to create that next big thing because of a lack of capital, took their shot at at least creating the games. With platforms such as Facebook soon to follow, once these games were out in the wild, they could either sink or swim, but if they did sink it was more a ding to their developer’s ego than it was to their wallet. With infinite upside, why not take a swing and see what could be made to happen?
Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network made this accessibly even more easy for gamers who still preferred their experiences on the big(ger) screen. The level of graphic intensity and processing power that couldn’t be efficiently replicated on a hand held device such as an iPhone, iPad, or your Android device of choice could be more than comfortable on the super systems of the post-modern era.
The result, everywhere you look today is games, games, games. In an incredibly short time, indie games have become so prevalent that we almost take them for granted. But, with some big potential hits on the horizon, they just might become the next big thing instead of the little fish in a big pond.
What are some of your indie games that you only played because of mobile access? Let us know in the comments!