I don’t know if it’s just my tiny corner of the Twitter-verse, but man, my feed has been weird lately. I realize that society as a whole has become more than a little extra bonus loopy as of late, and sure, social media is going to reflect that, but the sheer bitterness towards whatever things other people are enjoying has seemed – at least to me – to have ramped up a whole bunch since the start of 2022.
Through the magic of likes & quote re-tweets, I saw a tweet today from Jeff Vogel, founder of Spiderweb Software, that got me started thinking about a potential new project. He posits that the current trend of approximately 10,000 new indie games a year is too much, and throws out a suggestion to try to play even 1% of those games.
Note: In the thread that follows the original post, Mr. Vogel almost immediately corrected his math error. Ten thousand games a year is closer to 30 games a day than 300. He does not, however, back down from his original point that it’s too much.
I’m still not sure if the original point was that these indie game developers shouldn’t waste time creating, or that they should just let their passion projects fester on their hard drives. I’m a firm believer that if you want to create something, you should absolutely be creating something. Draw poorly. Write meanderingly. Make a wonky game or twelve. Give your soul the food it needs to survive this world, and if you can find someone who wants to pay you for the things you make? Take their money with a smile.
One percent is a mere 100 games, and my first thought was “That is absolutely completely doable.” Now, mind, I’m not saying it’s feasible for everyone; I have the luxury of significantly more free time than most people, a fairly broad interest in different genres, and a blog that would synergize nicely with just such a project. Several years ago now, I did a full calendar year of blogging about a different game every single day. That project was far less restrictive than this would be – I didn’t restrict myself only to new games, or even just games on Steam. In fact, I didn’t even restrict myself to PC games. If it was any kind of video game, and I played it, I could write about it.
It was just the tiniest seed of an idea, and I probably would have forgotten all about it in a day or two, but then, Mr. Vogel decided to double down.
See, I am going to enthusiastically defend the glut of indie games until the end of time. I do play them. In fact, I would wager I play far more indie titles in any given year than I do big budget games. Now obviously, this isn’t true of most people, and it’s probably not even true of most gamers. But I am glad these game exist, and that they are so readily available, and I know I am not alone. I’d be far more likely to “surrender to despair” if my only gaming choices were big budget titles that played exactly like the 27 big budget titles that came before. I love quirky passion projects, solo developers, bonkers concepts, and stories that break my heart. I want even more indie games for more types of gamers.
I’m so tired of the idea that there’s only one correct way to enjoy this hobby. I’m tired of gatekeeping. I’m just tired.
No, I feel like the biggest impediment to taking on this sort of project would be financial. Assuming an average price of $20 per indie game, this project would cost me roughly $2000 over the course of the year if I was purchasing everything I played. Obviously, I could bring that cost down with things like GamePass, bundles, and requesting review copies, but it would likely still be a hefty price tag.
At any rate, as much as I’d like to jump right on in – I have some difficulty resisting this kind of challenge, and the double-down definitely elevated the original suggestion into a challenge – I would most definitely need to give it more thought and get the parameters defined. Would demos of newly released indie titles be adequate? Would I need to do it for a calendar year, or is it something I could look at on a rolling basis (i.e. as long as the game was released less than one year from the day of posting, I’d be covered)? Where do Early Access titles fit in – would it be only the first year from EA release, or would only full-release games be applicable?
I do currently have 48 yet-to-release indie titles on my Steam wish list (with Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines 2 being the only non-indie outlier), as well as another 48 that have released since February 2021. That doesn’t even take into account available indie titles on GamePass or that are already in my Steam library.
… I kind of feel like I have to do this now. I just need to figure out the shape of the thing.
16 thoughts on “An Intriguing Prospect – Just One Percent”
I am really tempted to join just out of spite for that guy. The only problems are:
1) I am too fickle to stick to such a long term project.
2) When a game tickle my fancy I tend to play it to the exclusion of everything else. Many a plans were derailed because of this fact.
3) The economic problem. Like you, buying that many games to play would make it financially hard for me.
But I will think more about it. Depending on circumstances it might be possible for me to join in.
P.S.: The worst thing about this is before this tweet I had some respect for the guy. It is not easy to be an indie developer, even more so for as long as he has been. And he did make some games that had some interesting ideas on them. Now all that respect is lost because of one crazy, stubborn belief.
That reminds me a bit of a Swiss friend of ours who would come over to visit and complain vehemently at the supermarket about the number of choices for things like salad dressings or mustard or pickles or whatever. (She complained about everything else that was exactly as it was in Zurich as well, including us eventually, so she is no longer welcome.)
The fallacy is the idea that everybody needs to be invested in every single option. But that is not reality. I, one single person, don’t need to try every salad dressing, pickle, or indie video game. And millions of people use Steam, so you could argue that there is a new game out there this year for every few hundred people, if distributed evenly.
