Indies get their game on - Times LIVE

November 26, 2013 1:54 PM

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Indies get their game on - Times LIVE

While a blockbuster console game by a mainstream publisher can set you back as much as R960, a video game produced by an independent developer costs much less, if anything.

In a sign of their growing appeal, both Microsoft and Sony have stressed that indie games - which started around the 1970s - can be played on their new Xbox One and PlayStation 4, the latest battleground between the gaming giants.

Microsoft launched its Xbox One on Friday in more than a dozen countries including Australia, Brazil, Britain, France and the US. It went on sale less than a week after Sony's PlayStation 4 notched up more than a million sales in the first 24 hours.

The console war can only bode well for the indie movement, whose developers number in the hundreds if not thousands.

"They are making it a lot easier for people to self-publish on the PlayStation," said Katie Hallahan of Phoenix Online Studios, in the US.

"It means the player will have a good variety of games, not all shooters and action but cool stuff that is a little different.

Some indies self-publish, others enter into contracts with mainstream firms. If their product catches on, it can sell in staggering numbers, as did Braid, one of the biggest indie games of all time, and Minecraft and Cave Story.

"In our team we all worked first for large [games] publishers," said a French games developer, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"Most of us then left to concentrate on personal projects and escape the constraints of doing games to order.

"We know we will not make $1-billion in three days like Grand Theft Auto V but working as a small team allows us to be easily profitable even if our games cost only a few euros."

Until recently, indie games existed chiefly on tablets, smartphones, and digital distribution platforms such as Steam - but that is quickly changing.

Console makers have been providing software kits and making it easier for small studios to create games for their hardware as they try to broaden appeal far beyond the stereotypical "hard-core gamer" devoted to blockbuster shooter or adventure titles.

Independent games are now part of the console titans' strategy to put themselves at the centre of home entertainment with offerings including streamed films, music, and more.

"They are enjoying significant success and manufacturers cannot afford to ignore this segment," said Laurent Michaud, director of studies in charge of video games at digital economy think tank Idate.


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