The Casual/Indie Connection

16 04 2008

Casual games are games for everyone. Indie games are games made by anyone. Welcome to the Casual Indie blog, the intersection of games for everyone made by anyone.

Why Indie?

Many indies arrive from outside the game industry, while others quit their jobs at large game studios to go indie. Either way, indie development offers developers the freedom to try new things.

In addition, indie games are typically smaller in scope than AAA games. They are cheaper to produce, need less people on the team, and are faster to make. All these make them appealing for developers who’ve had enough of out of control game budgets, being an anonymous face on a huge team, and spending multiple years to have a project close.

Additionally, with smaller teams and tighter roles, developers have a closer relationship to their work, their co-developers, and ultimately their customers, bringing more meaning and job satisfaction to their craft.

Why Casual?

Some start out in the casual game industry, while many more (especially programmers) are transplants from other parts of the game industry (notably AAA development). They are attracted to many of the same things that attract indie developers – smaller scoped projects, smaller team sizes, faster development times. Many weary AAA developers, tired of games that focus on 3D shaders and licensed content, are refreshed to enter the casual game industry where the focus is on finding the fun.

Why Casual Indie?

Unique content is crucial for the long term success of the casual game industry.

“It is doubtful that anyone will succeed in the long term with undifferentiated content in a saturated market.”

– Casual Games Market Report 2007

As it happens, unique content is exactly what indies do best:

“Independent games take risks and push the game play boundaries that licensed, franchised & sequel games rarely do.”

– Thomas Arundel (Darwinia)

The smaller budgets and faster development timelines of casual/indie games mean that developers don’t need to be as risk-adverse as their huge-budget (and therefore huge potential losses) AAA cousins, because there is less time/money/manhours to lose.

Take a look at this comparison of Casual Games, Indie Games, and AAA/Hardcore Games in key areas:

Casual Games Indie Games AAA/Hardcore Games
cost $10k – $250k $0 – $100k multi-million
team size 3 – 12 people 1 – 12 people multi-studio teams
dev time 6 months – year 1 month – 1 year multiple years
audience everyone everyone 18-25 year old males
players 150 million (U.S.) unknown 2 million (U.S.)
platforms PC, Mac, Web, mobile, XBLA, DS, Wii PC, Mac, Linux, Web, XBLA PC, Mac, XB360, PS3, Wii, Arcades
game price free to $20 free to $20 $40-$60
avg filesize 1mb – 30mb 1mb – 100mb 1gb or more
distribution online downloadable (trial to buy), subscriptions, ad-supported online downloadable (trial to buy) box products through traditional retail
sales casual game portals self-published on own website and indie aggregators box products through traditional retail
music analogy light rock indie alt rock heavy metal
goal make it fun make it innovative make it pump adreneline

Here we see the similarities between casual and indie games in stark contrast to AAA mainstream and hardcore games. Developers are attracted to independent development and casual game development for many of the same reasons. Some developers see casual/indie game development as a stepping stone into heavier AAA development. Most in the casual and indie game spaces are there to stay (and grow).

Conclusion

The casual/indie connection is a natural one and already strong. A huge number of indie developers are making casual games, and arguably most casual game developers are independent. Let’s bridge the gap and take the best from both of those worlds to make innovative, accessible, fun games for everyone.

Josh


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4 responses

18 04 2008
Drew "Gaiiden" Sikora

I like that chart a lot. Only thing I’d change is the price of AAA games – Although it’s a nice middle ground, for greater accuracy I’d mark it as “$40 and up” or “$40+” or even “$40-$60”

22 04 2008
tmt

AAA game titles has a wrong GOAL field in the table :) It would be “money”, not “adrenaline pumping” :)

29 04 2008
GBGames

Also, under platform, I would add GNU/Linux to the list for indie.

19 05 2008
Stephen Triche

I think we’ll see the development cost of non-indie casual games slowly rise over the next few years. I expect to start seeing multi-million dollar casual games at some point in the not too distant future.

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