Indie Fund

By: Derek Yu

On: March 3rd, 2010

Indie Fund

A group of successful indie developers have started Indie Fund, a funding source for independent developers. The 7 backers of the fund (Ron Carmel, Kyle Gabler, Jonathan Blow, Kellee Santiago, Nathan Vella, Matthew Wegner, and Aaron Isaksen) are investing in indie games and supporting their development. The primary goal is to provide a way for indies to create and sell games without having to compromise their vision or legal rights to publishers. Of course, you’d also be getting the advice of some of the community’s most experienced and successful creators.

Currently, the Fund is investing in a few undisclosed indie titles, which happened “through word of mouth within the indie community”. Eventually, though, there will be a way for developers to submit their games. You can find out more about Indie Fund in this Gamasutra Q&A with Ron Carmel of 2D Boy.

  • Ivan

    Blue Steel

  • Stephen

    No son, thats Magnum. :,)

  • Stephen

    Isn’t this how most publishers started off? Most notably EA. They started off by promoting the developers and programmers, but then were taken over by the drive for profit.

    If they’re investing their own money in this project, which I assume they are, it will have to be profit driven, just like all the current publishers. This will then lead to a dilution of the sorts of games that are released.

    I hope this works out, but I you’d be wise to treat it cautiously, at least for now.

  • paul eres

    most (all except flashbang?) of these folk made their money with publishers, on consoles. so i’m not sure how useful funding from them would be. what really matters in being successful as an indie dev, if these folk are any indication, is getting published on a console (xbla, wiiware, ps3’s downloadable games whatever that’s called), not funding.

  • Adam Atomic

    Haha paul if that is really you, this may be your most ignorant, closeminded post to date.

    TGC obviously gets money from Sony, and some of Capy’s games are publisher-funded. Kyle, Ron, Jon, Matthew and Aaron’s companies are ALL SELF FUNDED.

    Even if they did get publisher funding, how on EARTH could that possibly have a negative impact on them funding other games? And do you really think having those people funding your work wouldn’t at least mildly influence the digital distro execs?

    Think before you type dude.

  • paul eres

    i think you’re reading negativity where there’s none; i also didn’t mean that those publishers fund them, i know they’re mostly self funded.

    by ‘publisher’ there i meant ‘a console company that allowed them to make games for their platform’ not ‘someone who funded their game’. e.g. microsoft published braid in that sense by allowing it on the xbla even though blow funded braid himself.

    my point was just that i found it strange that the money they’re using to fund indies mostly comes from console sales, which are closed platforms, not pc sales (or other open platform sales). i’m not saying that this is a bad thing at all, i think it’s great news and hope it starts a trend. but it does say something that most of them made most of this money on consoles.

  • Adam Atomic

    Is it? What exactly is it saying? I am confused what the problem is. Is it that WoG only made half their money on PC? Or that Capy just released their first console games last year? Also, Aaron was one of the first members and has never made a console game.

    What exactly is the problem with making money from a console game anyways?

  • paul eres

    there’s no “problem” per se. i think you’re reacting too defensively, when the comment was made in a contemplative tone. e.g. it was meant as ‘oh, hm, seems like many successful indies get successful primarily through consoles, looking at this list of funders’ not ‘curse those console indies, they don’t belong in this world!’.

  • Adam Atomic

    BS. You specifically questioned the usefulness of the fund! Like 3 minutes ago. It’s right there. You are saying that it’s a problem. You just did it. I am asking you to simply back that up with anything at all.

  • This guy

    Isn’t it easier to make money on consoles anyway, since there is a lot less piracy. I don’t think they sacrificed any creative control in getting the games published on console. I don’t see any point in remarking on it at all in the context of the article.

  • paul eres

    oh, yes, that problem is a different one. my point there was that it seems (from this sample of indies) like the primary determinant in the success of an indie isn’t whether they have external funding or not, but whether they get a game on consoles or not. funding would help of course, nobody would refuse free money. but it doesn’t seem to be the primary determinant. (especially since, as you mentioned, many of these folk were completely self-funded, so it’s not external funding that helped them get successful.)

    so my suggestion would be, that in addition to funding, they work on establishing connections between indies and console publishers like nintendo, microsoft, and sony — and that that may be even more valuable than just free money.

