Innovation of Indie developers is forcing the AAA industry to take notice
Indie game developers are giving AAA titles a run for their money on mobile.
Top publishers such as Ubisoft, Bandai Namco, Square Enix and others have embraced mobile and are releasing some of their best titles on the platform. They are looking at Indie devs who have cracked the mobile space for ideas and inspiration. Android and iOS marketplaces have made it possible for Indie developers to compete directly with the big budgets of AAA publishers and often the biggest winners on the platform are smaller indie titles. Top developers for mobile such as Rovio (Angry bird), Zeptolabs (Cut the rope) and Imangi (Temple Run) started off as Indie devs before making it big with their respective IPs.
Here is why AAA developers are looking up to Indie talent
They take huge risks
There are always devs who thrive on making ‘me too’ games but many have dedicated themselves to experimental projects with innovative gameplay. They have to keep people interested without gimmicky graphics or marketing so the core game mechanics and IP are the hub of innovation. This is unlike top AAA publishers who minimize their risks by porting successful console or PC games to mobile. AAA publishers do not develop games keeping mobile audiences in mind and instead focus on console or PC and this leads to shoddy adaptations of their games for mobile platforms often compromising on the control schema or scaling down the gameplay.
They are quicker to respond to customers
Indie developers are attentive to the pulse of the market. They put all their money into their projects and it is often a critical hit or miss as there is little if any buffer. They are quicker to modify content, fix bugs, add features as compared to their AAA counterparts. AAA publishers are more impervious to negative feedback and are a bit more sluggish when it comes to updates, fixes, and dealing with backlash. An EA or a Ubisoft can afford to ignore negativity but smaller publishers cannot.
They are open to experimenting with graphics
The mobile platform is more open to casual graphics ‘look and feel’. Experimenting with graphics is the norm in mobile titles. The conventional AAA logic of making games more ‘lifelike’ or ‘realistic’ may not yield expected results in spite of the added costs and difficulties. Minecraft is an example where the ‘pixelated’ retro graphical style became a big hit with players. Supercell with their ever recognizable Clash of Clans characters is also a testimony to how an alternative approach to developing unique graphics assets can often pay off.
Image Courtesy: Minecraft.net
They pioneer fascinating new gameplay styles
Mobile gamers are open to experimentation as these games are free to play (Most monetize through IAP) and in turn, mobile gaming is open to experimenting outside conventional genres. This leads to them combining or spawning new genres altogether. Augmented Reality (Location based gameplay) is the flavour of the season due to the thumping success of Pokémon Go and gamers are awaiting new offerings in the space. The genre is now proven to have many takers and has created a niche for similar games to thrive in. New AR titles such as ‘Delta T’ (First AR MMORPG for mobile) and Father.IO (AR FPS) are cementing the AR genre and gameplay.