Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Activision’s Indie Contest: Indies Need Not Apply?

Posted by Rampant Coyote on June 15, 2010

Tom Buscaglia, the “Game Attorney,” took some time to read through the rules for Activision’s independent games competition. To be honest, this thing was always something of a head-scratcher for me, and after reading Tom’s take on it, I’m not sure I’m much closer to understanding the contest.

Tom Buscaglia: Some Thoughts on the Activision Indie Game Contest

What it really seems to me is that the competition is really not for anybody who has any business being an indie.  I mean, yay Activision for having this kind of contest and it *not* being particularly onerous. And the money being offered for the first round of competition is not chicken-scratch for your average indie.

But the contest is almost a subversion of all things indie. To win the contest you need to not act like an indie. You have to send them an incomplete game idea and then depend upon publisher approval in order to finish your game? Huh? Activision gets first right of negotiation, which is actually reasonably cool.

But as far as I can tell, the one most likely to win the competition is an experienced game dev (experienced enough to create a competent GDD, schedule, and budget) who for some reason feels the need to hitch their wagon exclusively to Activision’s for the duration of the competition in expectation of winning. All I can figure is that this may be some place an indie might send a back-burnered project. I’ve got a couple of those. Winning the competition would just bring it to the front-burner. The whole nebulous “round two” thing is just more head-scratchery.

Okay – clue to those new to the indie scene: Indie is pretty much a “do it yourself” ethos. That doesn’t mean indies are lone-wolves, or don’t end up going through publishers at all. What it means is they are independent of all those processes and artificial barriers imposed by publishers. This contest pretty much rewards the indies for re-introducing those barriers.

Does that make it an “anti-indie contest?”

Not that enterprising indies can’t figure out how to do what they want to do and use the rules to their advantage. I can think of 175,000 reasons to try and do just that.

Filed Under: Biz, Indie Evangelism - Comments: 5 Comments to Read

  • Brian 'Psychochild' Green said,

    I suspect this is a case of Activision not really understanding indies. They’re running this like they’re taking proposals from established development house: they’ll judge a submission based on the design doc, (optional) demo, and business plan.

    But, you’re exactly right: most indies don’t work that way. But, that’s what the big publishers are used to, so that’s what they’re going to ask for. As Tom points out, though, the restriction that you can only submit your idea to them for the duration is probably the most onerous to your typical indie. Most indies discuss their game to death to build up some interest, and this takes away that one bit of easy-ish marketing.

    Eh, we’ll see. Maybe we’ll get surprised.

  • Calibrator said,

    If the “indie flavor” is en vogue the mainstream will sell it to make money.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Yeah, I really wonder if this strangeness is an act of ignorance or deliberation. I haven’t figured it out yet.

  • Tom Buscaglia said,

    I’ll go with ignoance, or more correctly, cluenessless (if that’s actually a word!). I also suspect that a desire to do some developer community damage control may have motivated Activision.

    One more thing, they reserve the right to substitute stuff for dollars. So, it will be interesting to see what the final composition of the final awards ate.

    GL & HF!

    Tom B

  • Ca9ine said,


    Strangeness. An Indie game contest, that doesn’t fit for indie developers, hosted by the most notorious publisher in the world which is also know for shutting down indie and fan projects.