What does it mean to be "Indie" anymore?

aozgolo

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So for a long time I "thought" I had an idea of what the indie game scene was, it seemed fairly self explanatory. It was basically the opposite of AAA right? Games with limited teams, limited resources, no publisher agreements, etc.

Then I guess that image finally was shattered when I found out Rovio is considered Indie. Really? I mean sure they aren't as huge as some other AAA developers but they have released their game on virtually every modern platform there is, PC, iOS, Android, PS3, 360, PS4, Vita, Wii, Wii U, I even have the damn thing on my Roku... and you can't say it's not "well known" or "not in the public eye", the game is immensely popular, it even has a Star Wars licensed version of it.

I'm not hating on Rovio, but I have such a hard time calling them "Indie". Maybe that word isn't as subjective as I'd like it to be, but it feels like it's been hijacked. Like how Indie films went from just meaning "independently made films without a huge budget or a production company backing them" to "art for art's sake" weird films and "social conscience" pieces that Film Hipsters at festivals cheer over.

When I think of an indie game, I imagine things like Terraria, Minecraft in it's infancy, Gnomoria, Starbound, Game Dev Tycoon, etc. Minecraft even presents an interesting case... it seems that if you were at any point considered Indie, you are Indie-4-Life. I have a really hard time calling Mojang an Indie company when they break 1 Million in profit and have their own team, offices and multi-platform game releases, yes they started Indie, but how are they now different from other big time players?

The only thing I can think of is the amount of money spent developing their game. Minecraft and Angry Birds doesn't take a multi-million dollar budget to make, but is that the entire definition we're going with?

The reason I am even concerned with this at all is because it's always been a struggle for indie developers to get noticed and get their game out there in the past, it's certainly gotten easier in the recent years but I worry that if companies that reap major profits from their games are still considered Indie that it sets the bar higher for what publishers expect of an Indie, meaning you will see more Angry Birds and Minecraf take over the market, but Joe Blow with his Rogue-like never gets a real chance at getting publisher or content delivery backing because he's too "niche"

What do you say? Do you feel that all games and companies considered Indie are labelled correctly? What's your definition of Indie?
 

Elfgore

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Dec 6, 2010
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I made the same mistake with Telltale a month or so ago. I didn't think they were indie, since when I think of indie games I never think expensive as hell licenses.

The amount of money one makes doesn't change anything about their status of being indie. As long as they publish their own games, then they are considered indie.
 

Evonisia

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Jun 24, 2013
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If they self publish they are indie. It would just be helpful to remove the stereotype that indie games are made by people who have to live on Pot Noodle and bread and desperately need your money, 'cause usually they're not. They're just smaller developers.
 

aozgolo

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Then the problem would be less the definition and more the interpretation. If we're not to consider your standard "I'm making this game in my spare time in my garage" developer as the only one worthy of Indie, then what word more appropriately defines that specific type of developer? Homebrew perhaps?
 

skywolfblue

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Indie = self published.

Shaun Kennedy said:
The reason I am even concerned with this at all is because it's always been a struggle for indie developers to get noticed and get their game out there in the past, it's certainly gotten easier in the recent years but I worry that if companies that reap major profits from their games are still considered Indie that it sets the bar higher for what publishers expect of an Indie, meaning you will see more Angry Birds and Minecraf take over the market, but Joe Blow with his Rogue-like never gets a real chance at getting publisher or content delivery backing because he's too "niche"
Just because an Indie title is successful doesn't mean that it's no longer Indie.

How does Angry Birds being successful hurt someone else's chances of getting published? Angry Birds is self-published, Joe Blow is self published, there is no publisher involved here. If anything, successes like Angry Birds get developers MORE interested in trying to back small projects like Joe Blow if they know it will be quality, I imagine every publisher has seen all the money that Angry Birds has made and wished that they'd been in on that.
 

Ratty

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This confusion is partly a result of the death of traditional mid-level publishers last gen. Either your development and marketing budgets are so obscene they would make Caligula blush as you push out Call of Madden: Revelations 3. Or you're "Indie" and therefore a handful of guys programming on weekends at your house. At least that seems to be the popular perception.
 

Ed130 The Vanguard

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Sep 10, 2008
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My personal stance is: Once you start to seriously produce merchandise for your product you are no longer 'indie' as such but 'large self published game company.'

So by my standards both Mojang and Rovio are not indie per say but a in a separate group of their own.
 

Areloch

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Dec 10, 2012
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I've always made the distinction between an 'Indie', and an 'Independent'.