    @This guy – yeah, it’s not especially on-topic to this post, but i thought it was interesting, since this is the first time i really noticed that trend.

  • Ciro Continisio

    I don’t see how it could be BAD.
    You have a game, you resort to the indie fund, and see what are the conditions. If you’re not comfortable with them, you are out. Where’s the problem?

    Maybe they would establish those connections, after all they already have the ‘contacts’ and credibility.

  • Ciro Continisio

    @Derek: do you mind if I take your photo collage and rework it for my blog? I’m too lazy to search for all of the photos singularly :D

  • Crimsontide

    This is a pretty ambitious idea. I like it!! I doubt it will reap tons of cash for the 7 backers, but I hope they get at least a sizable return for such a risky investment, and some great indie games for me to play as well ;)

  • jon schubbe

    i agree with paul in that getting on consoles is probably pretty tough just as getting the funding is. but yeah once you get that funding i’m sure connections from the above team will be able to get your foot pretty far in the door.

  • do0d

    can’t wait for someone to manage to get $10k in funding and blow it on a game abou t venus fly traps, with only mediocre art and boring gameplay.

  • Jonathan Blow

    Hi guys.

    When funding a title, we do prefer to see it on as many platforms as we can, since that will generally maximize the ability of the game to make back its money (and is also the way to get the widest audience as an indie!) This is not always possible due to the exclusivity agreements that various console gatekeepers impose.

    Part of the point, though, is that if an indie developer wants to release a game on a console, that takes a lot of time and effort; and if they don’t have enough money to self-fund over that period (which most people don’t), then it takes funding.

    The reality is that Microsoft isn’t going to accept a Ludum Dare game for publication on XBLA (similarly for Sony and even for Steam), and because of that, there is generally a financial barrier to entry that many developers can’t cross. What we do is help them over that barrier, on much friendlier terms than a publisher would.

  • Jonathan Blow

    P.S. Thanks Derek for picking the absolute worst picture of me on the entire Internet.

  • Derek

    Haha, sorry Jon! First page of Google Image Search.

  • Ron Carmel

    @Stephen, yes! That’s exactly how EA started out, I was really surprised when I first read that story. Great cautionary tale. There’s very little chance of that happening here though. If it were money we’re after we’d all be working on sequels, not putting our money into high risk investments :)

  • Peevish

    Um, Stephen, read the Q&A and you’ll see quite clearly it’s not profit-driven.

    I’m wondering if the funding is for games already in the works that need a boost (a la Sundance Finishing Funds) or if funding starts based on a pitch for games not yet started. I suppose all will be answered at GDC.

  • Bob

    Did Paul Eres make a million dollars of casual console games in 1996? I don’t know, but he hasn’t denied it.

  • Anonymous

    This actually seems pretty cool! Like Angel Investors for indie games!

  • failrate

    Actually, getting funding for the development of a title is likely to improve your chances of being published.

    If my job was approving titles for a console (fail-o-vision 3K), and two equivalent game teams came across my desk, but one could say, “A group of successful industry people have invested in my company”, I would most certainly pick the one that had investors.

    A) Since they have investors, that means that they have operating costs and know how to get investment, so if certification goes into extra innings, they’ll be able to keep going on the game without laying anyone off or needing to get a day job.

    B) Since they’re investors are experienced in the industry, the investors can offer advice and help them network with other people. Typically, when you accept investment, you are not just getting a lump of cash. The investors typically want to make a profit. The best way they can ensure a profit is if the product they are investing in is a good one.

    A similar investment group (that oddly enough doesn’t currently invest in any games) is Paul Graham’s ycombinator.

  • Dodger

    So this is basically like getting a “loan”, but instead of going to the bank and pitching something which the loan officer has no idea about, developers will (eventually) be able to pitch and show what they have to offer in goods (in this case, their idea of an awesome game), and if the idea is feasible and conducive to future productivity and profitability, then the person will be eligible for this loan.

    Is that kinda the idea?

