The Indie Gaming Bubble Might Be About To Burst

The Indie Gaming Bubble Might Be About To Burst

Veteran indie dev Jeff Vogel puts into words that niggling doubt in the pit of your stomach.

That quote is part of a post Vogel has written on his blog that ties into some stuff we've been talking about over the past week. Namely, that there are too many indie games being made, and it's starting to become a serious problem.

It's not just a problem for Steam, it's a problem for the entire industry, which he basically boils down to there being too many games for the amount of time and money in the market.

If you're a developer or a fan of indie games, it's definitely worth a read. You might not like what he's written, but my gut says he might just be right on most, if not all of it.

The Indie Bubble Is Popping.[Jeff Vogel]


    Yup. More virtual Mexican land fills are already being made in Mine Craft to take the shear amount of digital code that will need to be dumped.
    Pitty, as the indie boom made some gem games that took risks that the big boys wouldn't and in turn influenced some of the bigger titles that are out or coming soon. I think there will always be a place for indie games now, but the boom may be over.

    See: 'Steam Greenlight'.

      See: 'Humble Bundle'

        See a periodic name-your-price sale of highly acclaimed indie titles that have been out for a good while? What has that to do with a program that unleashes a hundred new games into the market every month, when talking about the problem of a flooded market?

    Not a doubt in my stomach.

    Yeah, anything that makes money will attract imitators.

    The great thing about indie gaming is that anyone with passion can still make games. The ones that turn out to be great will do well no matter what.

    If the 'bottom' falls out, it will only hurt those who want to cash in, not the same type of people who started it all. After all, the idea of the 'bottom falling out' is that there will be less money around - but that's sort of the point. You don't need money, and money not being around won't stop people making these games.

    If anything, it would be good for true indie gaming if the market got a bit tougher and drove away the profit takers.

    I feel this is a pretty ironic quote from Jeff Vogel, who churned out dozens of undifferentiated RPGs in the 90s and early 00s. I quite liked Exile and Avernum and certainly he had a few different things going on, but he released what, six Avernum games? And they were just rebuilds of Exile. Glass houses.

    If there's any real issue with indies at the moment, it's a problem of visibility. Getting harder to sift through the number of releases and find the stuff that's actually good.

      Just that quote I completely agree but he goes on to say that he is as much at fault as everyone else that he is talking about

        Yeah, the whole article is pretty much on point and I agree. Just that particular cherry-picked quote made me have an immediate knee-jerk reaction.

        Doesn't help that back in the Mac days, there were two big indie RPGs, Exile and the more D&D-inspired Realmz, and you tended to side with one or the other. I was firmly in the Realmz camp, but that game never hit the level of popularity that Exile did, I think partially because they held off moving to PC too long.

      Indie hipsterism? "I was making indie games before they became (too) popular"?

        Dude, he was so hipster he was making indie games on a Mac before they were trendy.

    There is less passion and more of people wanting to make a pile of shit the take your money. The quality has gone down for indie games and it's annoying. I want to make games. I am very passionate about it and am currently studying to get a diploma in Interactive and Digital Games. Anything I release in the future I hope to make sure it is of the highest quality I can make it and give people there moneys worth. I agree with @negativezero about it being a problem with visibility. Especially with greenlight I liked it at first but then it just turned to shit and I dispise it

      Unfortunately community curating on pre-releases is the biggest problem. People are voting on ideas and concepts instead of delivered product. I don't think that this was a great idea on behalf of steam if they are trying to create a curated garden of indie titles.

      They need to do a little bit better than this, but I thankfully I don't think it's too hard to do.

      Steam's UI really makes discoverability bad. They designed it for a storefront which might get 2-3 new titles a week, but nowadays it's like 3-4 a day.

        The problem with the so called "new releases" is that they aren't even new. I see games which are like 10 years old being released on steam as a "new release" So the only way I find a new release is from someone else then I search it on Steam instead of Steam telling me what is actually new.

    It wasn't exactly a niggling doubt in my stomach. It's not that hard to see we're essentially repeating the game crash of 1983 but with Indie games.

    This is a dumb comment.

    It's not like there is a finite number of bits that need to be consumed in order to produce a bajillion indie games a year. How can the "bottom" fall out of a market like this? It'll stay consistent or it will grow in revenue. In fact, you would assume that if the number of games created explodes by a factor of two or three over the next year, that we will have by nature of just the law of statistical averages, more actual good games that will come out of it.

    Those good games will still be good and will still make money. The bad ones will not. Just like now, just like before and this trend will continue in the future.

    More people try their hands at writing novels every year than writing games. We haven't seen the death of story telling yet, nor are we likely to.

      Except when we get to the point where the market is so full of disposable games Gamers start choking on them. Books require a publisher who is willing to spend the money printing the book in the hope of a sale. This leads to some degree of quality control. Hundreds and thousands of authors are out there right now sending their books off and getting knocked back on a daily basis.

