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Independent video game development is the process of creating video games without the financial support of a video game publisher. While large companies can create independent games, they are typically designed by an individual or a small team of as many as ten people, depending on the complexity of the project. These games may take years to be constructed from the ground up or can be completed in a matter of days or even hours depending on complexity, participants, and design goal.

Indie video games are often grouped together with shareware, freeware and open source software. Indie developers are generally motivated by strong personal interest in the title they are working on, often a niche game that would not be produced by the mainstream. They tend to belong to some sort of community (usually Internet-based) which recognizes developers.

Driven by digital distribution, the concept of independent video game development has spawned an "indie" movement.[1] These games often focus on innovation,[2] and have occasionally become extremely successful.[3]

Contents

History

The origins of indie video games may be traced back to the seventies, when there was virtually no established computer gaming industry. As video game companies developed they drew talent from this pool of programmers, though at no point actually eradicating it. The two have continued to co-exist. During the '90s, indie games were most commonly distributed as shareware or shared from friend to friend and therefore known as "shareware games".

Before the mid-1990s, commercial game distribution was controlled by big publishers and retailers, and developers of indie games were forced to either build their own publishing company, find one willing to distribute their game, or distribute it in some form of shareware (eg. through BBSs). With the rise of online shopping, it has become possible to sell indie games to a worldwide market with little or no initial investment by using services such as eBay and PayPal.

By the mid 2000s, many indie (computer) game developers have also taken the opportunity to make their games open source, thus rendering the group of possible participants much larger depending on the interest a project generates. This approach enables games to become much more complex as well as to succeed where a closed source version would be restricted due to limited resources (risking the possibility of vaporware). Several on-line communities have formed around independent game development, like TIGSource, Ludum Dare, and the indiegames.com blog.

Future

Recently several new independent games have been released for big budget consoles like the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii. Many games that are being released for these consoles are ports of popular flash games and or just plainly developed independent games that have received notice. Often indie games are completely programmer driven, for lack of publisher funding for artwork, SYNTH is a notable example of such an indie game, receiving international acclaim for its procedural artwork.

Developer Jonathan Blow released "Braid", an indie platformer for the Xbox Live Arcade in August 2008, and the game has received a great deal of critical acclaim. It purportedly cost Blow $180,000 to fund the project.[4]

On November 19, 2008, Microsoft launched Xbox Community Games, later renamed as Xbox Live Indie Games, which allowed independent developers to create games for the Xbox 360 using XNA development tools and sell them on the Xbox Live Marketplace.

At the moment an independent video game developer, 2D Boy, is one of the nine partners of the upcoming gaming on demand service, Onlive.

Licensing Fees

Personal computer platforms (such as Linux, Mac OS, and Windows) are traditionally financially more accessible to independent game developers than video game consoles. Aside from basic development costs, console game developers are required to pay fees to license the required Software Development Kits (SDKs) from the console manufacturer. Manufacturers often impose a strict approval process and take a percentage of the game's net profit in addition to yearly developer fees. As of this writing, to develop for Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360, or Playstation 3 requires an SDK license fee of between $2,000 and $10,000 USD, in addition to yearly developer fees and profit cuts [2][3][4][5].

See also

References

  1. ^ "Indie Game Developers Rise Up". http://www.forbes.com/2008/11/20/games-indie-developers-tech-ebiz-cx_mji_1120indiegames.html.  
  2. ^ "Indie Games Grow Up". http://www.forbes.com/technology/2008/08/13/diy-indie-games-tech-egang08-cx_mji_0813indie.html.  
  3. ^ "Xbox's 'Braid' A Surprise Hit, For Surprising Reasons". http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=94025221.  
  4. ^ Kotaku article on the cost of Braid[1]

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