Like so many aspects of so many industries, video games development appears almost cyclical. In the past (read: the 80s) bedroom coders were all the rage. Sure, there were some studios emerging from the darkness, becoming fledgling development houses and eventually forming the behemoths they are today.
But out of all of this, one thing started to fade. And we started to see the gradual decline of said bedroom coder. The lone developer (or small group), in a darkened room (curtains drawn tightly, of course) hammering away at those clunky keyboard keys trying to gain that slight improvement in performance from the tiny 8-bit processing machine.
Recently, with thanks to the rise in popularity of portable gaming platforms like iOS and Android, the old bedroom coder has come back into their own. These tiny studios create one big-hit and they’re away. Enjoying the limelight, the success and, hopefully, the financial security that goes with it.
And it’s at this point that the industry has completed a full circle. The 80s saw a boom in independent studios, followed by the growth of major organisations. Now we’re seeing the boom again and, with such purchases as Playfish (by EA) or more recently AutoDesk’s purchase of Scaleform… this is the part where those major corporations aren’t so much emerging but rather enveloping the indies.
I would imagine that most gamers – or certainly anyone who reads any business news – has heard about these success stories, so why is this relevant now?
Well, with the increasing popularity of indie developers, the creation of competitions such as the Independent Games Festival (IGF) or Dare to be Digital, there seems to be more power to indies and newcomers than ever before!
It’s not just competitions either, as established and proven gaming titans are at it too. Bungie has recently launched Aerospace as a way to target and provide assistance to established and new indie teams. The UKs own Blitz Games has been running their 1Up scheme for many years and if you look at the explosion of Microsoft’s XBox Live Arcade Indie channel, it’s clear to see why so many companies are vying for the next indie talent.
This most recent indie initiated buzz in the games sector doesn’t solely stem from developers. In fact, the many areas surrounding video games have seen a huge rise in popularity.
Take, for example, the soon-to-be-launched Ginx TV channel. What started as a solo show, with it’s air time dictated by others has now spawned an entire plethora of content targeted explicitly at video games.
Much like with self-published games or those that ask the (potential) players to support and pay for the title during it’s development phases, there is a fantastic community behind all of it. These games have a fanatical following and similarly, so too does Ginx. But what’s makes these folks stand apart from the more traditional TV stations is that they’re readily engaging with their target audience, by providing updates, answers to questions and informing (where possible, within the legal red tape!) their “fellow Ginx-ians” with the goings on of this new channel.
The global video games market is estimated to be valued at some $50billion – that’s a whole lot of samollians! – but we mustn’t forget to factor in the video games analysts, magazines, review sites, TV channels and shows and every facet surrounding the industry that isn’t just about building the games!
If there’s one thing I’m taking from every bit of buzz I’m hearing around – it’s that this industry is growing. Fast. It’s that we’re getting more bang for our buck with hardware, that industry standard or leading software is becoming more readily available at price-points smaller studios can afford and the general, game playing public are the ones who stand to benefit the most out of all of this.
As a gamer (first and foremost) and an indie developer, we’re in for some truly exciting times… now, where’s my piece of this enormous pie!?