It’s okay for the Indie Bubble to pop

I don’t know what “the indie bubble” is, but for me, it can pop if it wants.

Jeff Vogel is one of the two Indie Game Dev Don/Grandfather/Grand Masters that I follow very closely. (The other one is fine gentleman Chris Harris by the way). Jeff wrote a blog post where he goes through the state of the game dev… and indie bubble popping. I have a slightly different view.

Generally speaking, I agree on most of the point but this one specific thing caught my eye:

All gamers together have a huge pool of X dollars a year to spend on their hobby. It gets distributed among Y developers. X stays roughly constant (up a little, down a little), but Y is shooting up. A fixed pool of money, distributed among more and more hungry mouths.

X dollars, Y developers. That’s all that matters.

And if X stays constant, the only way to solve the problem is for Y to go down. I’ll give you a second to work out the consequences of that for yourself.
– Jeff

The missing Z factor
There’s two factors. First one is the missing Z factor. Z as in costs of development. Cost of development has sunk for indie devs. 2 decades ago you needed to build your engine. All the libs. Rendering engine. Physics engine. You name it. It took 4 years before you could start typing a design doc.

Nowadays you pick either Unity3D or Unreal and save 4 years in development. Of course if you choose to add tons of stuff, eventually the budget of your game can go up, but the point is that Making a Doom 20 years ago required tons of more work than making doom game today.

If the costs of development gets down, then X per Y (money per developer) required gets lower. This isn’t the important factor, but thought that it’s worth mentioning.

But then the more important point
X Is not constant (aka “dollars”). X is actually made of two components:

  • Number of gamers (Xa)
  • Their parents standard of living (Xb)

Number of gamers goes higher and higher every day. Yesterday there were less gamers than there are today. Tomorrow the amount is even more. And those kids are good at asking money from their parents. So, the “dollars spent by a gamer” is also getting higher. The standard of living is getting better.

This means, X isn’t a constant. X = Xa*Xb (total money = number of gamers * money per gamer) This means X is increasing.

Which means there’s room for more developers.

I’m not sure about indie bubble popping. I see a bubble getting bigger. I see games being introduces in different areas of life. Video games are becoming more part of education, and even governments are funding development of games (which further increases the X factor).

I don’t have statistics to say one way or for another, but welcoming new developers does sound pretty fine to me.

Pop or not
I’m not sure what “pop” really means…. but I think what eventually follows is this: developers start to realize that there’s hundred million 2048 game clones, and they start to think: I will do something so niche, so amazing that nobody else in the world has done. It’s for a tiny group of people, but that’s actually great. Then big companies won’t brother to compete.

Pop or not. My forecast is: We’ll see wave of games made for a very specific type of players.

Juuso Hietalahti