      The market is finite. Gamers only have so much time and money...

      While tastes vary, the majority of spending is on a small number of titles. That number grows with the market, but not as quickly as the market as a whole. (The difference is taken up by increased sales from the original top titles.) So if the market doubles in size, the number of games that can be released and still be commercially viable does not.

      This is true even if many of the new games are good ones, so some good games will fail (just as some bad ones succeed). The problem of worthy, but unsuccessful games is not a new one.

      This has already happened on Apple's App store. Of the tens/hundreds of thousands of games on the App store, how many eventually broke even or better? I would be surprised if it was more than 50%. Heck, I would be surprise if it was more than 30%.

    too many coming out these days, also too many 8-bit "retro" style indie games.

      I can stand some part of 8Bit retro but not the 'full retro'. Never go "the full retro".
      Take Mercenary Kings... loved the look but hated the sound. That game with modern meaty sounds and music would have been more epic... and I still liked that game.

    Steam needs to have another tab on the storefront page: EARLY ACCESS. I get the shits when there is a game that is "released" but it's actually early access, I'll play your game when it's finished, not providing free play testing and bug reporting for you sorry.

    As someone who works away in the Unity Engine to experiment, I have a large number of semi-finished games that play but don't look the part of a finished product. I look at the Indie scene now and it seems that we've got too much of those who are purely in it to get the money and don't care at all if their products are released unfinished.

    I can see the Indie bubble popping. My greatest hope is that while the money-grabbers and clone-makers are swept away, that the Indie scene leaves the experienced developer teams in good shape, producing many more games like FTL, Papers Please and Stanley Parable.

    Last edited 26/05/14 4:34 pm

    "Early release" "Get in on it during development" "Alpha"

    At one stage it used to excite me.

    Now most games I see on steam do this to some degree and it sickens me. I'm tired of it.

      I avoid it totally. I have one (kerbal space program) but that was because an friend bought it for me.
      Personally I like the first time I play the game to be the best experience with that game. Which is why even though I have access I'm not touching wasteland 2 until it has been patched and fully released

    This can't happen fast enough.

    Steam is drowning in shovelware. The good indie devs who creat a solid product will do well regardless.

    He is completely wrong. Its not that there is less passion in indie gaming. Its just that there is more noice generated.

    Its like youtube. Once upon a time, an independent short video was well edited, storyboarded and interesting. Now, every minute, hours worth of the same content is uploaded. That does not make the 1 well edited, well thought out video any less interesting (think Freddie Wong or Red Vs Blue). It just makes it harder to find.

    The same for gaming. In the end however, a good product will still shine through. (NOTE: a good product isn't just artsy or thought provoking. It is also fun, well supported AND generates profit)

      More games the better. Better games will still shine through.

    Indie games are a waste of good ideas. Ideas that are worthwhile need to be fleshed out properly and sold to a market that appreciates them. Not 'get it out, that'll do' for 99¢ on an app store. The overly bloated games industry is now far too top heavy. If it's not a 'AAA' franchise game then it has to be a cheap indie game or no one seems interested in it. There's no middle ground anymore where good ideas get support, backing and marketing. The game industry is too careful and concerned about making millions per development cycle than offering anything new and the great ideas that come up through the indie developers get lost amid a sea of other titles.

    The whole industry is a mess that is bound to implode.

    Seems like something everyone says at some point in any creative medium. As a consumer, I don;t care in the slightest. If a game looks good and I buy it, I accept responsibility in the risk of my purchase. I've bought a few terrible games in my time but usually it results in a loss of $5 and a few laughs.

    To counter disappointment, I either try not to pretend that I have a right to wish the destruction of all that is completely worthwhile but annoys me in particular and start portraying it as a "problem" or do some research and get on with my damn life. I've bought 3 or so early access games (Betrayer, Starbound and Kerbal) and haven't been disappointed.

    I heard Starbound and Kerbal were great with constant sales into early access that have you spend less than $10 (people seem to leave out the fact that most early access games are far cheaper than the title's full price) for an in-development game that's already robust with a great community and good communication from developers. Betrayer was rubbish but it was my first early access game and I was interested in seeing the development process and that side did not disappoint. I could be active in discussing with the developers how certain changes might affect the experience and I found it genuinely rewarding.

    I'm not sure what everyone expects from an "early access" title but from what people are saying and the language they're using ("unfinished", "shovelware"), it seems as if people are unclear on what is actually advertised with a big blue banner on the store page or at least; heavily generalising. Let people make games. Judging someone's intentions when they aren't known or couldn't possibly be known is just like accusing traditionally attractive women who like games of faking it, only in one arena we're encouraged to take less responsibility for our choices.

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