Although they have always had a loyal fan base, games have become much more popular in recent times as they have reached people of different ages and both sexes. Partly this is down to the rapid development of the technology that underpins them, as it has led to gaming becoming easier to take part in and more enjoyable and these developments have involved not only the big games studios like Nintendo but also smaller, independent ones. Indie studios are on the rise and are a big part of the current landscape, which is what this piece will examine.
Looking back to the 1990s, which was when the development of independent games really began, in those days they were largely created for PCs and were usually made as shareware – e.g. free software that can easily be shared and copied by other people. This allowed indie games to spread, but at this stage it was essentially a hobby activity and little or no money was accrued by those making the games. In part this was because these games often contained bugs and other flaws that made them unappealing to games purchasers and it wasn’t until the internet started to become a bigger part of everyday life that this situation began to change. A crucial step forward came with the release of XNA Game Studio Express by Microsoft for the Xbox 360, which provided independent developers with a set of tools needed to build games for this console. There were problems that developers faced, including a size limit of 500mb and the fact that the games could be sold for Microsoft Points worth $10. However this was merely the first step and many of these issues were resolved with later consoles such as the PS3 and the Wii.
The arrival of the Steam platform from Valve was another key point in the rise of indie games development as it made actually getting the games to audiences easier. While the likes of GamesSpy had offered distribution during the 1990s, Steam arrived at a time when physical media was declining in popularity and internet speeds were increasing – making it better placed to offer online distribution. This has ensured that Steam has remained one of the most popular markets amongst indie developers, with 45.37 percent of the market share, although platforms such as iOS and Android – the latter having 37.18 percent share – have also emerged and offered indie developers ways of distributing and profiting from their work. Broadcasting via social media channels such as YouTube has also enabled these developers to reach large audiences at cost-effective rates, which would have been impossible in the past. Indeed it is not only the indie game studios that have been able to grow via the internet, as the casino industry has been able to use it to create online casino which allowed the user to play games such as mobile roulette or blackjack on the go.
With the massive success of titles such as Minecraft, indie developers are firmly placed within the games industry now and it will be fascinating to see what innovations they bring to it in the coming years.by