RIP The Indie Dream, 2008-2015

RIP The Indie Dream, 2008-2015

One of the best parts of PAX Australia is the Indie Games section and this year it’s bigger than ever, but there is a collective anxiety. People seem to the throwing this word around a lot: Indie-pocalypse. The idea that it’s getting harder and harder to make money making video games as an indie.

Over at the booth for Knuckle Sandwich (which is excellent by the way, and you should check it out) creator Andrew Brophy made the above coffin.

RIP The Indie Dream 2008-2015.

Inside the coffin, some delicious hard candy. Presumably to sweeten the harsh blow of all those broken dreams.

I asked Andrew why he made it. His reaction was perfect.

“Uh, I just kinda did it,” he laughed.

“Although, the reason it says 2008 is because that’s the year Braid came out.”

Steam in particular seems to be the real discussion point among indie developers right now. How do you make your game visible? How do you navigate the minefield. So many games are being released on Steam that it’s difficult stand out amongst the trash.

But the positive thing — for us at least — is that the quality of games being shown at PAX Australia has not wavered. There’s a lot of incredible games out there waiting to be played, it’s just getting increasingly difficult to find them.


  • Well yeah, when a lot of people compete the field becomes super tough to succeed in. Unfortunately the audience pool for retro-inspired pixelart roguelike platformers with RPG elements isn’t getting any bigger.

  • Isn’t it the responsibility of outlets like Kotaku and RPS to point out the diamonds in the rough? Don’t just point out the problem. You and your ilk are in a position to help.

    Though I guess it is hard to go through all the little known crap, looking for stuff worth highlighting, when you first have to go through the mountains of PR that gets sent your way from major publishers.

    Not a criticism. It just reads like one.

    • No you’re right. But I think that’s something we do really well.

      Look at the video games we write about, particularly interesting stuff on Steam. I’d say that Kotaku as a whole really does champion and unearth some great video games.

      • I’d agree. There’s a tonne I’d never have looked at twice if it wasn’t for a compelling write-up and some better screens/gifs/videos than the unfortunately less-marketing-savvy developer put front and centre on their steam page.

        One thing that is a little frustrating is when we see the write-up for something that looks incredibly amazing and awesome… aaaand it’s a kickstarter.

        I really hope that when Kotaku does unearth diamonds in the rough through this kind of process that there’s some sort of internal process that subscribes to a mailing list or adds a calendar entry or something to give it coverage when it matters more… when we can get our grubby ol’ paws on it.

      • I’ll second that too. Saw Superhot at a booth and checked it out largely based on Kotaku (your?) write ups I had seen.

        Honestly I hadn’t followed up and wasn’t sure how well the game would work, but it was seriously engaging.

        Ive also wanted to check out Agent A but it always seems so crowded.

      • Including them in the weekly release article is a pretty positive step too. In a lot of cases you don’t have time to do more than a review of the Steam page paired with your thoughts on the concept but it still does a lot to raise awareness. I can’t keep up with the indie scene but I can certainly look at that list and Google anything that strikes me as interesting.

  • I give indie games a lot of crap for pandering to YouTubers, but the reality is that if you want to make money making indie games that’s one of the few ways you can do it. It’s not enough to make a solid entry in a genre when you’re competing against a horde of other indie level games and the gems never go away. Braid will be on Steam until the end of time and it’s not a game you can beat by deploying superior tech. If you want your game to get noticed next to Braid you’re going to have to advertise, and the only reasonable way to do that on a large enough scale with an indie level budget is to partner up with YouTubers.

  • Steam in particular seems to be the real discussion point among indie developers right now.

    This is why the dream is dying. Devs need to get themselves out of the PC mindset. Yes it has a larger install base, but you’re also swallowed up by the glut of SLGs (“shitty little games”) released on there.

    The devs would be better off spending their PAX weekend getting into the ears of the Sony DevFund and ID[at]Xbox reps to get their stuff on console.

    • Well there was the mob option once upon a time until it got swallowed up w/ the same SLG thats eating up PC nowadays…

      The general issue is that PC is technically still the cheapest/easiest to develop for outside of Mobile. And relying on consoles requires significant investment up front for kits and licenses and the hope Sony/Xbox actually bothers to put you in a spotlight.

  • TBH the indie scene is completely oversaturated and needs an apocalypses, the good game developers will survive, evolution in practice.

  • One thought may be to focus on retail other than Steam. Work closely with GOG, Greenman, Amazon, Game and the scores of smaller digital retailers aching for content. We can help if you need, as we have accounts or inroads into most of them, whilst steering clear of the auction houses.

    We would also love to see the Aus content for our modest little digital retail portal, as I really want to set up an Aus Indie retail showcase. At the moment, all we really have Aus wise is the super content from our friends at Surprise Attack.

    Keep the dream alive!!

  • “So many games are being released on Steam that it’s difficult stand out amongst the trash.”

    It’s difficult to stand out even amongst the other good games!

    But yes, Steam does need a better way to filter games, so we can choose to see only the games that have >=80% approval from purchasers, for example.

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!