Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Rumors of Their Death May Be Exaggerated…

Posted by Rampant Coyote on December 12, 2012

I complain about the “race to the bottom” in terms of pricing for indie games. It’s a problem for indies.

It’s possibly an even bigger problem for AAA studios, as an article by Josh Bycer sums up: Are AAA Studios DOA?

My answer to the title is actually, “No, they aren’t, but there will be more contraction & consolidation.”

Sadly, I predict some contraction in the indie space, too, particularly among some of the newer studios that have a business plan something like, “Make expensive indie game, sell it on Steam, make enough to fund 3 more games just like it.” Great idea, if it pans out. But parts 2 and 3 are rarely guaranteed…

The games biz is pretty cyclical. I’ve seen expansions, contractions before. When I got started in the industry, it was in the latter part of a pretty awesome expansion.  It was a boom not unlike what we’re seeing in the indie games space now. It wasn’t going to last. Then we saw a contraction – sorta like the contraction that’s been going on over the last 4 years amongst the high-end game studios & publishers, and in the MMO space. Or what has been happening over the last few years in the casual game space (which, ironically, was what many people misunderstood to be ‘indie games’ – the two terms were in danger of becoming synonymous for a couple of years).

But casual games are far from dead. The contraction in the late 90’s / early 2000s didn’t kill AAA game development. Indie games will still be awesome when the current boom inevitably hits a wall. For that matter, RPGs – declared dead on multiple occasions – appear to be going as strong as ever now with the combination of indie & mainstream development (particularly if you include MMORPGs), the “long-dead” adventure game genre has enjoyed a cool new boom (with Telltale’s The Walking Dead enjoying some particular mainstream acclaim),  and even the flight sim genre – once a staple of PC gaming which had gone pretty dormant for the last decade – has enjoyed some relatively recent, significant releases.

AAA Gaming isn’t going anywhere, but it may get smaller. Quite frankly, how many first-person shooters can one person play in a year? (Okay, yeah, quite a lot, but how much WILL an average gamer be willing to buy & play?)

As much as I rail on AAA games, I know most of us wouldn’t want to see them go away. As much as I love many of the indie RPGs that have come out over the last year or so, I still get a kick out of the occasional high-budget, lavishly produced spectacle from the major publishers.  I would truly hate to see them go completely to the wayside. And I seriously cannot imagine it happening. But I think there’s very limited room for games with $50+ million budgets, and we’ve hit a saturation point where it won’t grow all that fast.  But somehow, another boom will happen at the high end someday soon. It always does. Just never quite where you expect it.

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