Hidden Indie Treasures

Just because there is a huge marketing campaign for a game doesn't mean that it is necessarily the greatest game in the world. A lot of indie studios actually produce cheaper games with just as much content and just as much enjoyment as the big name releases. You save money and discover something a little different that you can share with friends. The best way to find many of these titles is through digital distribtion, such as the Xbox 360 Live Arcade, PlayStation Network and Steam.

A great example of an indie title comes straight from my hometown. Trendy Entertainment, a local video game studio in Gainesville, Fla., released Dungeon Defenders in October to critical acclaim. One of the biggest praises for the game has been the significant amount of content and replayability it provides for such a small price tag - $14.99!

Dungeon Defenders

I spoke with the studio's marketing director Philip Asher:

How would you define an "indie" game?

Strictly speaking, I would define an "indie" game as a game made by a company that is not attached to an established publisher in the industry. I definitely think the term "indie" has evolved into more of a unique feeling surrounding a certain game, not strictly related to the actual company that makes it. Furthermore, many of these indie companies are increasingly earning enough money to hardly carry the name "indie," they're generating as much revenue as many commercial titles.

What do you think indie titles offer to gamers that major releases can’t?

I think indie titles offer a different feeling to the consumer. These games aren't polished around all of the edges and made to appeal to a mass audience. They don't feel like the blockbuster movie of the summer. Instead, they have the same feeling as an independent movie. Often one person's, or a small group of people's, driving vision is felt very strongly as the core of the game. This gives these titles much more personality which makes it resonate with gamers more.

Philip Asher, Trendy Entertainment

Why do indie games tend to be a little cheaper than major releases?

Indie games tend to be cheaper, because they are distributed through the new digital distribution platforms. This allows developers two things. First, they can avoid the cuts that traditional publishers, brick and mortar stores, and distribution would take from the final product. Second, they have a larger audience available to sell the game to. These combined allow developers to make almost as much off of a copy of a $20 digital title as they would off of the same product at $60. Basically, since the barriers to entry have been removed to the market, prices can be cheaper while profits for the developer the same (or often higher).

What are some of the best indie games you’ve seen come out this year?

I'd have to agree with everyone and say MineCraft. I think it deserves all the success it's gotten for taking a very simple concept and executing it so well that everyone wants to play and enjoys playing it. A close runner up for me would be Castle Crashers, which I enjoy immensely.

Do you have any professional or personal tips for saving money on games?

Saving money on games? Well I'd suggest getting a PC and buying your games off of Steam. They seem to really understand that putting games on sale increases total revenue. Now, as a developer I don't entirely agree with this, especially with the way Apple does it (a rush to the bottom). But for consumers, I say grab a decent PC, install Steam, and get everything you want! And if you see some on sale, buy a ton, and then trade people for other games using Steam Trading and Reddit.