The definition of “indie game developer” or “indie game producer” varies greatly depending who is talking about it. Some people think only “one-man” studios can be called indies. Some think it’s the size of the budget. Some think it’s those who don’t do indie style games.
I don’t even try to give a 100% accurate definition for “indie game developer”, here are some points I’ve noticed people using.
Before going deeper, I want to remind kindly that it’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice – that’s as far as I will go defining whether I’m an indie or not. It’s not the title that matters, but there are some typical elements that indie game developers have.
As mentioned earlier, doing games solo is a typical way to define an indie game developer. Naturally one could gather 4-5 indies together and call it an indie team. I see no problem with that. To me indie developer can be one-man studio or a small team.
Indies are cheap as Scrooge McDuck: they’d rather spend 100 hours working before handing 100 dollars to anyone. Okay, I might be exaggerating a “bit”, but basically many indies have a tight budget and they do anything to save their cash (wish naturally sometimes is a good idea). This is not always the case though.
Innovative game ideas
Indies have the greatest (and craziest) game ideas ever seen on the planet. I’ve seen video games about themes such as “indies trying to contact a publisher” and “player preventing people doing a suicide (by shooting them)”. I’ve seen retro cames brought to life by indies. How many AAA studios would do anything like that?
They can be spotted at Indiegamer boards
Indiegamer has been somewhat conquered by casual gamers as well, but there’s still lots of members who proudly announce being indies.
Indie isn’t necessarily same as (financially) independent
There are many independent game studios that do games with million dollar budgets and have dozens of developers in the team. These studios are financially independent, but not (necessarily) indie studios. Naturally some indie studios can be (financially) independent.
Indies and publishers & portals
Indies originally (perhaps that could be said) self-published their games, but nowadays these developers also approach publishers and portals. It’s bit tricky to say if they can be considered indies if they work closely with a publisher, but I guess that “depends on the studio”. What’s your take on this? Are “real indies” those who self-publish only?
I think indies go in their way but also adopt to the current trends. With the era of increasing digital distributors (portals & publishers), I believe it’s a fine opportunity for indies to make their games more popular.
I think it boils down to this: indies have certain style. Indies know they are indies – and are proud of it. They make their own rules, and their own games without handing control to others. They feel that they are indies and contribute to the indie game scene. They simply refer to themselves as indies, and feel it to be true.
That might suggest that indies are stubborn. And perhaps that’s true… but at least stubborn comes with indie style.