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Who will be to blame when indie gaming collapses?

3 min read


I keep hearing articles about how the indie scene is doomed. People compare the current indie renaissance with what gaming went through in the 80s – it’s a cautionary tale telling developers not to get used to the money, the bubble will burst. Okay, but why? And who will be to blame?

Indie gaming’s self-proclaimed crazy old uncle, Jeff Vogel (founder of Spiderweb Software) is another of those who has climbed to the top of the hill to decry the end of the world. Well, he has written a blog saying that the indie bubble is popping. According to him, the problem comes down to demand. As huge as the demand is for games, 40% of games bought on Steam don’t get tried, which can be a major problem for the industry:

To be clear, this isn’t a problem because these games will keep people from buying new ones, though there will be some of this. People mostly don’t play these excess games because they didn’t want them. The problem is that a business based on selling things people don’t want is not a stable one.

So, is Steam to blame? Is the Humble Bundle? Are they just giving us too many games at stupidly awesome prices? I find it hard to blame Steam or the Humble Bundle. The reality is that gamers want to play games. They want to play lots of varied and interesting games for as little money as possible. As long as developers keep making the games we want to play, we will spend small amounts of money during a sale or other promotion in order to get them. As gamers, we’ve become more discerning, and as much as we might jump in the hype train, we’re also patient.

Back in the days of physical distribution, if you didn’t grab a game in that magical time between release and emptying of the bargain bin, it was gone. But now, with digital distribution, it’s no problem playing the waiting game. Plus, gamers are mostly an older crowd these days, as most adults understand the idea of delayed gratification. Sure, it might suck to wait for a game in the short term, but who cares if you play Dark Souls or Sleeping Dogs a few years after everyone else? If it’s still an awesome game and you got it for cheap (or free thanks to PS+ or Games with Gold), all the better. And unlike those AAA titles, indies don’t have the hype train to begin with. Now and then you get the indie powerhouses like Supergiant Games or Mike Bithell whose names can now sell games, but for the most part people will wait for a bundle or sale to try out the indies.

But back to the core of the question. Will indie gaming collapse? Is the bubble preparing to burst? Maybe. With so many industry veterans saying so, it’s hard to argue otherwise. However, they didn’t predict the impact mobile would have on gaming. Or that Steam would do what it has. Or that bundles would become the awesome norm. So, yeah, maybe the bubble is going to burst, or maybe the entire industry is changing to be gamer-centric, offering more games than we could possibly play in our lifetimes for a fraction of the cost.

Last Updated: May 28, 2014

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