Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – Being an Indie in 2015

Posted by Rampant Coyote on March 4, 2015

The whole definition of “indie” is getting pretty dang fuzzy these days. Studios that are “independent” but have still been largely publisher-driven are doing the indie thing with all kind of alternative funding methods, and then there are 12-year-olds who have managed some not-insignificant success throwing together their first iPhone game.

In an interview called, “It’s Getting Harder to Be an Indie,” Chris Millar speaks of some of the realities and challenges – and excitement – about being an indie game developer.  I liked it because it’s realistic without being depressing.

Then, at GDC this week, we had some pretty remarkable news about game engines (which tells me that as rough as the indie business is these days, I’m glad I’m not in the engine business):

* The Unreal Engine is dropping its subscription (which was already pretty cheap) and is going free – with royalties above a certain level (as before). So – yeah. Everything free, all the time, pay up 5% when you make more than $3k per quarter.

* The “free” version of Unity 5 is now the Personal Edition, and it will now include all of the “Pro Edition” features with a few exceptions (incentives) – like getting rid of the Unity Splash screen, the pro version of cloud build (which is cool for larger distributed teams), and improved debugging / performance tools.

* The “Source 2” engine from Valve is released and will be available for … wait for it… free.

* Corona Labs is releasing it’s mobile-based 3D SDK for…. uh, hang on here… oh, yeah. Free.

* Autodesk (makers of 3DS) is entering the engine fray with their upcoming Stingray engine. No word on pricing yet, but they are gonna have a tough time competing with free.

* While not a GDC announcement, Game Maker Studio maker YoYo Games was just purchased by PlayTech. Game Maker Studio Standard Edition went free last summer. And it’s a pretty cool tool. The promise (we’ll see if they keep it) is that this purchase allows them to really forge ahead with development of system. They’ve already been pushing ahead with their version of Unity’s very popular Asset Store.

* The Khronos Group announced their open-source next-generation successor to the venerable OpenGL, called Vulkan. Mobile support is a priority…

The pricing and power of tools these days is just unbelievable. It’s a dream come true for a low-budget game developer.

Plus, there’s been a wave of announcements of new hardware and new platforms.

And yet…

I was reading the other day how last year, on iOS, they averaged 500 new games PER DAY. That’s a new game released every three minutes. Back in the console heyday, when it got to dozens of new releases a week it was getting pretty glutted. Now, that happens during your lunch break. I don’t think the story will be any different on any of these new platforms if they are in any way “open” and prove popular.

All this means two things to me:

#1 – It is a wonderful time to make video games. Seriously, there has been no better era that I can think of. We have ridiculously more powerful platforms, a higher install base, easier access, more powerful tools, lower barriers to entry, fantastic distribution, and extremely low-cost tools that run the gamut of requirements from game development to team collaboration to billing.

#2 – There may have been more difficult times to make a living as a game developer, particularly as an indie, but from what I’m hearing / seeing, this is somewhere near the lows. The field is glutted to a ridiculous degree. I mean, 500 games per day. You could make the greatest game in the world and spend a fortune on marketing, and still get overlooked. It’s getting downright ugly out there. It’s not a whole lot prettier for the big publishers, either.

All-in-all, I’d say this is a fantastic time to START learning to develop games. And for a part-time indie like me, who doesn’t really need game revenue to pay the rent? I can’t complain. But my plans to go full-time and “make it big” in games might be put on hold for a little while longer.



Filed Under: Indie Evangelism, News, Tech - Comments: Read the First Comment

  • Adam Smith said,

    Good article, I think Steam releases are now up to something like 90 per week, discoverability is a massive issue everywhere. What’s frustrating as an Indie from my perspective is when we try to approach blogs and sites they never reply to emails, and we tend to opt for the more obscure sites and blogs, sites like VG247 and Gamespot are now so focused on console so unless you need a Battlefield walkthrough guide its a hopeless fight. To keep the lights on and create we really need the support of blogs, journalists and an open minded community that can give use the room to breath and express ourselves. Otherwise, whats the point.