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Fullbright’s Steve Gaynor warns developers that “expectations are very high” for new indie titles

Tough times ahead for indies, says Steve Gaynor

Speaking at DICE yesterday, Fullbright’s Steve Gaynor warned new indie developers that tougher times are coming compared to “the first wave” of developers – like Gaynor, himself – who rose to prominence thanks to digital platforms and low-cost development. 

“When the first wave came out all they had to worry about was AAA,” said Gaynor. “They had this proposition of something different that didn’t cost $60 that people were saying was really cool. But the thing that is happening now is that those guys are making their follow-ups and those games are being marketed and perceived differently than the first wave, which were surprises. Expectations are very high.”

Next to short, minimalist titles and pixelated rogue-likes sit ambitious open world games, MMOs and sprawling RPGs. The line between indie developers and their larger counterparts is becoming more and more blurred.

Gaynor noted that Jonathan Blow presented his post-Braid project The Witness on stage at the PlayStation 4 launch and that indies are now competing for press and attention using traditionally AAA methods like creating fancy trailers or hosting press events. “Now indies are much more in competition with each other,” he said.

It’s a larger market now, though. Indie games aren’t just things you hear about from word of mouth alone; they’re pushed on Steam, covered pretty extensively by press and frequently end up plastered all over Youtube in the form of let’s plays. But while the audience size expanding, Gaynor doesn’t think that media coverage will continue to increase along with it. New games from big names will be the focus, and there will be less space to discuss new titles.

Gaynor believes that successful developers could make it easier for fresh faces to get noticed. “Those of us who have fans who are excited about out next game have the power to funnel some of that attention and can be part of the solution to make sure that the most exciting new games are getting the attention they deserve.”

While there have been arguments about how inclusive or exclusive it is, one benefit of there being an indie developer community, of sorts, is that it has the potential to foster new talent or simply help to promote worthwhile games.

This already happens. Legend of Dungeon developer Robot Loves Kitty put together a couple of “Supershows”, showcasing – originally – games looking for votes on Greenlight, and then expanding into Steam, Greenlight and released indie games you might not have heard about.

Today is day two of DICE, which you can watch on Twitch.

Cheers, Polygon.