2017 comes with an amazing roster of indie games. So I decided to go through a 100 games selection done by Indieformer for a slightly deeper insight. You can find the video source right here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhQsBNyrxs8.
The game list is available here: https://goo.gl/ICRSFE
I wanted to find out what genres dominate the launches this year, how games choose to stand out, predominant art styles, how they got their funding and how they communicate with their players.
So here is my take on the 2017 indie game trends.
Out of the 100 games analyzed, 99 of them are coming out on PC, some of them being available for MacOS and Linux systems as well. 40 out of 100 will be available on consoles, with several PS4 or XBOX ONE exclusives. There are a few of them also available for the new Nintendo Switch indicating this might be a good platform to get exposure for new games and studios. 7/100 will be launching on mobile platforms as well. 6 games are VR-focused or have VR support.
The dominating genres this year are Action-Adventure titles, 56% indicating Adventure and 41% indicating Action. This means that story driven games are extremely popular and players appreciate them.
However, since these categories are extremely broad, the next, more specific categories, prove to be really interesting.
The RPG category at 15% reveals the new games are not afraid of tackling complexity and character progression.
12% of the games identify as Platformers signaling this genre is still growing strong, powered also by the Metroidvania nostalgia induced by these games.
8 developers chose to base their games around puzzle solving and placed them in very beautiful settings (e.g. the amazing 3D blueprint-like levels of Manifold Garden or the cute and colourful Snake Pass). If the success of Talos Principle and The Witness is any indicator, games with puzzle mechanics have a strong foothold.
Standing out in the crowd
Games coming out this year are truly remarkable in terms of art style and visual feeling. You can go from the low-poly minimal 3D art style of AER, an amazing choice for the serene landscapes in the game, to the fluid 2D graphics of Pyre which are fit for this combat focused game.
The fans of Pixel Art and Retro will be well treated since the art style reminiscent of 8-bit and 16-bit graphics is well represented in 20 games from the list.
However, the biggest chunk of the art style is still represented by 3D, whether realistic, low poly or cartoonish, in 60% of the games. They are almost evenly split (around 20%), establishing the low-poly as a solid art style.
Most of the games chose a single player experience, however, there is a resurgence of co-op and local multiplayer, with 20% of the games having at least one of these features.
How big are the studios?
The indie studios in this list are predominantly small, with 64% having teams of under 10 and some of them being also one-person operations. 75% of the studios have under 20 people, which makes these games even more amazing if you take into consideration their studios’ available resources.
Money, money, money
Crowdfunding provided a good source of funding for 25% of the games, with Kickstarter ruling supreme as the main platform for that. Two projects either canceled or failed to meet the minimum pledge for their campaigns. 8 games chose to go with Steam Early Access for an extra revenue stream and 2 games used Indie Fund and the Vienna Business Agency for funding.
In spite of the serious drop in total funding for video games on Kickstarter, this platform still remains a viable choice.
The games that chose a publisher most likely had a financial deal as well, so the landscape for game funding is made from crowdfunding, publisher deals and pre-sales on Early Access platforms such as Steam and Itch.io.
In terms of public validation, 65% of the games chose Steam Greenlight while 5% are available on Itch.io. With the disappearance of Steam Greenlight and the Steam access price increase, Itch.io is likely to grow as a platform for early access and public validation.
10/100 studios mention having outsourcing services such as game development, art or even video editing, UX/UI design and graphic design.
Getting out into the world
39% of the games chose a publisher for their game and 53% will self-publish their game. A third of the games who have a publisher (other than the studio) are split between Devolver Digital (5), Adult Swim (5) and the relative newcomer 11 Bit Studios (3), famous for This War of Mine.
Studios have chosen different channels to communicate about their projects. 47 have a separate game website and 57 have a studio web-site. In terms of social media, Twitter is the platform of choice for 89 studios, followed by YouTube (80) and Facebook (78).
In terms of activity and engagement, YouTube is primarily used for posting gameplay videos and trailers so it’s rather minimal.
37 studios use IndieDB as a platform for blogging and receiving feedback from their users and 10 use Instagram to promote their game art and also their events. 38 studios use also other platforms such as Tumblr (as a game blog), Twitch or SoundCloud proving that your soundtrack can become a good promotional tool.
So enjoy 2017, it's gonna be quite a year for indie productions!