Posted by Rampant Coyote on October 26, 2010
Due to the success of iTunes and the iPhone / iPad App Stores, I assume. we’re soon going to be seeing them everywhere. Apple has announced an app store for the Mac that will mimic their mobile app store, and rumor has already linked that Microsoft is planning an app store with Windows 8.
This has some indies more than a little concerned. They remember all too well how the big portals in the casual space were effectively an extinction-level event for smaller, boutique casual games shops. If you were a casual game developer, you either joined the Borg collective, or were destroyed. And even now, indies face potential customers who say things like, “I won’t buy a game unless it’s on Steam.” Or worse, said would-be customer ask in all sincerity, “So why isn’t your game on Steam?” as if it was 1) As simple as filling out the paperwork, and not an enormous crap-shoot even for a quality game, and 2) any guarantee of financial success.
And now, we hear that the O.S. providers are going to be providing / sponsoring the portal…
That’s about like being a small mom-and-pop store and finding out that not only is a Wal*Mart superstore going up across the street, but that everyone on your city council has a significant portion of their investment in Wal*Mart stock. The cards are stacked against you, big time.
What are indies to do?
The option to roll with it and join the ol’ Borg collective again may be an option. Too early to say, but it’s likely. We indies should have seen that coming, once the press and industry in general caught whiff of the potential and the success of certain games. Now, what kind of games these portals will allow, what requirements exist, how difficult it will be to be sold through the portal, what price points will be… that’s all TBD. There could be a huge flight to the kinds of extreme low-budget titles that thrive at the sub-$3 pricepoint like we see on XBox Indie and iPhone. Or we may see something more akin to what’s available on Steam currently. We don’t know.
Another option that may be valid will be to fight back, keep doing our thing, and keep being indie. Use ’em if they make sense, eschew ’em otherwise. Do not forget that if the Windows 8 portal thing turns out to be true, it’ll be Microsoft’s second attempt to replicate their XBOX 360 success with the PC. The first, Games 4 Windows Live, was been pretty much universally regarded as a failure. When you can’t control access to the platform like Apple and Microsoft do for their proprietary platforms, it becomes a lot less trivial to gain the advantages of a monopoly. And attempts to put new Operating Systems under lock-and-key would probably earn far more ill will from consumers than it would be worth.
So this means indies may still be in the game, operating successfully independent of these upcoming 800 lb. (363 kilogram) gorillas.
To help out, Cliff Harris explains how indies are to survive without becoming dependent upon the app stores. It’s pretty much a reiteration of everything they should be doing RIGHT NOW, anyway.
Filed Under: Biz, Game Development - Comments: 7 Comments to Read