It’s 2018, and the art of gaming has certainly changed over the past few years. For the majority of us, we grew up on 2D low-resolution games, where the thought of 1080p or 4K were unimaginable. With major advancements in game engine design over the last decade, we have witnessed the game studios transition from arcade style games to photo realistic graphics. When high end gaming first became popular, it was rumoured that you needed a €2000 gaming pc to run games at maxed out settings with high frame rates (which at the time was possibly true since the only other option was the PS2 or the original Xbox).
But now high-end gaming is so well optimised that its now readily available to someone with a modern console such as the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One or PS4. Although the big question here is, “does big development budgets = a successful game?”. The average Triple-A title such as Call of Duty has a budget of roughly $60M per game release (which is surprisingly on the lower end of things since many of the games mechanics & features are copy and pasted from previous releases), that is unless the dev team decides to take a leap into a new area of gaming and implement some new major aspects, but for a game like Call of Duty, FIFA etc, it’s safer in the eyes of the developer/investors to recycle old content. On the other hand, a game such as Grand Theft Auto 5 cost $265M to fully develop.
This is where the line between indie game development and Triple-A game development is clearly defined. Take Cuphead for example, a recent indie release which featured never before seen game design from a relatively small dev studio. The basis of the game is a simple 2D run and gun game with an up down left right movement system (which is very common), but what makes Cuphead stand out is the innovative art style of the game, which is a 1930’s cartoon with fully hand drawn animations, something that has never been seen from either indie or Triple-A studio. With its initial announcement in 2014’s E3 press conference, it received an unexpected wave of praise from the gaming community. Ben Kuchera of Polygon said that Cuphead was one of the most interesting reveals at the E3 press conference, despite knowing little about the game. He said it “stood out immediately” and everyone in the press room “viscerally” reacted to the reveal. Cuphead won IGN’s Best Xbox One game at E3 award in 2015 for its unusual art style, keeping in mind that this game was announced on the same stage as games such as Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto, so it definitely stood out amongst the crowd and was a big win for the indie dev community. After fully releasing in September 2017, it had officially sold over 2M digital copies by December. For those who have played Cuphead, you’ve had the experience of being taken back to classic childhood gaming, something which is hard to replicate with a new release in the current day.
In my opinion, I personally think that the majority of indie games are better than big title releases, mainly because they focus on consumer enjoyment rather than creating a passive income revenue stream through the implementation of micro-transactions (which most big titles rely on, since most of those games make more money from loot boxes, skins etc than actual game sales).
Overall, I think it is up to us as the consumer base to support smaller indie studios and their creations. Most of these small studios consist of 5-10 people who’re trying to make the next big game (like Cuphead has shown). There really are better places to invest your money for gaming other than loot boxes and skins. A large proportion of indie games cost anywhere from €0.99 – €5 so don’t shy away from giving them a try.