The realm of contemporary game development seems to bear no resemblance to its not-so-distant past. The newfound accessibility of development tools has truly placed the power in the hands of the users.
Think back to the kind of video games that were coming out ten years ago; then five – chances are the ones that come to mind are those that were produced by some AAA development house – or in rarer terms, a small indie studio that got lucky in the market.
Due to the nature in which the software world of the past decade was structured, it was very difficult for a ragtag group of individuals to get together and produce something on par with what international studio behemoths could produce.
While this remains true to an extent, the modern landscape has shifted dramatically. With engine developers the likes of Unreal Engine, Unity, CryEngine, and now Amazon themselves with their recent Lumberyard project, it is becoming infinitely easier for players to put down the controller to someone else’s world and instead build their own.
This surge has seen the rise of many different forms of development houses, ranging from a plethora of different cultures, backgrounds, and work ethics. Although the sudden influx of games may seem like too much to handle, it is a good thing for the gaming industry.
There has undoubtedly been a saturation of indie titles in the past few years due to the democratization of development tools, and while many may clamor against the perceived flood of nought but vaporware titles, there is a considerable silver lining.
As in nature, competition breeds the best results: if something doesn’t work, it is iterated upon until it does – or it is scrapped and left in the refuse bin; either way, the market decides. With so many titles vying for the audience’s attention, it is typically the strongest that survive.
Triple AAA studios still reign supreme when it comes to global market penetration and multiplayer support, but that has much less to do with the ingenuity of the companies and much more to do with the capital they have at their disposal. Make no mistake, the most creative exploration of ideas is largely relegated to the indie crowd and mid-size studios – and this is great.
We’ve all seen what happens when one entity develops too large of a market share for their own good – Hollywood is a prime example of this. The quality of films that have started to dribble out of the free-flowing spout that once was in LA bear the mark of content created with far too much audience research.
There is most certainly a time and place for conducting said research, but when an overabundance of it leads to blasé films that offer nothing new or exciting, but rather condemn the viewer to sit through the same cookie-cutter plot as before, the medium suffers.
The beauty of having so many independent developers in the mix is that some of them have something original and interesting to say. Are these the ones we see gracing the top-sellers list? Not necessarily, but the mere presence of developers like these is a massive boon to a once cordoned-off industry.
International powerhouses and franchises still dominate the attention spans of gamers, but with some time, the market holds more potential than ever before.