And Now We Hate Independent Games – Console War Madness

While I was on vacation, Sony highlighted its commitment to indie developers at its Gamescom presentation. The juggernaut company announced fifteen games that would be coming to the PS4/Vita either as pure exclusives, console exclusives, or timed exclusives. Overall, it was very impressive with a slew of unique games being released, and it was prescient on Sony’s part to understand exactly how critical it is to court the independent market, which is the fastest growing market out there. AAA game development on the other hand is becoming increasingly more difficult and fewer publishers are willing to take any risk. Even if you don’t play many independent games at the moment, it is still a massive deal that Sony is putting so much of its resources in this market, which should ensure a slew of unique and constant content for the new system. However, we must not forget that prior to a console launch, the console wars are raging at their very hardest, so Sony’s Gamescom conference was not met with any of the praise it deserved, but is instead ridiculed for strange and sad reasons. Today we’re going to be looking at this backlash.

I know Sony’s trying to tell us something, but I can’t tell what it is…
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The first bit of backlash comes as a predictable by-product of the console wars: Xbox One fans are going to ridicule it. Dubbing the system, the Indiestation 4, these fans have decided that Sony blew the Gamescom conference because they didn’t announce anything that blew them away. In truth, it wouldn’t matter what Sony announced. Fans, both of the boy and girl variety, are in their very nature blind to any positives from the other side and all have a tendency to prop up their own position, whether to justify their purchase, or simply due to an incomprehensible sense of brand loyalty. The attack waged against Sony by these isn’t that they are supporting indies (Microsoft is as well after a little arm twisting), but more how much they are supporting indies, believing that Sony is putting way too much emphasis on this because they don’t have anything worth showing.

Aside: I feel bad for Killzone. It’s always compared to Halo, and never allowed to stand on its own.
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This same attack has been levied by Sony fans as well. Microsoft has been getting a lot of good press ever since it revealed to the world that every single thing they told us about the Xbox One is no longer true. As such, Microsoft is looking very competitive right now, and Sony fans are worried about this. Sony itself said that they had a lot planned for Gamescom and these fans assumed that there was going to be some massive reveal that would put Microsoft “in its place,” or some other console war rhetoric. Theories ranged from more launch games, to a new Uncharted or God of War, to even Final Fantasy XV becoming PS4 exclusive. This wild speculation led to disappointment when Sony’s actual announcement was a continuation of its E3 policy to support indie gamers. Disappointment is a powerful force on the internet. While regular people in real life, people on the internet react to disappointment with all the poise and decorum of a two-year-old getting their favourite toy taken away from them. Disappointment led to Final Fantasy XIII being not simply a mediocre Final Fantasy game, but an appalling stain on our culture. The same is true here. Despite the variety of great announcements, the lack of surprising major AAA titles meant that Sony’s conference was going to disappoint many, and these people were going to let you know.

People actually expected to see a sequel to this game (Cancelled), so there was going to be disappointment no matter what.
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A big part of the problem is that most gamers didn’t watch the Gamescom conference, nor did they watch any of the videos. All they did was see a slew of unfamiliar titles, file them away in their head instead of watching any videos, and move on. This has led to many gamers pretending as if indie was a genre, and the PS4 is going to be over saturated by indie games. Indie is not a genre, people. Indie games range from huge sprawling RPGs, to racing games, to platformers, to adventure games, to action games, and everything in between. Some have a retro art style or design, while others utilize more modern aesthetics. There isn’t any indie game that you can point to and say “All indie games are exactly like that.” Despite this, many gamers believe strongly that all indie games are 8-bit platformersIt’s the charm of independent games that they are so different. As mentioned, most people don’t even know what games were announced, only that they were “indie,” meaning something cheap in many people’s eyes. This is true to an extent. Indie games are often, if not always made with less money that games that go through a publisher. However, by offering more concise and unique experiences, indie games can impress way more than games with larger development budgets.

Also, Journey is on sale now for half price ($3.75 for PS+). Buy it now, you fools.
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People know so little about what indie games are that they don’t even realize that many of the smaller games Sony showed at Gamescom were not indie games at all. For example: Resogun is a really fun looking arcade-style 2D shooter made by the people who brought us Super Stardust HD. It will be a great game by the looks of it, but it is not an indie game. It’s an understandable mistake as lower budget, or smaller experience games tend to be lumped together as indie. I, for example, cannot find definitively whether Rime, the beautiful Shadow of the Colossus-meets-Ni No Kuni game, is an indie game or published by a major studio. Some people list it in the indie category, while others stringently do not. I think this confusion has led to even more problems. People have their own opinion what an indie game is, and the confusion surrounding the entire label leads to a lot of misleading messages.

Indie or not, you’re going to want to play this game.
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Perhaps the problem is with the word indie itself. We use it mainly as a label to underscore why certain games aren’t AAA, rather than to celebrate independent developers. The growing use of the word has led, as mentioned earlier, to many people believing that indie is a new game genre instead of a label, which is, truthfully, useless to most gamers. The fact that all retro-style and arcade-style games are immediately called indie games tells you that there’s a problem with the label. It isn’t even all negative. Some amazing games are titled as indie when they are anything but. The problem is, as indie games become increasingly popular, this mislabelling will only grow more cumbersome. Indie being treated like a genre by companies such as Sony or Microsoft is part of the problem, as is how it’s dealt with in gaming media. The truth is that some people are trying to celebrate independent developers, while gamers are looking for what the game is, and the two collide in an unfortunate way.

The Witness on the other hand is most assuredly an indie game, and I don’t see 8-bit platforming anywhere.
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In the end, me waxing on and on about the specific label given to that kind of game isn’t important. What is of value is that we don’t dismiss a game simply for being independent. That’s the madness. Sony is getting a positively massive influx of compelling and unique games, and it baffles me that more people aren’t celebrating it. Most of the time, companies such as Microsoft and Sony are behind on trends (Like with the motion control frenzy at the beginning of the current generation). However, very few people in the industry will try to argue against the opinion that independent games are coming, and they are going to flood into this market in a way that AAA games could never do. With all of the death and gloom that has recently been associated with AAA development, it is this smaller, hungrier type of game that will really change how we see the next generation. Of course that’s just my opinion, and I could be wrong.

– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer

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