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Spiderweb President: ‘Too Many Games’ Dragging Down Sustainability of Indie Gaming

Rogue Legacy
Cellar Door Games

A veteran, small-time game developer claims that the oversaturation of the PC indie game market is proving to be detrimental to both Steam and the overall independent gaming scene.

Jeff Vogel, president and founder of independent studio Spiderweb Software (founded in 1994), has written an interesting blog describing the metaphorical bubble which is currently enveloping the market of indie gaming. In particular, Steam’s Greenlight program allows small-time developers to easily publish and distribute their games. Vogel claims that a lack of moderation, an opening of the floodgates and the sheer number of games are proving to be detrimental to the overall business.

“Steam released more games in the first 20 weeks of 2014 than in all of 2013. I don’t know why anyone acts surprised. How many times last year did we see the article, ‘Another 100 Greenlight games OK’ed for publishing,” Vogel wrote.

In a recent story, we reported that Steam has released more games in the first 20 weeks of 2014 than all of 2013 combined. A vast majority of these games were brought in by the Stream’s Greenlight program.

“Indie gaming started out as games written with passion for people who embraced and loved them. Now too much of it is about churning out giant mounds of decent but undifferentiated product to be bought for pennies by people who don’t give a crap either way. It’s not sustainable,” Vogel added

Vogel comments saying that neither he nor anyone else should try to blame Steam for this current influx of indie games throughout the market. Instead, he says that the boom in the overall industry has made Steam almost unable to timely present, showcase or even organize this ongoing flood of independent games. This has led to sales of each individual indie game plummeting due to there simply being so many on the market to choose from. Years ago, low-budget titles such as Castle Crashers, Minecraft and Braid set the standard high for indie games and each warranted millions, they were relatively alone in their competition — there are simply too many titles to even try and find out which ones are worth buying and which ones are not. Not to mention many publishing companies have caught wind of the success of these games and are trying to simulate their success by intentionally creating limited or retro-style games.

The inevitable problem boils down to simple mathematics, according to Vogel. He theorized that if all gamers in the world have a massive pool of X amount of dollars per year to spend on gaming, and it gets divided among Y number of developers, the amount given to the developers will trickle down. This is because thousands of indie studios/developers are popping up throughout the world but the gaming population’s X amount of dollars remains relatively unchanged from year to year. Unless indie gamers start getting magically richer, every independent developer out there is going to suffer due to the fact that there are too many titles out there.

This problem gets even worse when popular indie developers with $500K-$2 million budgets need to advertise to help boost their sales but can’t afford to buy any major marketing plans. Instead, they will likely use iTunes and Steam and sell their game collections as a bundle or offer special discounts in order to get some profit and help budget their next major porject. Gamers will end up spending money on these collections as opposed to trying out more indie games, which drags down indie profits even further. Rereleasing indie titles gamers may have missed, such as FTL onto iPad or Guacamelee! onto consoles, reiterates the fact that so many indie classics are able to be missed the first time around. Now just imagine how many would-be classics get missed entirely. Vogel ends his blog claiming that within 2-3 years, there won’t be any indie developers left, because all the more popular ones will have been assimilated into big-name companies and the smaller ones will have died out, broken up or quit due to a lack of profit.

Here’s hoping that it doesn’t come any time soon.

Next: Best Indie Games of 2013

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