    I like the idea, I also understand the contemplation and the questions that come up, just as Paul Eres had mentioned in earlier comments. I don’t think Paul was trying to make it sound as if this plan was evil, I think it’s just a question as to how well this can work or hold water for developers. Another question might be, is this for any developer who can produce a quality title, or just for friends of the funding commission? Obviously I don’t think that would be the case, but, in EA’s case, it isn’t unheard of. EA is renowned for greasing the right palms at the right time and then shafting them from behind when those studios aren’t looking. There’s no question that everyone wants to make a buck, but the most important thing is to make an honest buck that you can live off of while doing something you are passionate about. EA’s plans are counterintuitive to those goals where their chairs and board members are all about the almighty greenback and the bottom line, they don’t care what a game is, just that it sells and that it sells well – customer service, technical support, server downtime, and quality assurance is an afterthought.

    As long as the goal of this fund remains a goal to “help” other thoughtful and intelligent developers (people who have ideas and will actually follow through with them) can perhaps benefit from such a fund, which could in-turn, benefit the entire independent game development community in the long run. As long as the people with the power to make a difference stay grounded and do not salivate at dollar signs like a money making monger. The people behind the fund do seem honest (though I don’t know any of them in real life) but, judging from their comments and what I’ve read about them they do seem grounded and realistic. I hope something like this can be of some benefit to struggling developers out there.

    I like the idea, Dave Gilbert (of Wadjet Eye Games) has started getting into publishing, and he’s a very honest and likable guy that knows what it’s like to start from the ground up and also what it’s like to misunderstand or underestimate the market but also figured out the hard way why learning at least a little bit about marketing is important. He’s a really nice guy and what I think he’s doing is great because he really does seem like he wants to help other “little” guys/gals that started from the ground up as well. And why not, it’s honest and it’s admirable.

    So I hope this whole funding thing does work. With a little luck, and a lot of work, this type of “publishing” might work, and I hope it does, just so that more striving (and in some cases starving) developers can get a leg up in this market. There’s definitely more room for indie games and indie devs.

    Extra Note: Aaron Isaksen and Alec Holowka were in the 1988 remake of “The Parent Trap” – Tell me they’re not twins! *JK* ;-)

  • a certified moron

    i’m jealous no one posts my picture on the internet

  • Bob

    ^ Who are you and where is your picture?

    I’ll post it on a website somewhere so you don’t feel so bad. :)

  • Dan MacDonald

    The commentary here as always is eye opening and entertaining. I can’t wait to see deserving indie titles ( and their developers ) getting the funds to help them get the recognition they deserve. This is the best thing to happen to indie games since TigSource! :)

  • Splinter of Chaos

    “The primary goal is to provide a way for indies to create and sell games without having to compromise their vision or legal rights to publishers.”

    I don’t think funding is in any way a bad thing, but i don’t think it’s a solution to the problem indy devs face of getting games made and sold without compromising one’s own artistic vision. I mean, they’re only gong to fund games that they think will be successful, or have any kind of chance, and therefore exclude games that do not seem to appeal to the gaming industry (or perhaps themselves), even if they’re more accepting than say EA or [insert evil corporation here].

    I think if this were to become a trend, people might eventually think of indy gaming as just as conformist as commercial gaming (not by being more conformist, but by being conformist at all) and a movement aside from the indy movement would spark up. It’d be conceptually the same, but with a different name. The process would repeat over and over.

    Instead, i don’t think we need funding so much as a way to make literally any game a developer is able to make placed online. A way to database all these games and just give each one recognition. In that view, Tigsource and other indy game blogs already do exactly what we need. Information passing and awareness. I also don’t think this will become a trend, and think it’s a great thing as long as we view it as something good for a few of us, but not for all–unless they prove to us otherwise.

    Also, if no one minds me inserting a political anarchist-atheist sentiment into this (stop reading if it might offend you): the idea that we need to rely on a group external to ourselves in order to accomplish our goals is what enslaves us to them. By needing their help, we are just ASKING for them to take advantage of us. Like how fearing crime makes us want the government to give us justice, fearing lack-o-funding may make us WANT to compromise our works. A true solution, i believe, is an organization that offers nothing but support, universal to all who ask and not just the promising students. An organization that helps those who help themselves; like Jesus, but real. comes to mind…, but i suppose no one has invented the ideal solution yet, and probably never will.

    PS: Just in case my cynicism over shadowed this: I really do think this is a good thing! Just not what we really need, as a whole. But another way for dedicated game devs to do their wonders can’t be a bad thing.

