As an aspiring game developer, it's always reasuring to see more and more smaller games getting the recognition they deserve and getting prominent placement and promotion, via the platform holders, in stores and in the press machine, but the thought crossed my mind "why are big companies doing this? How long will this last? When will the bubble burst?"
My first thought was that they were capitalising on the success of indie games towards the end of the last generation. The market opened up to the mainstream thanks to games like Braid on Xbox Live Arcade. This was a refreshing new trend for people who were tired of the same old brown-palleted shooters and trilogies that were beginning to seem tired towards the end of the generation. Suddenly there was something new and different. When the mainstream paid attention it meant the platform holders also had to take note.
On top of this, towards the end of the the cycle more people had switched to PC for their platform of choice, specifically Steam. There are a multitude of indie games on Steam and when there isn't a major title being released they can hold many of the top slots in the marketplace. Other platforms see this, imagine the percentage of each sale that Valve recieve and think of it as a great return on investment.
Steam already has thousands of games in its library, but one thing that always plauges early adopters of new consoles in the sparse launch library. All the Big AAA games are an E3 away and players are stuck with the 10-20 or so mediocre launch games. What if the library was fleshed out with great games. Games that are tried and tested on steam, that console only gamers have heard of but have never played? What if the amount of games out in the launch period was higher? What if it wasn't bank breaking to get these games on their system?
So far, it all works out for Indie developers, the platform holders are paying attention. But what happens when the triple A games are ready? Will Indie games be cast aside and suddenly it's all about the blockbusters, or does PlayStation really love indies and believe they're for life and not just for Christmas?
I certainly hope so. Not just because I love creating small games but because games like Fez, Spelunky, FTL and Papers Please are some of the greatest game of the last generation. Don't get me wrong, Mass effect was an epic space opera that I enjoyed a lot, but it stuck to conventions and didn't trigger the same feeling that I really enjoy from smaller games.
Is it up to the platform holders? What happens to the coverage they get when November comes round and all the Tripple A games come out? Will the small games be ignored for the big games that are getting googled? Websites need traffic to survive after all? Will Indie games be for quiet news periods and not for Christmas?
Of course, it's ultimatly possible that the gamer will decide. After all isn't it the consumer that dictates the market?