This past weekend, Steam and several other digital distributors had a variety of discounted offerings as most of PC publisher Paradox Interactive’s catalog had been put on sale. A few of these games were included in our latest Indie Game Sales feature, as during the vast majority of development they were considered to be independently funded–and as such fall under what we cover on DIYGamer.
In cases such as this, where a publisher’s name is tagged to a game we feel might fall under our admittedly amorphous coverage blanket, it’s simply our duty to exercise due diligence and figure out where the funding for the game came from. If we conclude the finances came from the developer itself, then we’re free to write on it. There’s still a ton of grey area and this certainly doesn’t explain or justify every game that’s been included/omitted from these pages, but it gives us a floor to walk on so to speak.
We’re a young and ambitious site, some of our golden rules are set and some are still evolving on the subject. In the end we’re human, and many times we’ll error on the side of inclusion if there’s no readily available information stating that the game has received funding outside of the developer’s pocket. If it’s found out at anytime that it proves to be otherwise, we’ll be the first to admit fault and correct our mistake–including full omission of the title in question if need be.
Let’s use developer The Behemoth as an example. Microsoft is considered the publisher of Castle Crashers while The Behemoth is listed as both the developer and publisher for their previous title Alien Hominid. For both games–and presumably their upcoming third effort BattleBlock Theater–the dev claims on their website “Our development is 100% self-funded with support from fans who support our cause!” with a link to their games and merchandise. Taking them at their word that indicates that Microsoft only puts funding toward the exposure of Crashers, not the development.
In that case, I consider the game to fall on the right side of our line. Some wouldn’t, and they’d be tough to argue against, but I don’t feel that if one game receives more marketing support than another it should be forced to give up its indie badge and gun.
It’s undeniable that indie games are as popular as they’ve ever been. More than ever before, the indie scene has been brought closer to the typical gamer’s foremost interests. This has been accomplished through all walks of effort and perseverance from more individuals than we may ever know our give credit to. It leads me to beg the question: Why should an indie game lose its tag when the mainstream shows interest in it?
A notable point of contention in what I’ve written above is that we still cover partially-funded games that come from developer’s who were previously indie/independent such as Runic Games (Torchlight), Frozenbyte (Trine) and ACE Team (Zeno Clash, Rock of Ages.) All three developers have been picked up by publishers to develop sequels (or in ACE’s case a completely new IP) of their successful independent predecessors. Must our coverage halt right then and there because of this? Honestly, the jury is still largely out on the point, but let me explain why I personally feel compelled to write on it for both myself and our readers.
We like these games, and we like the people who developed them. We’re interested in what they’re cooking up next. For me it comes back to questioning why we must stop following a developer’s path simply because a publisher has picked them up based on their past independent success. That success is what enabled them to make their next game one way or another, if they look to a publisher to relieve some of the stresses they had to deal with during independent release (outside of development of course) should we then turn a blind eye?
Obviously, if the developer is ever wholly absorbed by their respective publisher and ceases to be some form of individual entity then there’s simply no argument, it can’t and shouldn’t be posted here.
All that said, and there’s still hundreds if not thousands of individual cases that could be argued either for or against in this never ending debate. There isn’t a single authority who correctly and absolutely categorizes what is considered indie in the vast sea of games and projects out there. So instead we research facts and rely on what are gut says a lot of the time. Not an exact science, but no one has ever claimed it to be.
Again, this is just one man’s (still developing) opinion on a very, very complex subject.