  • Dodger

    Asking for help isn’t always a bad thing. The other problem I see is the added pressure the devs might feel if they’ve obtained some funding. Is there any? I’m not really sure. I don’t have the answers to any of the big questions but I think it’s important to at least ask them…

    For example, would VVVVVV be a better game had Terry Cavanagh received extra funding? Would Braid be as good as it is had Jonathan Blow not had any extra funding? Both games were great, the major difference is VVVVVV isn’t made for any of the console platforms. However, would I still play VVVVVV if it was made for a console? You bet your ass I would. Would VVVVVV be appreciated and would people buy it if it was on a console? I don’t see why not. These are hypothetical questions though.

    The whole idea of funding is kind of a sacrificial risk for the “investors”. But, hasn’t game development as a full-time independent developer always been a risk? In which case, is a fund absolutely necessary?

    Perhaps it’s more important that now that these “investors” who are also developers, now that they have some contacts in the “biz”, could provide a way for fellow indie developers to get their games noticed by these bigger companies. That would certainly be worth just as much as money and funding, and by doing so there might still be a way for the middle man to make an honest buck without a need for compromising integrity or the indie developers vision.

    So what does funding mean exactly in this case? Is this about giving a loan? Is it about handing out money in hopes of success and not expecting anything in return? Is it about royalties and splits? Does it mean the “investors” have a say in the development process? Or is it just about quality control?

    I think if indies have survived for this long it is possible to succeed without any outside help, however, maybe this sort of funding could benefit some indies or the community as a whole by increasing awareness of these lesser known games and the developers behind them. I don’t know how long this might last though if it actually became a “business” though, since it could only lead to becoming the exact same thing as a publisher.

    The idea is a positive one. Unfortunately, when it comes to money, and the larger the amount of money, it will usually sour a grand and seemingly innocent and sincere idea. When things only become about money it always ruins relationships – whether it’s between family, friends, or business partners.

    These are just random thoughts. Like most others, I only want to see indie developers do what they do best and succeed at doing it, so I’m hopeful when new ideas come along. But as risky as it might seem for the investors, the risks for the developers aren’t quite as clear since they aren’t really outlined. The more transparent the idea becomes the easier it will be to determine how useful and helpful this sort of thing can be to the developers.

    I wish everyone the best of luck though and hope that this might mean progress among the indie community and getting these little known games noticed.

  • Dinsdale

    That’s very interesting.

  • my-o-why

    Aren’t consoles entirely unindie?

  • Dan MacDonald

    Uh, only if you define indie as being anti establishment. Many of the downloadable systems on console do not dictate creative control over the games they distribute. Lot’s of indies have passionately created games and then released them to critical and commercial success on XBLA and other downloadable networks on console.

    That is a description of a number of the indie’s participating in this indie fund who have then turned around and taken that commercial success and are helping other indies take their games into the lime light so to speak.

  • Dodger

    @Dan MacDonald & my-o-why,

    I agree with Dan, just look at games like Flower, Braid, and Shatter. Then you also have games such as I MADE A GAME WITH ZOMBIES IN IT. There are plenty of great indie games on consoles. Astro Tripper is another great title. I’d probably pick up ultratron on XBLIG if I didn’t already have it on PC (and if Microsoft could build a system that didn’t break down so much – no less than 3 times – but that’s another story).

    Those are just a few, but to say that releasing a game on console is “unindie” (which isn’t really even a word) is kind of ridiculous. Not to mention Spelunky will be coming out soon on the 360’s marketplace, however, I won’t be truly happy until Derek finds a way to get that sum’na’bitch on the PSN Network as well ;-)

    Lots of great things to look forward to on the consoles. I just wish that some of the games that are exclusive to one console would also be released for PC (because I’m not picking up another Xbox 360 after going through the hassle so many times), but I would still love to be able to play some of those indie games (since there’s nothing really noteworthy in the “mainstream” retail department that I can’t already get for either the PS3, Wii, and PC. Just like WoG, Braid, and Mutant Storm, etc. etc. Hopefully more and more developers will be able to make their games cross-platform – such as The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai, Spelunky, and Limbo.

