There are essentially two broad classes of games that sell. There are the so-called ‘AAA’ titles, which might be big financial hits or big financial flops, and there are ‘ordinary’ titles – games with a lower production value, but significantly less financial risk involved. In times past, those ordinary titles have been the mainstay of the games industry, sometimes incurring modest losses, but more often providing the steady income that offsets the big flops in a publisher’s ‘AAA’ stable.
With big publishers increasingly focusing on those ‘AAA’ titles and shying away from those mainstay games, money is left on the table. Money that Indie devs are well-suited to pick up.
Indie developers have traditionally been a bit of a gold-rush economy. Some would strike it big. Others would pan for years and never really go anywhere. As big publishers increasingly abandon the mainstay games market – and with the advent of easy and reliable digital delivery systems – Indie devs are able to more reliably move into the vacated portions of the market and take a share with less risk and less uncertainty.
There’s still something of a gold-rush feel to things – the sudden success of Mojang Specification’s Minecraft comes immediately to mind – but it is far easier now for the ‘garage’ developer to fund, develop and succeed in games development, than it has been in many years. Perhaps more so than ever before.
If the trend continues, half of the big publishers today may become all but extinct in the next decade, while small, self-publishing developers continue to burgeon and blossom.