Indie vs. Triple-A: The Industry’s Great Divide

indie-vs-triple-a-banner

Before I began writing for PS Nation, I refused to go anywhere near a “downloadable” title. If a game wasn’t $59.99 and on a disc with its marketing plastered all over the windows of my favorite retailers I would write it off as inferior. The Indie scene began blowing up shortly thereafter and my favorite games writers, podcasters, and industry professionals were spending more time focusing on these smaller experiences that took chances the conglomerate publishers simply would not. I reluctantly bought, downloaded, and played a few to moderate satisfaction… then I tried Limbo.

Limbo

Suddenly, it all made sense. The best video games had always been touted as wonderful “experiences” and that’s exactly what these Indie titles were offering. The annualized mega-franchises couldn’t give me two hours of pure bliss for $9.99, understandably unable to bet their huge budgets on something that could crash and burn. I began to feel like the Indies were breaking off into their own genre or category rather than trying to compete. I quit the closed-mindedness and I’ve been able to enjoy games that I otherwise would have never touched. To this day, I’m glad to have opened and elevated my tastes thanks to my newfound proximity to the industry.

… The passion possessed by these tiny studios is undeniable …

I realize that there are some gamers who are deflated, discouraged, and discontented with the Indie movement. This editorial is not intended to bash those ideals or discredit the validity of these concerns as I hold many of the same opinions. While researching some popular gripes in preparation for this piece, I came across a slew of complaints ranging from news feeds saturated with Indie coverage to the fear of top franchises disappearing as gaming shifts to a digital-only, smaller scoped future.

To those among us who are proponents of the Indie movement, if the aim is to abolish the stigma of this classification, let’s stop focusing our discussions around the size of the teams that develop these games. The passion possessed by these tiny studios is undeniable as many Indie success stories have begun with the studio’s founder risking the well-being of themselves and their family. This feat is to be rewarded by inclusion rather than separation.

GTA5

To those of us who blindly advocate the quality of these games, let’s be hesitant with our praise and suggestive power. I’ve run into a few Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, and Grand Theft Auto fans who felt burned out of $15 following the internet’s overwhelming praise of something like Journey. I wouldn’t necessarily call these people “casual gamers” but they prefer pumping a hundred hours into few titles a year rather than consistently playing something new every week and their gaming tastes are not as abstract. After listening to my first episode of the PS Nation Podcast, I was baffled that there were people out there who had the means to consume enough content that they could record a four hour conversation about it each week (thanks Glenn and Josh).

… Both approaches are necessary for the evolution of the medium …

To those among us that hate and troll the Indie scene just because of that label, try a few of them out. I can almost guarantee that you’ll find something you’re into. Guacamelee is as good or better than any triple-A platformer you’ve ever played. Being able to appreciate a game like The Unfinished Swan was an accomplishment in my gaming life and I’m proud to participate in discussions involving games that avoid the mainstream. Your huge favorites are safe as long as they’re still bringing in the revenue and that stream hasn’t shown any signs of drying up.

Guacamelee

All of us love games. Many of us are early adopters that the crave the newest, biggest, most technically advanced projects, and others seek the connection made possible by Indie visionaries, while a lot of us want both. The ideological miscommunication comes with the belief that all of this cannot be possible at the same time and neither side of the argument can find value in the preference of the other. My story is proof of this untruth.

… The number of people that participated in a project … need not be taken into consideration …

In defense of the triple-A gamer, I cannot disagree with the frustration caused by Assassin’s Creed Unity being paraded as a broken mess because of a few glitches while Telltale’s The Walking Dead receives accolades for game of the year with an inconsistent engine. I appreciate ACU’s attempt to technically advance gaming with its living, breathing, open world, scope, ambition, and seemingly unlimited content. If that advancement comes at the cost of a few crashes and restarts, so be it. I equally appreciate Telltale’s advancement of character development, storytelling, and choice systems. Both approaches are necessary for the evolution of the medium, creating more of a frequency in the incredible games that can give us all the necessary elements.

ACU

There is a great divide in console gaming that need not exist. Both Indies and triple-A releases have seen their fair share of terrible, good, great, and classic games. The number of people that participated in a project’s creation, how many millions of dollars were pumped into its development, and the profitability of the company behind the game need not be taken into consideration when deciding to make the purchase. Games are games and there are more than enough ways to research a title before you commit. So whichever side of the argument you fall on, even if you decide not to pay the issue any attention, know that more releases can only fuel great development. Devs are gamers too and it is entirely possible that the title you hate could influence a mechanic, story arc, or visual style in the next game that you love.

Written by Emrah Rakiposki

Emrah Rakiposki

– Food
– Video games
– Rap music
It has been my life’s work to properly order the list of this world’s greatest pleasures. There is no right answer.

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  • I get shit from Glenn all the time saying this, but I personally have no interest in any indie games that has been out or is coming out. With the exception of All Man’s Sky. I appreciate what indie games are and what they have become, I just don’t find any of them interesting.

    It could be because most are designed in the old school 8 or 16bit looks. Which I just have no interest in playing in. I didn’t buy a $400 dollar machine to play 8 or 16bit looking games. And I have tried some and haven’t found any that interested me. So it’s not from the lack of trying.