    Thankfully Shank has been announced as being released for all the major platforms (with the exception of the Wii). That’s definitely great news! I just hope we see more and more progress like this.

  • Dodger

    Oh, and just for clarification, I didn’t mean Shank was announced as being released for all major platforms. I meant Klei has announced that Shank *WILL* be released on those major platforms that I mentioned. The release date won’t be for a while still. EA (Evil Asshats) will serve as the publisher for the game across the 3 platforms, but the game was well underway before EA got their grimey hooks involved, so I think it’s safe to say the game will still be great and will still be an “indie” game… as long as they don’t take over creative control (which I don’t think Jamie Cheng – CEO of Klei, would allow).

  • Splinter of Chaos

    Dan MacDonald said “Uh, only if you define indie as being anti establishment.”

    Just to back that point up: living in USA makes me no less an anarchist. Using establishment does not force someone to give up their indy (or anarchist) card, but the attitude about establishment does. Then again, since one’s self-identity is what makes them what they are, even a developer who is by one’s standard commercial can be by their own indy, and who is to say they are or are not?

    Thus, i conclude that no THING is indy or not, but that a PERSON (or developer) is and it’s probably most accurate to say we define “indie” by what people who call themselves “indie” do, so if indys use consoles, then that’s what indys do. The blurring of the line between indy and commercial is why i predict an eventual conformity of independent gaming and future movement with the same principles but different name. (Entropy, anyone?)

  • paul eres

    making an indie game for consoles isn’t un-indie at all. but, the main difference is that some third party (the console owner) has total control over your game and thus your livelihood, compared to publishing for pc/mac/etc. and selling directly to customers.

    in other words, it’s less secure, because if your game offends microsoft or nintendo or sony or apple in some way, or offends someone who complains to them, or if it’s not up to their standards, or perhaps even for a reason they don’t tell you, they could just take your game down, and you can’t do anything about it. whereas nobody can take your game down if it’s for the pc or mac or linux.

    on the other hand, it seems that consoles are the easiest way to make money quickly, judging from this sample. indie game devs who are successful making games exclusively for open platforms are rarer.

    in other words, i don’t think anyone becomes less independent for publishing on a console, but going through a middle man who sells your games for you instead of selling them yourself directly is less financially independent, even though it may be every bit as creatively independent.

  • Dodger

    @paul eres,

    I think that’s why it’s still important to make these games as accessible to everyone as possible. If it was up to me I’d prefer that all indie games were *always* made available on PC and that the developers of said games would always be able to sell them through their own site, even if the game gets picked up by Steam or D2D and etc… That way even if the game isn’t developed across all major platforms and only one major console, it is still accessible by many. Of course, that’s a hypothetical situation giving indie developers who do want to release games on multiple platforms far more freedom to market their own games. But wouldn’t that be the ideal situation for any indie developer? More options equals more opportunity for everyone. The problem again is quality assurance. XBLIG is a great idea, but one of the big problems is having to wade through all of the crap to find those few gems that are even worth a trial download, however, nobody is forcing anyone to spend money on something that they don’t really want either. Still, having the option to supply a game across multiple platforms is probably the best way for indies to remain financially sound, as long as their creativity isn’t really restricted. With that said, if Steam, Sony, Microsoft, or Nintendo did decide to pull your game from their service they’d have every right to do so, but as long as you have maintained enough control to keep selling the game on PC through your own means (the classic “indie” old fashioned way – ie. Spiderweb Software, distractionware, Bit-Blot, Studio Eres, you get the picture), you might still profit and survive long enough and heartily enough to make other attempts at getting your future games on multiple platforms. I think keeping with the PC first and foremost is key though, but I say that with some bias because I really want to be able to have access to all of these games as well. :-) I think I’m also speaking positively about the indie game development as well though.

    Does this really have anything to do with funding though? Or are the connections that can be made through other indies which are already established more significant to getting your game to become multi-platform?

    These things make me curious, but I’m also optimistic – or try to be at least.

  • paul eres

    yeah, i remember finding it pretty weird that jon blow decided not to sell braid through his own site at all, only through steam etc. on the pc — it felt like he was throwing away money.

  • Anthony Flack

    In my experience, securing the required development funding has proved much more difficult than getting green-lit for console development (assuming you can make a good pitch and show that your team has the necessary experience etc). Especially in the current economic climate.

