Stephanie Barish is founder and CEO of IndieCade, what the Los Angeles Times has dubbed “The Sundance of Video Games.” IndieCade is dedicated to the discovery, development and recognition of independent artists and developers from around the world. Its mission is to encourage, promote, and cultivate innovation and artistry in interactive media and to champion those efforts. IndieCade 2014 took place in October in Culver City in Los Angeles. IndieCade East happens every February in New York City.
NYFA: Stephanie, just what are indie games?
Stephanie Barish: Indie games are video games that are usually created by individuals or small teams. They come in a variety of flavors and styles, but one key element is that independent games come from a vision or a passion by the creators. They aren’t developed by marketing departments, but by people.
From my angle, independent games are probably the most exciting and vibrant thing happening in video games today and they are certainly pushing the rest of the industry in a positive direction.
NYFA: Why is there an indie gaming boom going on today?
SB: The indie boom is due to a number of factors.
Since 2008 the big publishers like Electronic Arts and Activision have been focusing their efforts more and more on their big gaming franchises, leaving room for more and more original games from the indie sector.
We have seen a number of components merge to create a ripe atmosphere for the heyday of independent games. This started with the move towards digital distribution—it is hard to remember back—but back when we launched IndieCade the prime distribution method was physical and digital was secondary.
Independent developers were able to take advantage of that space and it also meant that they were incredibly prepared with the emergence of the mobile and tablet space. These platforms provided the boost indie gamers needed to be able to develop and distribute their own original work and reach hundreds of millions of people around the world.
Simultaneously the tools have become more accessible, easier to use, and less expensive, enabling so many more to actually create games.
NYFA: Are indie games only on smartphones and tablets?
SB: Not at all. The indie games boom can be felt across all platforms; for mobile and tablet devices for sure, but also online, for PC/Mac download on Steam, and for all the consoles like Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft. Indie game creators have a huge following and loyal fan base attracting a wide demographic eager to be in on what’s hot and what’s next.
NYFA: How important are indie games in the context of the overall video game industry?
SB: Indie gaming is one of the fastest growing and most influential segments of the $80 billion dollar a year video game industry. As games platforms fragment, independent content creators are becoming THE source for trend-setting innovation and breakthrough creativity
NYFA: How many indie game developers are out there?
SB: According to a survey at the annual Game Developers Conference (GDC), 53% of all game developers now identify themselves as “indie developers.” Indie developers dominate the mobile gaming market accounting for 68% of all mobile gaming sessions in 2012 (Flurry Analytics).
NYFA: How do indie gamers get their games out there?
SB: Primarily through digital marketplaces like the AppStore, Google, Microsoft Xbox, etc. Every digital distribution platform has jumped on the bandwagon. For example, in June 2013, Amazon launched Indie Games store and from day one they were featuring 400 games from 100 developers.
NYFA: What’s an example of an indie game that became a huge hit?
SB: Independent game Minecraft just sold to Microsoft for over $2 billion. The Angry Birds titles have seen billions of downloads across multiple game platforms. All that should tell you something. But keep in mind, indie games have been doing well for many years. Braid, one of the earliest indie game successes, was the second-largest selling Xbox Live Arcade title in 2008.