Can an indie game be a system seller?

themistermanguy

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Indie games have come a long way since their introduction on console's back in the seventh generation. Once treated as cheap throwaway games tucked away into specially branded services by the platform holders, are now treated as equal members of a console's library, often regularly getting physical releases, and big promotions. Nintendo's Switch console has also helped to give indies a new shot of life, with most indies actually selling more on Switch than anywhere else.

Despite this though, indie games are still generally seen as "lesser" than the big AAA titles. AAA games are the big showstoppers. The ones that can sell systems in the tens of millions due to their massive marketing and hype culture. While indies will generally never reach those insane levels of hype and marketing, could an indie game still play a part in being a system seller? That is, could something like Freedom Planet 2, make fans of that game run out and buy a Nintendo Switch or PlayStation 4 just to play that game?
 

wings012

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AAA 'platform seller' games can afford to have budgets and development time generally not seen as reasonable or profitable. Since the game doesn't need to directly generate a profit, it's there to push console unit sales. These games also tend to be exclusive, which allows them to be able to push unit sales.

Indie games for most part are easily accessible and multi platform. Perhaps back in the day when Minecraft was still a phenomenon, it could've convinced someone to buy a hand held device just to be able to play it on the go. But such culture shifting indie titles are far and in between, and Minecraft has largely faded away from its heyday.

Indie titles selling better on the Switch from what I hear isn't really a case of people buying Switches for indie titles. It's just the other platforms - Steam, Playstation are un-curated and full of garbage. They can't get decent exposure anywhere else, but they can for the Switch. It probably helps that Nintendo platforms tends to be relatively game starved, due to having poor third party support and the difference in specs from their peers means its hard for multiplatform games to even get on.


I don't think one indie title could possibly push console sales. But a healthy ecosystem of indie titles and developers working for the system could very well be a big selling point.
 

Dirty Hipsters

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A system seller is a game that comes out ON A SINGLE SYSTEM and is used to hype people up to purchase that single system. Since there aren't any indie first party studios (by default), indie studios typically don't limit their games to a single platform (unless that platform is the PC).

So no, an indie game can't be a system seller by virtue of the fact that they're almost universally multi-platform.
 

themistermanguy

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Wings012 said:
Indie titles selling better on the Switch from what I hear isn't really a case of people buying Switches for indie titles. It's just the other platforms - Steam, Playstation are un-curated and full of garbage. They can't get decent exposure anywhere else, but they can for the Switch. It probably helps that Nintendo platforms tends to be relatively game starved, due to having poor third party support and the difference in specs from their peers means its hard for multiplatform games to even get on.
I could see this argument earlier in the Switch's life when it was lacking in third party content for its first year. This year though, with Dark Souls Remastered, DBFZ, Diablo III, Wolf II, Crash N'Sane, Mega Man 11, BlazeBlue Cross Tag Battle, Valkyria Chronicles 4, ARK, Octopath Traveler, Warframe, Paladins, Fortnite, and even more improvement coming in 2019 like Doom Eternal and Ninjala? I'm not really sure that's accurate anymore. Even with increased third party support this year, indies are still selling best on Switch, arguably even better than last year. Yeah it's not getting Red Dead 2 for obvious reasons, but what it is getting is already substantial enough, and will continue to get better in the future.

I don't think one indie title could possibly push console sales. But a healthy ecosystem of indie titles and developers working for the system could very well be a big selling point.
I agree, having a large library of quality indie titles to choose from in and of itself is more of a system seller than simply one title selling consoles.
 

Elijin

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Dirty Hipsters said:
A system seller is a game that comes out ON A SINGLE SYSTEM and is used to hype people up to purchase that single system. Since there aren't any indie first party studios (by default), indie studios typically don't limit their games to a single platform (unless that platform is the PC).

So no, an indie game can't be a system seller by virtue of the fact that they're almost universally multi-platform.
There may not be any first party indie studios, but there have definitely been indie studios who have selected to develop on only one console, or even accepted money for the exclusive rights to their game.

But to answer the topic:

AN indie title seems unlikely to be a system seller. However, a catalogue of indie titles, may sway people.
 

Addendum_Forthcoming

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Hrm ... I don't know. Bloodborne didn't have that big a dev budget and it would have moved a fair few PS4s. Console exclusive Soulsborne game that is generally well received by the wider Soulsborne crowd.

I get it, not exactly 'indie' ... but could there be a hypothetical Bloodborne console success with half or third the dev budget? I reckon there could be.

At least I don't recall it have that big a dev budget. Nowhere near a big ticket Ubisoft release. I kind of wish videogames did the whole movie-thing of have budget and maybe a 6 month sales window gross on something like an IMDB of games, or just Wikipedia.

It feels like that should be a thing.
 
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Aren't LoL and PUBG indie games?

Those games forced a lot of people to upgrade from their craptops or join PC gaming. I guess you could call them system sellers. It seems like you're talking more about consoles, so this might not be relevant.
 

stroopwafel

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Addendum_Forthcoming said:
Hrm ... I don't know. Bloodborne didn't have that big a dev budget and it would have moved a fair few PS4s. Console exclusive Soulsborne game that is generally well received by the wider Soulsborne crowd.

I get it, not exactly 'indie' ... but could there be a hypothetical Bloodborne console success with half or third the dev budget? I reckon there could be.