To me, indies are the small, self-sufficient(usually) teams. Guys that put together products like Minecraft(before it exploded) Penumbra or the like.

If their products take off and they begin making enough bank to expand out into multiple teams(Mojang being an example) or go into publishing (Tripwire, Chucklefish) then they become Independent. Still self-sufficient, but are large enough they can begin enterprising outside of their production of the game itself.

Not necessarily the 'correct' nomenclature, but it's how I've mentally interpreted it.
 

Eve Charm

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I know it's just self publishing but I think they need to put in a net worth type of thing.

Like Mojang is still pretty much indie, they just said they can't really call themselves indie anymore having Buckets and Buckets of money.

If your net worth is over X your not Indie
 

Lightknight

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kiri2tsubasa said:
Money, available resources, men, etc. All that is irrelevant, all that matters is whether or not they self publish.
I think they also need to be only one studio. For example, Sony owns a ton of studios and publishes their work. Those studios are technically Sony and Sony is technically self-publishing. So Naughty Dog's Uncharted and The Last of Us would meet your criteria which is clearly contrary to the intent of the term. So resources and manpower does kind of matter.

I'm actually not sure if there's a firm line to what really constitutes an indie game in the general public's mind. From Wikipedia that operation is generally small but there's no real solid definition.
 

BrotherRool

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Elfgore said:
The amount of money one makes doesn't change anything about their status of being indie. As long as they publish their own games, then they are considered indie.
I don't think that's true. Even if we get past the fact that companies like EA naturally publish their own games, or the fact the CD Projekt Red publishes other people's games (or that Valve buys out studios with games in progress and releases them as Valve games).. I still think they're 'Independent Studios' as opposed to 'indie'.


Because does it feel right to say 'Oh I've been playing this great indie game recently called The Witcher' or 'I've played this great indie game recently called Borderlands 2'

And on the other hand tons of things we call 'indie games' are published by companies. The Indie Game Fund's job is solely to provide the financial publishing support to indie games.

I think maybe there isn't a clear definition any more. An indie game or studio can even mark the size and type of game or the independence of it's studio.
 

SinisterGehe

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Doesn't "Indie" still mean "Independent" - but that referring to product produced and published independently by the creator without outsider.
I think that still hold quite true, the fact game is being sold and is making money doesn't mean it is not "Indie". But I think the word indie is being tagged to content just for selling purposes. Just like many other words - like organic, light... etc...
Indie sells so companies that are borderline indie use it as a selling tactic.
 

Something Amyss

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I don't get why there's a problem with the term indie just because you added baggage yourself.

If you're independent, you're indie. That's what the word meant before and means now. It really doesn't matter if there are big indie companies, and it still doesn't make the term worthless.
 

SKBPinkie

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True "indie" games are ones that have great concepts / a unique premise, but shitty execution.

I find the titles that fit that category to be more fun to discuss than to actually play.
 

Milanezi

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Nowadays "indie" is the same as "cult" movies, meaning it can go one of two ways: you either really ARE indie, which simply means you didn't get the whole support of big producers etc and also, most of the time, you won't go around saying that your game is "indie" as if it were a genre thing, it just happens to be an independent production and that's that for better or worse. Sadly, more and more, we see "indie" becoming a "genre", say you make an independent fps, and no one calls it a fps, they call it an indie game (?!), which is true, but the problem is, the term is being used as a label to sell games that are actually crappy copies of AAA (or just crappy games) to an audience that is dangerously leaning to love and adore anything that's "indie" no matter what it is...

My opinion? A game, like a movie, is either good or bad, it can entertain you or not, and if it was produced by AAA or indie developers it matters not. The whole debate is simply because there some lousy AAA out there and some shiny indies, which are few, but every time they show one has to ask "how did this guy come up with this without expensive production costs?!" and that's what casts a special light on it; but like all things, it became a trend and now we have tons of awful AAA and Indie games ;)
 

WeepingAngels

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kiri2tsubasa said:
Shaun Kennedy said:
Then the problem would be less the definition and more the interpretation. If we're not to consider your standard "I'm making this game in my spare time in my garage" developer as the only one worthy of Indie, then what word more appropriately defines that specific type of developer? Homebrew perhaps?
Are they self publishing or not? If they are then yes they are indie. If not then no, they are not indie.
Square Enix is indie?
 

Requia

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I would say that they both need to self publish *and* not have operations outside of those self published games, so valve doesn't count.