I am finally back from vacation! A couple hours of driving, losing myself in Pokemon White again, and seeing distant relatives is always fun in the midst of summer. I never realized how relaxing sitting on a porch watching the rain is! In doing so, I even thought of some interesting gaming ideas and concepts for all of you to enjoy which will be posted later in the week. Silverblade Sunday entry three, away!
The creative diversity of an artful industry like gaming permits anyone with a unique idea to be successful. Every project ever to exist started with a root idea, a core thought expanded and built upon until the developers or movie studios or music producers are satisfied. That's the driving mentality behind the 'indie' movement, aspiring media-makers with a fruitful idea and little to no funding. Games like Minecraft, Bejeweled and Plants vs. Zombies are considered indie hits, from independent studios (at the time of release) and through word-of-mouth (or in the case of Minecraft, video sharing websites), popularity boomed and the cash rolled in. Entry three is going to examine the role of indie studios currently, the possibility of future success, and how mainstream developers and the publishers are helping or hurting the movement.
The purchase of Popcap by Electronic Arts is pure evidence of how powerful independent studios have grown. EA was the last major publisher to buy a prominent studio, previously having virtually no presence in the field. Last is certainly not least however, as EA bought the crown jewel of the social gaming revolution. Popcap has witnessed extraordinary success with rather simple titles (two aforementioned), especially its Bejeweled franchise, selling fifty million units. And as the company expands its platforms to include Android-enabled smartphones as well, the success is endless.
That success has forced the publishers restless, scrambling to buy any notable developer with a marquee game. Moreover, the popularity of smartphones has given these unknown studios a collective voice - almost like a mainstream company - the ability to choose whose funding to accept and establish a working relationship.
Indie titles have also served as inspiration for the successes of today. Prevailing games of years past, the trend has brought marvelous games without many fans realizing it. Valve's creative puzzler Portal was originally named Narbacular Drop and made by some students at the DigiPen Institute of Technology, a school specializing in game design. Valve went on to hire the creator, securing Portal as a leading franchise.
Given all that knowledge, where does the industry see itself in the future? Well many experts have claimed smartphone sales will jump to one billion units sold by 2016. A realistic guess considering sales were up 72% last year. Indie developers better be smiling right now.
Personally, I think the future of gaming as a successful medium depends on the growth of the indie scene. The industry right now is too focused on sequel progression, name recognition and sales numbers, forgetting what makes gaming great - truly interactive creativity. Angry Birds at 100 million; Bejeweled at 50 million; Minecraft at 2.3 million; all these projects started with vastly different ideas and have turned regular people into millionaires. But these ideas were ideally simple: throwing an object, matching coloured jewels, and to survive. Easy, accessible, and most importantly, fun.
Sometime in the future, there will be a clash of ideals within the gaming community to determine which platforms will lead the charge. Consoles reign supreme currently, but as smartphone sales rapidly increase, the battle must be waged. Whatever the outcome, one cannot exist without the other.