Why The Indie Game Support Needs To Be Real

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If you go to a PC and open up Steam, you will see absolutely tons of games to play for a variety of prices. A lot of these games go on sale as the developers simply want you playing the game. Now you head over to PSN or Xbox Live, and a majority of these games cannot be found. The ones that are availible sit at a stock price of 15 dollars, and hardly ever get promoted unless there is some deal going on. Recently Sony finally added an indie game section to their store, and Microsoft has done similar things in the past. However is this enough?

You might be thinking “well these developers don’t have the money to develop for everything,” which may be true, but isn’t the entire case at all. I’ve been following American McGee for quite a while as I absolutely love his Alice games. If you didn’t know already, they are planning to put up a Kickstarter for the third Alice title. However there are many hidden roadblocks popping up, forcing them to create alternate plans.

In their latest update, McGee went and explained some hurdles they need to jump; along with how awesome the game will be, and how their alternative is to make an Oz title. They have this amazing world layed out already, with tons of gameplay aspects, and even business plans on how to get it done and funded on their own. Yet EA is standing in their way. See, EA owns the Alice license and Spicy Horse/ American McGee came along and made an extremely awesome Alice title for them. This is the whole reason developers like Insomniac opted for the EA Partners, they want to keep rights to any IP they make. This wasn’t available at the time of Alice being developed, so they were stuck utilizing a license owned by EA or losing one of their own ideas.

Now Amercian McGee’s studio is in talks to either work with EA on a third title, or get the license from EA to develop the third game. American McGee never really owned the license, it has always been in EA’s hands. So far, EA hasn’t exactly been too talkative about it though. Looking at the history of the franchise, it took years for American McGee to even release the second title. Then EA decided to dump it in the summer months, didn’t throw too much faith or marketing at it, and the game still strived making GOTY nomination’s and great sales barring the circumstances. It seems the only reason EA really threw it out there was due to the Tim Burton Alice in Wonderland movie also recently releasing around the time. Yet, this is probably why EA is holding the license from them. If Disney were to make another movie, EA would then again cash in on it with a game.

If Spicy Horse, American McGee’s studio, is successful then they will get the license from EA to make the third title. If EA keeps holding out on them, they are abandoning the idea all together and going with a Wizard of Oz title. So all that hard work for Alice could translate into the Oz title. However the best outcome would be them making TWO great games, but that is entirely up to EA….

Then there is also another roadblock that  stands in their way. In the comments area of the games Facebook page, several fans are constantly asking “will this come to consoles?” The studio has replied several times that “we have to work with the console makers, and that isn’t easy.” They have said it several different ways before coming to a very hard hitting statement of “they don’t bother to listen to us” in a more professional manner of course. If they were to work with EA on the Alice title, surely EA would find a solution more easily. However if they go the Ozombie route, then things become more difficult as they stand on their own and need publisher help.

Yet here I am reading articles from other developers that are saying how great it is to work with console makers at this point. Have an indie game? Send it to Sony as soon as possible! Or get it on Xbox Live! Right? Well looking at it from a different stance, that doesn’t seem entirely to be the case.

Looking at games that do eventually make it to these units, they already have popularity. Rather it be a casual market buying the game, or the developers doing a good job of getting it out there. Minecraft grew on its own before Microsoft ever bothered to look at it. So in other words, the developers are pretty much left there until they do something great, then suddenly console makers play the good guys and step in.

This is where they need to step up next generation. Steam and other services are so successful because of the indie market. AAA games are great and always will be, however there is a time to simply play a game. We don’t need movie like visuals to make a great game. Look at games like Slender or Minecraft that went in a total opposite direction and still gained massive success. There are even indie games that look brilliant, but still get no love from console makers unless of course they make it big.

By the time a console maker steps in with an exclusive deal, the developer has already had its hard times on their own. The question is, will they use the money to make more? What about those that couldn’t fight through the hard times? Perhaps if Sony and Microsoft opened their doors a little more to the indie market, more great games would come our way.

Luckily this seems to be the case with next generation. Sony has announced several games and has somewhat become more approachable to indie makers. They are even opening an “indie” section in the SEN Store. The question is, will this same roadblock still exist?

Sony needs to make these doors more open. I don’t know if lower prices on licenses and bandwith etc will make the AAA publishers mad, but that is something that needs to be done. More indie developers need support, funding, and advertising. They are unable to do this on their own without approaching a third party company like EA, and get screwed like Spicy Horse has. They could make absolutely amazing games, but if it isn’t a shooter selling like COD then publishers seem to brush them aside.