Pixel Curry: Of Indies, PS4 and GTA V

Posted on by Slackerninja
Pixel Curry: Of Indies, PS4 and GTA V

While most of the world was warmly welcoming Sony’s indie showcase at Gamescom, one entire nation thought otherwise.

Sure it was filled of non-AAA goodness such as Rogue Legacy, Samurai Gunn, N++ and Wasteland Kings but that did little to keep India’s hardest of hardcore gamers from being indifferent. Why does Sony matter? Because they’re the majority of the market and have a rabid fan following.

 

“My next gen plans postponed. I am not spending 40k for some BS indie games and KZ Shadow Fall. Almost all the games are coming on PC or current gen consoles. Absolutely no reason to buy next gen consoles for me. I will buy when some killer must play exclusives are released. 2014 end maybe.”, said one.

“I can see so many people cancelling their Pre-orders after this fail conference. I can’t understand their love for indie games,do they really think it will sell consoles? “, chimed in another.

 

“Sony is pretty much loosing (sic) the momentum here. I mean no new game at e3 & no!! New game at GC. Is this an Indie machine or what? Not that M$ came up with anything new either apart from that Fighter Within
But I’m more disappointed with Sony coz (sic) that’s what I was looking forward to.”, echoed a third.

 

“20 exclusives and more than half are indies which I will never play. “, astutely said one more.

 

“I can understand the indie push, looks like they don’t want to miss out on the next minecraft/angry birds but would have loved a few more AAA titles wouldn’t hurt.”, rationalised one.

 

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Reaction of India’s gamers to Sony at Gamescom 2013

As you can see, we’re not exactly the most receptive towards anything that’s not AAA. In a way it’s funny given that the local development scene is made up of a large number of independent studios (almost 50 and counting according to NASSCOM, India’s governing body on gaming).

The issue lies with the fact that indie games themselves don’t get much traction in local publications both online and offline. Sites like IVG and Illgaming are run completely through user contributions (no one gets paid for their stories). The volume of news to cover is rather plentiful so there isn’t much attention drawn towards what Vlambeer or Jonathan Blow are upto, let alone SuperGiant or Polytron when there’s EA, Sony and Capcom to cover.

 

Others such as GamingBolt focus on getting traffic (well, aside from pissing off talented writers). While bigger sites such as Tech2 and Digit focus on gaming, their bread and butter comes from all things tech rather than gaming.

 

Oh and the situation isn’t much different in print. Publications such as Mumbai Mirror cover gaming weekly but even then, there isn’t enough space or time to let the local populace how awesome games such as Bastion and Braid are. Don’t even get me started on some of the purported “mainline” papers who think Need For Speed is a shooter.

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According to local newspapers, NFS is an FPS.

Indies aren’t a focus for distributors and PR since these games rarely come under their purview anyway. So not only does the average FIFA buying, God of War pre-ordering Indian not be aware of his options via local content, he’s unaware of them at the store shelves too. One can argue that there’s IGN and Gamespot (both of whom get a ton of traffic from India), but how many actually visit them for anything beyond reviews of the high profile, big budget releases? All this convalescences into an environment wherein the core gamer’s scope of gaming is conditioned not to go beyond first-party exclusives and the yearly doses of Call of Duty, FIFA and Assassin’s Creed. Sad really.

 

I guess things will change only when retailers and distributors alike take a hit on AAA. It’s already happening what with stores forced to sell GTA V at a lower margin (according to several retailers).  This is due to two sudden price hikes on a game that’s been available for pre-order since last year. And they haven’t been small hikes either. After all, how often do you see a game’s standard edition be bumped up in price so much that it costs what a special edition usually does?

 

Yes, EA got the brunt of bad publicity for changing their pricing but at least they did it well in advance so as not to cause too much damage for inventory planning across retail and distribution channels. In this case, a lot of customers have already paid or been guaranteed a price prior to the hike. Asking them to pay more after they already have doled out the requisite funds isn’t the best course of action.

 

Considering that is the biggest game of the generation for India, you’d expect a little more responsibility from the distributor and publisher rather than having everyone in the supply chain operate at near break-even point (and in some cases, a loss). Instead, game stores have not been given any support whatsoever.

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Spoiler alert: no retailer in India is making as much money as they expected on this game.

Having said that, AAA gaming is a complete mess here. Too few sites have the bandwidth to cover the indie scene, industry changing publishers and distributors can’t get a fix on their pricing and the core consumer is twiddling his thumbs wishing for options. It’s akin to a dog chasing it’s tail, while set on fire, in a sea of kerosene.

 

The advantage indie games have are that cost of production is relatively low and easier to produce. If the business, brick and mortar or digital is to survive, it would do well to explore other options beyond the measly few heavy hitters. Even more so when some of them keep changing prices more often that Miley Cyrus twerks.

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