Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Indie Games: After the Gold Rush?

Posted by Rampant Coyote on December 27, 2012

I guess this is a little bit of a follow-up from yesterday’s post, but allow me to get a little pessimistic for a minute. Except I personally think I’m being realistic.

Indie games have been enjoying a gold rush, a boom. Inevitably, after the boom peaks, comes a bust – a contraction. Almost everybody knows this, as it’s a well-documented and commonly understood description of the business cycle, but the point to argue is how close we may be to the peak. Some may argue the peak is a long way off, and the “bust” – the contraction – will take us no lower than we are now. Others – myself included – suspect the peak of the boom cycle is pretty dang close. I’m not the only one.

It’s been a marvelous few years. The ‘core indie game’ – as opposed to casual – was something that was largely marginalized when I started out. Some had figured that its time had passed in the previous ‘gold rush’ in the 1990s, when the shareware games movement produced some incredible hits (and built up some major game studios that are still with us today). Plenty of core (not ‘hardcore’, just ‘core’) indie games were being produced, and some were actually making money. But the gold rush was in the casual games arena. That was really taking off.

It, too, came to an end. A lot of the companies with the glowing success stories of that era aren’t around anymore. They didn’t survive the gold rush. But while casual games are no longer quite the hot news item they were six years ago, they haven’t gone anywhere. Or rather, they’ve continued to go places – the boom in mobile apps have probably been bigger for the casual “space” than for core indie games. After the gold rush, dealing with an oversaturated market and plummeting prices (weird how supply & demand works like that), casual games had to adapt and change as the market matured and changed.

“Core” indie games have really enjoyed an increase in attention lately, thanks in part to mobile platforms (finally) taking off and some major online distributors getting serious about selling indie games. But they are going to go through the same thing, sooner or later… and it’ll be another case of “survival of the fittest.” The fittest may not be the uber-impressive dinosaurs that were at the top of the food chain in the previous cycle. After all, two years ago, Zynga looked like it was unstoppable… (and to continue analogy, which may not hold true forever but works for today — while they’ve had to consolidate and adapt, they are still a big deal).

I’m not sure what the future will hold. I’ve been relishing this golden age, as a gamer, because it’s meant a ton of really interesting games… some of which are destined to be all-time classics spoken of with the some measure of the same reverence that we now give to games like Super Mario Bros and Doom.  We’ll look back and complain about how nobody makes games like that anymore… even though they will be.

The growth of California didn’t end with the end of the seven-year California Gold Rush. And I don’t expect that we’ll see indie games going anywhere. Yeah, there’s going to be some rough sledding after we clear the peak. I’m actually looking forward to seeing what’s on the other side. I plan to be there, one way or another.

Filed Under: Biz, Casual Games, Indie Evangelism, Production - Comments: 2 Comments to Read

  • winterwolves said,

    I agree, but actually the biggest enemy will be the insane market fragmentation and MS committing the PC suicide destroying the Windows userbase.

  • Marcio said,

    I agree! You can tell how nowadays developers are worrying about business aspects such as Game Strategy and Marketing. These are fundamental aspects of any business. Game strategy is just another word for Production Management. Now that the industry is flooded with competitors, like the Internet bubble of 2000, they now have to work in all aspects of the business. So you see all these large studio companies flourishing.