At least I don't recall it have that big a dev budget. Nowhere near a big ticket Ubisoft release. I kind of wish videogames did the whole movie-thing of have budget and maybe a 6 month sales window gross on something like an IMDB of games, or just Wikipedia.

It feels like that should be a thing.
What? Bloodborne has exceptional production values that put it way above any Ubsioft release. Incredible art design, music by live orchestra to even a brand new engine. Bloodborne was a joint effort between From Software and Sony Japan Studio. The game couldn't even be made without Sony Japan as From Software didn't even have the budget to develop a game on this scale by itself, and they aren't exactly 'indie'. Infact Bloodborne was a huge risk for Sony and that we have the game in the first place is only thanks to Yoshida.

There is also more than just total financial numbers. It means diverting resources away from projects that might be more profitable in favor of something that is more niche, espescially in the case of Japan Studio. All the while, Ubi would just slightly alter existing assets and copy/paste them in yet another Assassin's Creed iteration.

Anyways, no I don't think an indie title could be a system seller. When people buy a console they want to see what's unique about the system and how it can perform, be amazed by graphics and such, while in terms of performance indie games can be played on any device. I personally would never buy a Switch just to play Hollow Knight for example.
 

Erttheking

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I don said:
Aren't LoL and PUBG indie games?
PUBG yes. LoL? Hell to the fuck no. It was made by Riot, which is owned by a multi-billion dollar conglomerate. By default that makes it not an indie game.

Also I have to say that an indie game isn't a system seller. But a solid library of indie games can be. I know I've been cramming a lot of indie games on my Switch.
 

ScaredIndie

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I think it could be possible but is very unlikely. Most indies need to maximize distribution and it is rare that any add deal is brokered with any specific system manufacturer or store front much less an exclusivity arrangement. Typically exclusivity arrangements are made between a publisher and a console manufacturer with a nice monetary incentive to make the project exclusive. For a console manufacturer to reach this sort of agreement with an indie studio, it would require per-existing relations with the manufacturer on the level of those help by publishers as well as interest from the manufacture at a level that justifies the additional costs they will incur paying the indie studio for exclusivity.

Since you need both exclusivity and demand, the first criteria alone makes the situation unlikely albeit not impossible.
 

Addendum_Forthcoming

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stroopwafel said:
What? Bloodborne has exceptional production values that put it way above any Ubsioft release. Incredible art design, music by live orchestra to even a brand new engine. Bloodborne was a joint effort between From Software and Sony Japan Studio. The game couldn't even be made without Sony Japan as From Software didn't even have the budget to develop a game on this scale by itself, and they aren't exactly 'indie'. Infact Bloodborne was a huge risk for Sony and that we have the game in the first place is only thanks to Yoshida.

There is also more than just total financial numbers. It means diverting resources away from projects that might be more profitable in favor of something that is more niche, espescially in the case of Japan Studio. All the while, Ubi would just slightly alter existing assets and copy/paste them in yet another Assassin's Creed iteration.

Anyways, no I don't think an indie title could be a system seller. When people buy a console they want to see what's unique about the system and how it can perform, be amazed by graphics and such, while in terms of performance indie games can be played on any device. I personally would never buy a Switch just to play Hollow Knight for example.
Oh, well ... nevermind then.
 

sXeth

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Hypothetically, sure. On paper.

The actual convergence of events that would result in that, is kind of unlikely.


The most likely case would be an indie game picking up enough buzz that one of the consoles decides to pitch support at it in exchange for some sort of exclusivity (a la No Mans Sky with Sony). Which of course has the problem of its hard to get much buzz going for something that doesn't exist (with a handful of exceptions, and much like NMS, often falling on their face at release, which is hardly "system-seller").

The other main case would be a developer wanting to use the particular hardware for some reason, bringing the idea forth. Of course, unique hardware concepts have their own history of mostly being flops, so that also runs a peril of easily not becoming a system seller.
 

CaitSeith

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In theory, yes. But in practice the conditions required are more unusual than having all the planets (and Pluto) in the Solar System aligned.
 

Shoggoth2588

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I want to say 'no' but frankly, I wouldn't have started playing games on PC if it wasn't for games like Mini-Metro or FTL. Then there are games like the Shantae series, Shovel Knight and, the like that keep me playing with my Switch in between larger releases.
 
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No way can an indie game sell a hardware system. A "system seller" must be a title whose name and hype alone can persuade people to part with not just the money for the game, but for the hardware to play it on. An unknown game from an unknown company doesn't meet that criteria. It makes no comment on the quality of a given game, indie, "AAA" or otherwise.

It might be possible say if a game comes out on PC, gets enough of a following/fanbase there that when they go to release on console (Witcher 2, D:OS2) word of mouth has spread the name around a bit. But even then I don't think it's likely. You need a game like Halo, Uncharted, Mario/Zelda, etc., something with pedigree, a quality reputation and a fanbase who *must* play the latest and greatest iteration of that-thing-they-love.
 

Aerosteam

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Considering that the majority of indies are on PC, it's a hard sell that someone would buy a console just for a single indie game.

There is a single instance however where I can see this happening, and that is Undertale on Switch. Fans are crazy enough to spend lots of money on another version, and the platform is portable, something the PC will never have.