If you’re as old as I am, you remember PC gaming as the only real gaming a person could do in the early 90’s. Games were developed for the PC first and ported to consoles last. PCs had the power to play and later on, the internet well before any console could figure it out. LAN parties were a thing that happened and game mods were awesome things that developers didn’t include on the game disc and charged you $15 for.
Over the past 13 years, we’ve seen PC gaming get shoved into the proverbial corner as publishers got paid to make titles exclusive to a console and as games required the newest tech to stay up to date. With that small turn, consoles became the dominant force in the industry and started making all the rules. So with next-gen consoles getting ready to be announced, how could PC gaming possibly come back to relevance? Indie gaming is our knight in shining armor.
In order to be the man, you have to beat the man (WHOOOOOOO!!)… It’s all about price and bang for the buck while being easier to develop for, which indie gaming excels at.
Cost of the console:
Now this is only the current rumors floating around, but the next gen consoles are estimated to be around $400-$600 at launch. That’s with 1 controller, possibly before a paid online subscription and before any games are bought. That makes this a really expensive hobby to have when all the console really does is play games. Consoles are jumping to be more like PCs in their architecture and while that is awesome, it quickly makes me think about current PC prices. Having both built a PC recently and having helped others choose box store PCs in the past few months, there are a few options at the $600 range for a PC that will handle current generation games and will scale nicely to next gen stuff at decent settings.
Developing for a console is an expensive task. Dev kits routinely cost several thousands of dollars each and that’s before you jump into the engine license fees and cost of development labor. Making any changes or updates requires a whole new approval process through the console manufacturer which costs even more money. Pretty much everyone has a PC already and the cost of licenses for lower end game engines are often free or a few hundred dollars. You can release on your own site or push for digital distribution platforms like Steam to take you on for only a cut of what you sell. The entry fee for PC development is so low that you are seeing indie developers jumping on that bandwagon fast and hard.
Most indie games are niche titles that rely on a stylized art direction that ultimately doesn’t kill computers in the way that Crysis3 will. Most console gamers require the hottest new graphics and a “complete” gameplay experience (both single player and multiplayer) in order to warrant the expense of the game itself at $60 and the console purchase.
Indie gaming doesn’t have those restrictions. You get niche titles like Primal Carnage where it’s simply an online class based shooter with dinosaurs, because… well fucking dinosaurs. You can get a well crafted single player experience like in Don’t Starve or FTL that doesn’t have some ridiculous catch or multiplayer that feels added on at the last minute. Simply put, you get a game that gamers made without corporations and publishers tainting the product with their studies and preconceptions.
Banging that Buck:
The thing that I love most about indie gaming is that a game only runs you $5-$20 and can last 5+ hours. While a good AAA console game can really sit well with you, they are often $10 per gameplay hour experiences. A great indie game is often under $1 per gameplay hour, while still giving you an amazing experience that will sit with you just as long. Once you add in the Indie Humble Bundle group, you can get an even better bang for your buck by picking up a few games for under $10. No bargain bin in any retail store will ever let you do that and they certainly wouldn’t be good new games if you could find one.
Just as an example, I picked up Dustforce on sale for $5 and got the soundtrack to go with it. Dustforce is a really cute little game with really awesome backing tracks. The soundtrack is something that I’m listening to right now as I write this and it still rocks. The total entertainment I got for $5 is simply something that AAA console gaming can’t get you.
While not all indie games are gems, they certainly are worth checking out and keeping an eye on. Keeping on the Humble Bundle newsletter is an absolute must and supporting indie developers is something we all need to do. Check out some of the games I mentioned here in the article and go to Steam Greenlight to thumb up some cool games. Bring back PC gaming by supporting indie gaming.