Monday, June 24, 2013

Importance of Independent Games

Moving from the sixth-generation of consoles (Xbox, PS2, Gamecube) to the 7th brought about massive, unexpected changes in the world of gaming. Previously, all that was expected from a good game was a fun single-player and possibly a great split-screen mode to complement the single-player. Of course there are exceptions to this, but it’s fair to say this was the norm. But with the advent of the seventh-gen, expectations rose. Online capabilities, achievements, HD graphics. Higher quality content was expected in larger quantities. Needless to say, production values rose.

This has had an obvious effect on the types of games developers are willing to make. Blockbusters like Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed became necessary to not only fund other riskier games, but to keep companies developing them afloat. Niche titles and new IP’s began to dwindle, developers unable to keep up with the higher demands while taking the same risks. More and more games began to cater to the lowest common denominator as far as original gameplay ideas, themes, stories, and graphics go. Not to say some of these large titles aren’t quality games, but they are created and marketed for mass appeal.

Perhaps because of this, passionate developers found a way to fill the void. Through smaller independent games. While these types of games have been around and in circulation basically since the internet was a household commodity, the intensity, quality, and consistency of releases shot up in recent years.

What does this mean for eighth-generation consoles? It means that independent games play a much larger role to the consumer. Personally, one of my favorite series is Harvest Moon. After over 6 years of the release of HD consoles, there has not been one true Harvest Moon game released on a home console. JRPGs are exiled to handhelds. Platformers are dwindling. Survival horror has become a joke. The variety and uniqueness the collection of games the PS2 had that made it so great was no place to be found on the seventh-generation consoles. Meanwhile, all of these things are alive and well on the PC in the form of independent games.

How exactly does this connect with eighth-generation consoles? Let me just be frank. The PS4 allows indie developers to publish their own games, the Xbox One does not. This is a big deal, do not be mistaken. I’m sure both consoles will have a great selection of big titles, great features, and provide a lot of entertainment for a lot of hours, the potential is there but I can't say.

What I can say, is that the door Sony has opened by allowing self-publishing on the PS4 is great, and could not only cause more, higher quality independent games by making it less intimidating to get your game out on a major console for the developers, but get those games to more people. One less wall between the games and the masses is a good thing. This move has the potential to turn the trickle of great indie titles we got on the 360 such as Super Meat Boy, Fez, Braid, Trials, Shadow Complex, Minecraft, and Limbo into a waterfall of solid titles that fill the creativity void the industry is going through right now.

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