    Funding may not be such a big issue if everybody on your team is volunteering their time for free (or if your team is just you) – assuming it’s a commercial product, everybody gets to share in the profit at the end. If there is any.

    My personal view on that, though, is that it’s one thing for the project leaders/decision makers to commit themselves in this way, but anybody who’s not in charge should be paid for their time (and that time is not cheap). And unless your team has three people or less, it’s probably not a good idea to let everybody be equally in charge…

    But even without wages, going through the QA process for example can be very expensive.

    “yeah, i remember finding it pretty weird that jon blow decided not to sell braid through his own site at all, only through steam etc. on the pc – it felt like he was throwing away money.”

    I guess it depends on what kind of deal was struck. He may have taken a higher percentage for giving them the exclusive.

  • Dodger

    @Anthony Flack,

    Okay (this’ll be a off-topic), but what about Cletus Clay? Will it be available for PC as well as XBLA? Is there any chance of it hitting the PSN Network? These questions need answering, because if not, then I’m gonna have to jump on you like a goomba and squish *you* like a piece of clay!

    In other words, I wanna play your bloody game when it comes out but I’m certainly not buying another 360… So, just tell me yes, it will be multi-platform so I can refrain from violence.

  • paul eres

    in related news, limbo — that igf finalist and famous trailer without any more info game which looks like a 2d ico — was recently announced for release for every console (xbla, wiiware, ps3), but not for pc. i too hope this doesn’t become a trend, even though i own an xbox i didn’t for a long time and i know what it’s like to not own any of the major consoles and be cut off from great indie games.

  • Anthony Flack

    @Dodger – You know, I’m not actually sure if I’m supposed to say… uh, but I will say that AFAIK we have every intention of releasing a PC version, although 360 version will be first. PSN I would say is rather unlikely at this point.

    And you know, in this case it has nothing to do with getting approval, and everything to do with how we ended up getting funding. Heck, if it were up to me we’d release our game on absolutely everything that could run it.

    But yeah, making console games is like falling into this web of complex business negotiations, where nothing is ever as simple as common sense would suggest.

  • Anthony Flack

    For example, IIRC one of the conditions for being on PSN was that a certain percentage of content had to be exclusive to that version. Every platform holder has their own set of peculiar conditions you have to meet.

    It’s stuff like this that’ll keep HG101 busy for years to come…

    So I agree that in some regards, console development is not really an indie experience, even for an indie company.

  • Dodger

    @Anthony Flack,

    Well it’s good to hear that you do have the intention of releasing it for the PC. I completely understand why it might not be possible to release it on any other console, that’s part of the business of dealing with these companies, and like you said it also had to do with funding. But, perhaps there will be a way to have it brought to the PSN eventually. Braid was eventually brought to PSN so perhaps after a period of time Cletus can make the jump as well. Of course, it all depends on what sort of contracts and agreements you may have made but I’m sure you’re not allowed to talk about all of it in detail. The thing is, I guess that’s one of the necessary evils of dealing with any large distributor, you do have to follow their guidelines, and that’s where the “indie” experience starts to become a little muddled and muted. It doesn’t mean you’re no longer an indie developer, but you are forced to give up some of the freedom.

    @Paul Eres,

    It’s good to hear Limbo will be cross platform but that would be kinda crappy if it didn’t make it to the PC. Again, these games really do deserve to be played by as broad an audience as possible, if for no other reason than games like Halo and Call of Duty are burning peoples brain cells faster than drugs or alcohol… alright, I’m exaggerating, but I still believe indie games are every bit as important as the blockbuster mainstream titles if only for the variety and sometimes unique experiences they provide.

  • paul eres

    @anthony flack: in my experience it’s been the opposite. i’ve had no problems getting my game funded, but i’ve had very bad luck getting consoles to allow them; immortal defense for instance had started in the process of getting a version for xbla and for wiiware, only to have both fall through for various reasons. whereas i’ve set up kickstarter requests and gotten funding from my fans pretty easily. maybe i was taking the wrong approach or something, but in my experience funding is a lot easier than getting on consoles; even getting on steam is a problem for me (they don’t respond to emails).

