Op-Ed: Stop moaning about indie games on PS4 and start celebrating them
The PS4 is quickly becoming the new home for the best that indie gaming has to offer. The Swapper, Nidhogg, Spelunky, Rollers of the Realm, Habitat: A Thousand Generations In Orbit, Oddworld: New ‘N’ Tasty and, of course, No Man’s Sky are being joined by hundreds of of other independently developed games heading to the PS4.
With each announcement of a new indie game coming to the PS4 that we cover at PSGamer, I have noticed a pattern emerging – that of abject negativity. “Great, another game that belongs on Facebook”, “More indie sh*t?”, “Less Indies, more AAA” and “Looks like a rubbish ZX Spectrum game” are common comments on any PS4 indie game article on N4G or Reddit and it is beginning to frustrate the life out of me. These comments are often counter intuitive, small minded and sometimes, plain stupid. We should be embracing the console indie revolution that Sony are attempting to spear head with the PS4 and PSVita instead of moaning about them and here is why.
You don’t hate “all” indie games
The term “indie” has a few different connotations in the world of gaming these days but the most widely accepted definition is that of a developer who makes a game without the backing of a publisher. Indie developers come in all shapes and sizes, from 1 person bed room projects to studios with hundreds of employees and, trust me when I say, you do not “Hate all indie games”. Like Telltales The Walking Dead or Wolf Among Us? Then you like an indie game. Licking your lips at the prospect of getting your hands on Project Cars? Then you are looking forward to an indie game. The global phenomenon known as Minecraft is an indie game. No Man’s Sky blow your mind? It was developed by a group of 4 people – an indie studio. Dismissing all independently developed games with flippant comments like “I hate indie games” is puerile.
Less indie games does not mean more AAA games
We all want new, big budget AAA games to arrive on the PS4. We crave those explosive set pieces, paper thin plots that throw us through frantic gun fights and cinematic moments – but the number of indie games arriving on the PS4 has nothing to with the lack of AAA games and complaining about indie games will do nothing to change that. There is no correlation between the 2 development models. Less Indies does not mean more AAA games. It is the publishers and first party studios that have dropped that ball coming into this generation of consoles – it was almost as if they were not ready for it to arrive – not the indie developers. In fact, we should be happy that indie developers have filled the gaps between those AAA releases in the last 8 months because if it had not been for them, our shiny PS4 would have been reasonably redundant.
Indies sell consoles which improves chances of publisher support
I will concede that a single indie game will struggle to sell games consoles alone, but lots of indie games, coupled with first and third party block busters are the reason why the PS4 is currently destroying their opposition in terms of sales. The PS4 currently has 94 playable games – a quarter of which were independently developed. The Xbox One has 59 playable games, only a hand full of which come from indie developers. The numbers speak for themselves. Of course, I am not going to lie and tell you that all of these indie games are world class and will appeal to everybody, but they add a variety of choice which make the PS4 the “must have” console of the moment. This means that more PS4′s are being sold making it a more attractive prospect to publishers who will be more willing to green light a big budget project. More consoles in the wild, the bigger install base and the higher the potential sales of any game. Indie games have helped make this happen.
Don’t Judge a book by its cover
When Nidhogg was announced for the PS4 on the PSBlog I scrolled through some of the comments and cringed. “Think im sold to the idea of pawning off my PS4 all these indie games are ruining the system i didnt spend 400$ for a overclocked atari seriously” was one of the most tame on there and upon reading this and quite a few more, I couldn’t stop shaking my head. For those who are after photo-realistic graphics in their games, Nidhogg probably looks disappointing, but there is a simple solution to this – don’t buy it. For those gamers who don’t judge a book by its cover and are willing to give a Nidhogg a try, they will find out why this fencing game earned a respectable Metacritic score of 81. This sentiment goes for all indie games – often developed by small teams that don’t have the budget to include mind blowing graphics but have oodles of creativity, innovation and outside-the-box thinking. Try them before you write them off. Some will surprise you.
Developers have taken extra risks – support them
Indie games will exist whether they come to the PS4 or not (as the PC master race will remind you, given the chance). Hundreds of new games get released on iOS, Android, Steam, Humble, Green Man et al each week, some of which are phenomenal and will probably never come to a games console (DayZ anyone?). Most of the indie games that come to the PS4 have already had successful launches on PC and, for some, coming to the PS4 and Vita would mean a lot of extra development. This means extra costs and added risk. We should feel humbled that a developer chooses to bring their game to a console at all. We should celebrate this new era of independent development and self publishing that has given us a freedom of choice which is unprecedented on games consoles. Fancy blasting realistic aliens on an open world planet? Yes, you can do that. Want a quick blast on a Pool Simulator? Yes. That too. Shooting alien ships in a fast action shmup? Okay, that too. We shouldn’t be moaning about this embarrassment of riches, especially when developers have taken an extra risk to bring their game to the PS4.