How casual games helped save indy games
I remember a few years back watching a Zero Punctuation episode where Yahtzee decried the casual gaming industry as something that was bad for indy developers. Now Yahtzee is far more of an expert then I am, being not only a paid reviewer of games but a developer himself. The heart of the argument was that companies akin to Popcap suck up all of the income available and talent available, leaving nothing left for the rest.
I couldn’t disagree with him then, as I never saw any new indy studios really getting the attention that they should have gotten. The world was rapidly abandoning PC games and turning to consoles, and what was left of PC was turning into one giant collection of Bejeweled copies. What this did however is move more people to web based games. Facebook became the engine for titles like FarmVille and Mob Wars that sucked not only endless hours of user time but revenue for special content.
This started the rise of F2P (free to play) games that continues to change the landscape of online and massive multiplayer games. It taught users that amazing games didn’t have to come only on DVD (or worse, 5 CDs) and that web based or thin client games could be more than just clones of bejeweled or Neopets.
How does this save indy developers? It alone doesn’t, but it does make the playing field a little more level. A game doesn’t have to have a big studio attached to it to get downloaded, and a developer can reach a giant audience without investing in the resources to develop for consoles.
Casual games also can’t take all the credit. Smart phones, tablets, and all manner of mobile platforms offered developers tools to develop easily, or port over existing projects for mass consumption at 99 cents a download.