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Opinion

Indie Games Breakthrough To The Mainstream, And Why That’s A Good Thing

Each year it feels as if when we get to the game of the year season. People lose interest in the indie games that they had been enjoying all year.

But last years Celeste was one game to breakthrough and win a multitude of awards from publications. While it certainly wasn’t the first indie to make a breakthrough in such a way, it’s certainly a notable one.

Katana Zero is sited by many to be the indie darling of 2019 so far.

With the growing number of indie publishers and the multitude of talented indie devs, indie games are beginning to lead the charge in terms of the most unique and greatest experiences in video games and this year is almost at the forefront of that.

2019 could be considered a down year for many people. Big titles haven’t been coming out as much as they were last year, with early game of the year material coming out much quicker.

While there have certainly been standout games for many people, there isn’t anything huge that everyone has gravitated too. However, this is a blessing in disguise as it has allowed indie publishers and studios to steal the spotlight.

Not only are their sales proving to be more than successful enough to support the studios, but their place in mainstream gamer culture is becoming more and more apparent as more indies grab the spotlight.

As an avid fan of all games, I often find indie games that I am captivated by. But when I find an indie that not only piques my interest but piques my non-gamer friend’s interest, you know something is changing.

Indie games have often been seen as filler in a year in between the big AAA releases. But the last few years have been overturning that theory in a lot of peoples mind including gaming outlets minds.

Celeste managed to win many peoples Game of the Year in a year with God of War and Red Dead Redemption 2

Last year, Celeste was on the stage of one of the biggest gaming award shows, “The Game Awards.” It is no small feat to have a game made by a team tinier than 1% of a AAA team right next to the games made by those teams.

Indie publishers have helped pave the way to newfound success for these many developers. TinyBuild, Nicalis and Devolver Digital are some of the bigger indie publishers.

They select their games carefully and while they are all distinctly unique, they all feel right for each company. This helps indie games find there niche audience easier.

Devolver Digital is a company focusing hard on style when it comes to the games they publish. This year has been filled with there games and has cemented me as a big fan of the publisher. No matter what I play from them, I know I will be getting a high-quality indie game that has a definitive style. Ape Out, Katana Zero, Observation, Pikuniku and my personal favorite of the year so far, My Friend Pedro.

All games in another year of the industry could have flown under the radar. But thanks to Devolver Digital and the rising appreciation for indie games in the market, they are thriving.

The biggest thing that helps indie games thrive, in my opinion, is the price point. While yes there are full-priced indie games and mid-priced and many other tiers, they almost always meet or exceed that price tag.

Stardew Valley can be played for hundreds of hours and costs less than half the cost of a full-price game. This example can be passed onto many hit indie games.

My Friend Pedro is my favorite indie game of the year so far by a mile

Even when they aren’t huge games with hundreds of hours of playtime, their price point makes it so you can get a number of them. In between my huge RPG’s, I enjoy taking a break by playing some unique and nifty games at a smaller price.

But by far the biggest thing that has helped indies tread new ground in the past few years is Nintendo’s amazing device; The Nintendo Switch. Indie games have been thriving because of this revolutionary system.

Huge sales of indie games on the platform began as soon as the system dropped. I and others thought would be only temporary continued until now and beyond. Games outselling all their counterparts even if they suffer in terms of performance, or come out much later at full price.

Games like Hollow Knight practically got a whole new lease on life. It achieved most of its reputation after being released on Switch.

While it shames me to say that I didn’t acknowledge indie games as much before I got my Switch, I would be lying if I say I did. I’ve always loved indie games, but the prospect of playing them at home and on the go is what convinced me to buy so many more games and I think this is pretty clear to the developers.

Indie Game Stardew Valley
Stardew Valley was at the top of the eShop charts for months after release

The Nintendo community, a sizeable portion of the gaming community, has accepted indie games with open arms. Sure the Switch isn’t getting Resident Evil 2, but it’s getting Katana Zero, My Friend Pedro, and Into the Breach all as console exclusives. All these games slide up onto the eShop right next to your big AAA games and into the libraries of many Switch owners.

All of this helping indies breakthrough to the mainstream is a good thing for multiple reasons. But the main one that sticks in my mind is how clean they are. I always buy indie games full-price and rarely feel like I’m paying too much.

The reason for that is indie games are becoming a breath of fresh air in a microtransaction filled game space. Where everything is AAA that costs full price and still has a list of microtransactions, it feels good to buy something that I pay for once and feel wholly satisfied for. 

Not only is it a breath of fresh air in terms of ignoring greed, but just in terms of gameplay. Yes, there are hundreds of thousands of pixel art Metroidvanias but the variety still stems further than a lot of the things you will find in the AAA space.

When searching for attention the last thing you want to do is feel unoriginal. That’s why we get wacky game concepts, throwbacks to games of past generations, and simple twists and perfections of classic formulas. I feel thankful for the indie studios who plow on forward with there efforts to making great original games. I don’t think our medium would be the same if it wasn’t for you, and I don’t think it could survive. Certainly, we couldn’t.

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