First a quick pair of plugs:
Above 49 (Nels Anderson) and Some Accounting on the Cost of Making Games
In a nutshell, then, indie games can still be expensive to actually produce, but they can still be fantastic pieces of work. I’ve worked for two game studios now, one a cog in the EA machine (then Headgate Studios, now EA Salt Lake), one a plucky independent developer (NinjaBee/Wahoo). I’ve liked both, albeit for different reasons… but honestly, I like where I’m at now considerably more (NinjaBee/Wahoo). It’s more risky, developing games without a patron like EA holding a financial net under our trapeze act, but at the same time, it’s also liberating in that we have a lot more control over what we do with game and art design.
So when we come up with something like A World of Keflings, know that it took time and hard work, and isn’t just something cooked up in a garage somewhere as an experiment or cheap sequel. In many ways, it’s a labor of love, but since we think it’s a great game and has a lot of fun to offer, we also think it’s a great product and a worthy successor to the original A Kingdom for Keflings game.
Similarly, it looks like Recettear was a labor of love not only for the original Japanese developers, but also the intrepid localization team of Carpe Fulgar. They believed in the game enough to carry it to term and throw it to the wilds of the internet. It’s a great game, a curious mix of shop sim and dungeon crawler that manages to be more like fudge mixed with peanut butter rather than anchovies mixed with onions. It came out of left field for me, but is a very welcome addition to my game library and a lot of fun. That I can play it from a USB thumb drive is icing on the cake (yay for Impulse). As Tipa notes, it’s well worth the $20. (There’s a demo, but as fun as it is, it just scratches the surface.)
These smaller indie games tend to live or die largely on riding waves of interest and word of mouth. As Nels notes, 10,000 purchases are a rounding error to the EAs of the world, but the lifeblood of indie gaming. In an age of “social media”, spreading the word is easier than it used to be, but it’s still important. The cost of sharing a recommendation can be very low, but to those of us trying to make a living making interesting games instead of Big Box clones, it’s a boon that we’re grateful for.
…so yeah, go check out Recettear and if you like the demo, it’s a game well worth buying! Similarly, when A World of Keflings comes out, try the demo and if you like it, please buy it! (It will be an XBox Live exclusive for a while, but we have promised a PC port like what we did for A Kingdom for Keflings.)
And if you like ’em, please tell people! Digital distribution and social media keep the indie scene alive and cranking out great games. Speaking with your wallet and recommendations speak to us, nice and loud. Without big box market overhead and publisher static, the signal is clearer.