Will Next-Gen Consoles Be The New Home for Indie Games?
It's only days until both the PlayStation (PS) 4 and the Xbox One come out. With these comes the parade of mind-blowing AAA titles, such as Forza 5, Killzone: Shadowfall, Knack, and Titanfall. They're there to tempt you buy a brand new console, offering gameplay experiences supposedly unparalleled to what has come before on previous generations.
But what of indie games? Having really taken off over the last five years, they offer cheaper entertainment as opposed to sinking significant investments into new machines and their expensive games, whilst managing to encompass a broad range of solid and imaginative/unusual subject matters. Certainly the boon of creativity certainly looks far more alive and kicking here than anywhere else.
With massive indie successes such as Super Meat Boy and Braid in recent history leaving huge dents in the pride of big studios, publishing companies like Microsoft and Sony are now taking indie games on board for their upcoming platforms with a tit for tat; they get a share on the potential big bucks, and small developers suddenly have a much bigger audience to sell to.
But will consoles become the new place to play indie games, will developers be sticking to PCs, or will they shift to a new platform altogether?
Indie Games on PlayStation 4
At Eurogamer Expo 2013 (EGX13) this year, Sony were giving the indie games they're welcoming onto the console a platform alongside the big boys. Octodad: Dadliest Catch, Hohokum and Resogun were three such titles that created a lot of buzz, in some cases garnering as much interest and excitement as titles such as Knack and Assassin's Creed: Black Flag.
Resogun, in particular, is a prime example of the potential indie developers can achieve when working closely with Sony and their new hardware. The 60fps frame rate and full High Definition graphics are absolutely jaw-dropping and will certainly be a big winner for Housemarque Games.
Senior Brand Ambassador, Matthew Beckett, also boasted about Sony's dedication to independent games designers in a chat with us at EGX13. Furthermore, IGN last month delved deeper into the claims from developers that working with Sony is actually great, both demonstrating not just a potential but a real dedication for indie games on the PS4.
Indie Games on Xbox One
Xbox One, on the other hand, have been focusing far more on the big sellers, no doubt in an attempt to win back some of the loyalties they lost with their missteps with policies such DRM, and connecting to the internet once every 24 hours, and the subsequent back-tracks from backlash they've had to make since.
However, Microsoft have not completely forgotten the indie scene. In their EGX13 developer session, Phil Harrison spent a lot time going through the ways Xbox One will be supporting indie games, such as supplying free dev-kits to certified studios through ID@Xbox, as well as promoting some of the visibility features for their games via Xbox Upload.
Full Steam Ahead?
It's great to see indie games appearing on consoles: exclusively in some cases, like Resogun. But it's difficult to imagine developers swamping consoles just yet.
Valve's Steam platform has been a huge influence on the indie game market, propelling the visibility of titles and developers on the PC and Mac like nobody's business. With Valve now showcasing the first looks of their own console and operating systems, it's difficult to see developers leaving them just yet. And even if Steam Machine flops, the old Steam will still be there none the less.
If developers do decided to branch out, it's not usually to a console but to much smaller devices. Mobile and tablet (iOS and Android) games are exploding in number and popularity to the extent that many wager that the future of handheld gaming is with smart phones rather than hardware such as the PS Vita or Nintendo's DS series. Indeed, in London last month, there was even a whole expo, Appsworld, dedicated to mobile apps and games, taking over two full days in the same exhibition complex as Eurogamer Expo.
Indeed, even Surgeon Simulator 2013 revealed to us that one of the things they're working on at the moment is a port of the ground-breaking game for iPad.
Riding the Rift
If a mobile mind-set is something that indie developers might not take, then maybe Virtual Reality (VR) is the next place we'll see them in significant numbers on. The amount of indie interest and development for the Occulus Rift, is certainly something to be noted and discussed, especially given the huge lines for the device at EGX13. Surgeon Simulator 2013 have already made a port for the VR headset, with other games such as Dream and Monatgue's Mount as part of its catalogue.
"Mobile apps and VR are places that small studios are taking to with gusto compared to next-gen consoles."
We will undoubtedly see more indie games available on our consoles, and it's great to see support for indie gamers coming from both Sony and Microsoft. But indie-enthusiasts need not abandon their PCs for a while yet. Steam' shows no sign of dropping indie developers anytime soon, despite Valve's investment into new territory.
But mobile apps and VR are places that small studios are taking to with gusto compared to next-gen consoles. So expect more indie involvement across these in the years to come.