  • Ninomojo

    @ Paul Eres:

    I just want to point at an important nuance, relating to your earlier comments: In the case of releasing a game on XBLA, WiiWare, Steam, AppStore, the hardware manufacturer is NOT the publisher, but the distributor only. (Sony does insist on publishing everything I think).

    That means all the burden and responsibilities of the publisher are yours, like getting the proper ratings, protecting your brand(s) and trademark(s), writing the manuals, handle user support etc. It’s a big job, and they’re not doing it, they’re just making you game available on their store and give you a cut of the money.

    You have near total control over your game when you publish it on those services.

    Side note about Indie Fund: that’s absolutely terrific news and I sure hope it pays. I can already imagine, if succesful, how Indie Fund is gonna be in 15 years: humongous with a board of directors and shareholders and not financing “risky” titles hahaha. I’m joking, I hope it never “grows” to this point.

    Also, I’ve been reading in some thread here at TIGsource and elsewhere some stupid thing about Jon Blow (he speaks with a “superior” tone or takes himself too seriously etc.). Well, look how good his seriousness is for the community. Indie Fund is the best video games related news in a long time. Now I’m really feeling a change of times, it’s 2010 for f*ck’s sake, I’m glad this is finally happening.

  • Dodger


    I can’t speak for Paul, but I don’t think that’s what he was talking about. I think Paul was referring to the difficulty of getting a game actually on distributable services such as PSN, XBLA, WiiWare, Steam, etc. etc… The big nuts are always harder to crack.

    However, when you say “the developer has total control”, I don’t really believe that. If that was the case I’m sure the people at Introversion would have released Darwinia+ a while ago, and Ska Studios would have released The Dishwasher sooner. I’m just saying if it was their choice. But, if you’re talking about creative control, well then perhaps that’s true… Maybe Anthony Flack could answer that one (in regards to XBLA and Microsoft at least) since he’s going through the motions with Cletus Clay right now.

    But again, I think what paul was talking about was how difficult it is to get a game picked up by these big distributors (aside from throwing a game onto XBLIG – and as we all know, 95% of those titles are crap).

  • paul eres

    @ninomojo – yep, adamatomic mentioned that distinction — i tend to use the words interchangeably. i’m not sure what the word is for the platform holder. i don’t think merely ‘distributor’ really applies either though, since they do more than just distribution.

    and even though they don’t publish the game, they do make you go through a lot of testing and paperwork and hoops and so on if you want your game on their consoles, and you do need to spend a lot of time in negotiations; it’s a time-consuming and challenging process, and they tend to somewhat arbitrarily change their minds in the middle of it, without any reasoning given.

    also, i agree that there’s a lot of creative control still held by the developer, but it’s not total. remember how microsoft chose what part of braid the demo would be, against jon blow’s wishes? the console owners tend to hold all the cards there, indie devs need them more than they need indie devs, so they can often do whatever they want.

  • Anthony Flack

    Yeah, the platform holder is a bit more than just a distributor; for example your XBLA release has to fit into the release schedule that is decided by Microsoft; you can’t just release it when it suits you.

    And yes, there are hoops! But at least the hoops are well defined in advance, not changed on a whim as Apple seem to be doing with the iPhone store. The initial design document we submitted to Microsoft/Sony etc was around a hundred pages long; very detailed.

    The developer still has creative control, but there are the occasional non-negotiable points, is all. Particularly where the release is concerned. I can’t say that a lack of creative control has been a problem for me as a game designer, but your schedule in particular is set largely in advance so you need to be very organised. Or in my case, partner with somebody who is organised. Oh, and contract negotation involves lawyers and can take a LOOONG time.

    @paul – first you have to pitch them something they are interested in. And it would very much help if you could show that you have prior console experience (I don’t, but my team does). It’s probably a lot easier to fund something like Immortal Defence as an indie PC release on a shoestring budget, but if you wanted to get console platform holders interested, I think you’d need a graphical upgrade for starters. Even if the gameplay is fantastic, you still need to make sure that the game looks like a “premium” title, from the very first screen-shot.

    I don’t think any of the platform holders are too interested in green-lighting projects at the lower end of the budget scale right now. You’ll probably find it much easier to get green-lit for a project with a budget of >$250,000… provided you can find the funding…