Posted by SourMillennia (43 posts) -

I was recently reading about this new group known as 'Indie Fund' (co-founded by Braid creator Johnathon Blow) that helps provide funding and publishing assistance for independent developers, and it made me think a bit about indie games, mostly in two main ways.
 
1.) Do indie games turn a sizable enough profit for publishers to invest in them? They usually have a small staff and thus less overheard for basic personnel expenses, but is it worth the time and effort to promote indie games at all? I know some are popular, but the vast majority seemingly (at least to me) disappear into the pixelated ether never to be seen again.
 
2.) Are indie games consistently good? Obviously, there are major games that are released that lack in quality, but this endearment towards indie games by the videogame media (Giant Bomb tends to not be too enamored with indie developers) is a bit confusing to me. There have been startling successes, the aforementioned Braid comes to mind (and Limbo also looks to be quite good), but I would wager that the vast majority of indie games are not that good or worth promoting. Of course, now one gets into the awkward 'art for art's sake' argument over whether or not games need to actually turn a profit/reach a large audience to be considered successful, to me these are the requirements for a game to claim any sort of success...though there are many that would probably disagree with me on this.
 
What about all of you out there in Giantbomb land? Am I totally wrong, am I too centered on the $'s? Let me know, and also let me know what you all think...I'm interested to hear your thoughts!

#1 Posted by kelbear (496 posts) -

Funding indie games isn't all that different from a publisher evaluating an established development studio's project. Few, if any studios are so respected that their project gets funded without anybody questioning whether or not it's worth it. Even Blizzard still needs to work at convincing Activision (The Warcraft Adventure game starring Thrall, and StarCraft: Ghost are two blizzard projects that didn't make it). Valve may be one of the few examples of a studio that doesn't need a publisher's approval of its projects...because Valve self-publishes. Even there, they still spend a lot of time mulling their projects over to make sure it's worth it.
 
How much will it make? / How much will it cost? = Return on investment. 
 
As long as the ROI on the indie game is higher than the ROI on all other alternative investments (discount rate), then it's worth funding the indie game.  Actual analysis is more complex, but at it's heart, it's about ensuring that their money is invested in the best possible investment.
 
Publishers have the advantage in funding games because as a publisher, they have the advertising channels that promote the game and increase the return for relatively less investment. If I invest $100 bucks, let's say $40 of that will be spent to get "X" amount of advertising from a publisher. If I'm a publisher, I can invest $100, and I can get "X" amount of advertising cheaper because I already have a dedicated system for doing that, and I don't have to charge myself a mark-up. 
 
 Is the game worth it? The process is still the same. The developers need to pony up a convincing demonstration. The demonstration isn't just to show how cool the game is. It's equally important, if not more so, to prove that the developers can deliver a solid game, and on time. Ideally, the developers have worked on their own time, without pay, long enough to create a "vertical slice". A single level fully realized top to bottom. That shows the concept of game, as well as the ability to see a project from start to finish while under fiscal pressure (This is how the Dead Space devs got it published by EA). But since only a few can achieve this, I think most of the time, they just need to deliver a strategy and timeline for production, with any concept samples they've generated thus far.

#2 Posted by Xeiphyer (5604 posts) -

Indie games are low risk because they have low costs, they also generally offer low profits, with the exception of those indie darlings that get very popular.
 
Also, many more indie games fail and disappear than regular games because they are much easier for a regular joe to make, and regular joe usually has bad ideas.
 
This kind of service is really helpful for indie developers, and also a great way to find new talent and/or new IPs that will be popular. Often times if an indie game is high quality and particularly special, a publisher will buy the IP and/or the company and release it as an arcade game or whatever. For most indie developers this is exactly what they want... money, recognition, a career, etc...

#3 Posted by SourMillennia (43 posts) -

Awesome, thanks you guys, I like when I get good answers to questions like this, appreciate it!