For consumers, having 10K games show up on the market isn’t a bad thing. For Steam though, I have to imagine that is a weight on their platform. Having 10K new games show up, even with their very lax policies, still means a lot of maintenance and supervision. That many games probably means the barrier for entry is too low because, unfortunately, most of them are not that good and probably shouldn’t be cluttering up a platform like Steam.
Eventually the supermarket stops stocking a salad dressing if it doesn’t sell.
I mean, I can entertain the argument that Steam is NOT the correct platform for a lot of things. Itch.io is great for more off-beat stuff – less “commercial” (but god, I hate that term). However, Steam seems to be fine with it, so who am I to complain about things being available to people who want them?
I cannot get behind someone (especially someone who got where they are BY MAKING THINGS) telling creators not to create because the market is saturated and everything they make is trash anyway.
In the end Steam does what Steam does. If they make enough money to be able to handle something like 60K games on their service, that is their issue.
I am always a bit bemused by the insistence that a game HAS to be on Steam for any chance of success or whatever. There are whole genres and sub-genres that don’t go there because of the huge cut the platform takes. If you want a good war game sim for example, you don’t go to Steam. Those devs have their own stores.
There was this impression about six years back if you could just get your game onto Steam that success would follow, but as Steam lowered its barrier to entry that was proven not to be the case.
I guess at least Mr. Vogel didn’t break into the oft heard indie complaint about people spending more on their morning coffee than on indie games.
I think at 1% / ~100 games in a year, I think you could with some effort keep to the good titles worth playing.
As noted in Discord, I actually think Mr Vogel’s first tweet is correct — if perhaps overstating the case a little.
I would dearly love for a better-curated environment on Steam. Allow Indie’s a way in, absolutely… But not this opening of the flood gates we’ve had for the past few years. As it opens the door not only for legitimate passion projects that are attempting, to the best of their ability, to actually be something special to a whole new category of shovelware, asset flips, and other very low effort entries that should never be foisted on anyone beyond the creator’s best mates and family. 😉
But that second tweet, oof! Clearly taken from the Blizzard school of public relations.
I am hugely in favor of curating spaces to fit your own needs – and while I can in some ways agree with your sentiment of getting rid of the asset flips, I hesitate to want to give the keys to the castle, as it were either to (a) machine learning or (b) individuals. There’s a lot of things I don’t like that other people enjoy, and who am I to try to prevent their access? IIRC, Steam has tried out a lot of different options over the years to limit submissions, and open access seems to be what works best for them. If it ends up costing them too much money, or putting excessive strain on their infrastructure, then we’ll likely see a policy change.
But for me, 1% is a ludicrously low number to expect someone to be bashing their face into things that will make them despair over the current state of indie games. I would even argue that if time & cost were no object, you could hit 10% and still (mostly) stay in your preferred genre wheelhouse and be playing decent titles. There’s a LOT of good stuff out there, and it just keeps coming.
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I don’t know… do you think someone from a company that produces games for a living might perhaps not be the most objective commentator on an issue like this? I mean, if 99% of the games were to magically vanish, wouldn’t that also be 99% of the competition?
The issue of not being able to find stuff on Steam because there’s so much stuff there is an issue with Steam, not with the stuff. I’d be open to arguments on the potential ecological impact of all that unplayed software, if there are any, but not on the existential question of whether the games themselves are valid or not. Someone made them so of course they are. They either represent self-expression or someone’s attempt to support themselves by their own efforts. Well, unless they’re literally rip-offs of other people’s work, but again, policing that is a Steam issue. You can’t moderate the behavior of law-abiding citizens on the off-chance that their entirely bona fide, legal activities make it harder to spot the criminals hiding among them.
Yeah the whole “This is how I made money, but you shouldn’t do it because reasons” really irked me.
The statement of “less than a month of trying to play indie games will cause deep despair” sent me over the edge. Like, dude. WHAT DO YOU THINK THE GAMES YOU’VE MADE ARE?
I could somewhat agree to Mr. Vogel’s first tweet but the second one seems far fetched. I see nothing wrong defending the indie devs even if I don’t play a 100 games/month. I’ve been in contact with the solo dev, Tim of a game called “Little Hats” on Steam. He asked me to play through the first few hours & test the waters. I understood that the game was obviously not polished enough & he was still excited to hear about it. He was even kind enough to give the game (at Early Access) away for free.
I came to realise the amout of time, effort & cost he had to put in himself & it’s definitely not encouraging if it releases only to be overshadowed by AAA titles just because someone said if you’re not playing enough indie games, you aren’t playing any at all -_-
It’s not by pity but mere appreciation of going through the troubles to make your own game that I defend these devs. Indie games involve little to no advertising & it’s not like adding them to Steam creates a lemon problem anyway.
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