    I am a fan of Journey and a few others you mentioned, but I don’t consider them Indie’s being they were backed by Sony in a big way. Pushed by them on the blog and most likely backed by $$ for them. It is also one of the few that didn’t back the 8 or 16bit style.

    So I have nothing against indie games, just not my style I am looking for. I am however tired of hearing about so many of them at these events (such as E3, Gamescom). It feels like Sony more than anyone is falling back on these titles to fill in the Plus load out for the month and the lack of triple A games. This is not to say that Sony is not making triple A games, it just feels like a lot less now that they can spend so much less on an Indie title.

    So let’s see what the future brings for both Indie’s and Triple A.

    • ChazzH69

      Most big game developers started off as ‘indie devs.’ With the likes of DMA Design becoming Rockstar or Bungie began life as a just two people. Without the great early games from these people and the money from the sales of their games we wouldn’t have GTA and Destiny today.

      I don’t see a game as being indie or AAA, I just see it as good or bad. Smaller games are here to stay and I’m happy with that regardless of who makes them.

    • You’re missing out on an awful lot if you think “most are designed in the old school 8 or 16bit looks”.

      Yes, some of the higher profile titles are, but just skimming back through recent releases, we have the following:
      – Hand of Fate
      – Unmechanical Extended
      – Apotheon
      – Hyper Void
      – Kick and Fennick
      – King Oddball
      – Nihilumbra
      – Ironclad Tactics
      – Splice
      – Switch Galaxy Ultra
      – Super Mega Baseball
      – Juju
      – Tennis in the Face
      – Secret Ponchos
      – Never Alone
      – Rollers of the Realm

      and on, and on, and on…. There’s a lot more out there than just 8 or 16 bit styles, just like there’s more triple-A games than just shooters.

      • I have tried a lot of those and none of them interest me. Not my style of game. And I never said anything about shooters. Indie games just don’t interest me, besides a handful.

        • You’re missing my point. Your main complaint was that Indie games are mostly 8 or 16 bit looking games.

          My comment was meant to show that there’s a lot more variety to Indie games than that – just like there’s a lot more variety to triple-A games than just shooters.

          The shooters part was meant to illustrate my point since that’s what most people think of when someone says triple-A games. It didn’t come from anything you said.

  • ChazzH69

    Great article Emrah

  • Oh and just for the heck of it let me throw this in here:

    “Naughty Dog, Inc. is an American video game developer based in Santa Monica, California. Founded by Andy Gavin and Jason Rubin in 1984 as an independent developer, the studio was acquired by Sony Computer Entertainment in 2001.”

    Just think of what we’d have missed out on it they’d failed as an Indie.

    • And that is great. But doesn’t change my interest in Indie games. Like I said, I don’t hate them nor do I want them to go away. I just get tired of always hearing “Indie games”. It’s not my point of interest.

  • embelievable

    Thank you guys for giving me a read and commenting on my thoughts.

    @Stoff – Trust me man, I’ve been labeled the asshole in my fair share of arguments when discussing Indie value. I cringe at the popular opinion that Resogun is the PS4’s best game. Part of me doesn’t even want these titles mentioned alongside games like Infamous 2nd Son. That being said, I’ve played more hours of Towerfall Ascension than any other PS4 game.

    It’s a weird dichotomy for me but I’m overall pleased that I’ve been able to “broaden my horizons” so to speak.

    • Keith Dunn

      Don’t tell anyone but, I’m not nuts about Resogun either.

    • It’s not that I hate indie games, I am more so just tired of hearing about them and to me, most of them are the same. Same can be said about fps to I suppose, but I find fun and value in those. Most indie games (there are some I like) just don’t appeal to me and look like they are trying to capture the old days of gaming.

      Resogun I like, but I also don’t take that to much of an indie game, because there is probably backing from Sony.

  • Calvin Vesco

    I had more thoughts but I lost it after I had typed it all out so here is a summary…

    I think too many people like indie games just because they are indie games. Same thing happens in music.

    The 8 bit look is so played out. I heard the creator of Axiom Verge admit that most indie devs aren’t talented enough to do anything more.

    While there are a few indies I’ve enjoyed I did buy a PS4 to play them. Or the Vita for that matter. I want first party goodness on the vita and looks like those games are dead.

    So all in all I personally am over the whole indie craze. Give me my blockbusters!

  • Keith Dunn

    WELL SAID!

  • London Rhodes

    I actually enjoy some indie games but I’m sick to death of the 8 to 16 bit graphics. Im also pretty sad that the Vita has become an indie only machine.

  • Jahonius

    My main focus are definitely big AAA games, especially Sony exclusives. As for AAA shooters, I only play for the sake of hanging with my friends. I am totally jazzed that SF V and MK X is coming out this year, as well as Bloodborne.

    As for indies, some of them really captivated me, namely Limbo, Machinarium, Hotline Miami, and Luftrausers.

    I totally get Stoffinator as he doesn’t want indie games taking up most of his gaming time. It is true there’s plenty of shovelware among golden indies, just like A~AAA games.

    No matter how many people give me shit for disliking Skyrim and GTA series, I stand by my taste for games, and continue playing god-awful Resident Evil series and whatever that captures my spur-of-the-moment interests.