Tag Archives | Indie Games

3 Indie Games to Watch For

Over the weekend, little pockets of downtown Culver City., Calif., became the venue of Indiecade, a festival for independent video games. I wouldn’t quite call it gaming’s Sundance — the impact of this festival still feels tiny in the greater scheme of the games industry — but it’s still a cool way to celebrate the side of gaming isn’t dominated by endless sequels and multi-million-dollar budgets.

Read on for a few upcoming indie games that you might not know about, but should.

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On Xbox 360, Super Meat Boy Finds Free Level Loophole

Free downloadable content has become somewhat of a rarity for console video games. The fees for getting extra levels and multiplayer maps approved by the console maker, and the need to cover increasingly high development costs with post-release content, means you just don’t get a lot of freebies anymore.

Team Meat, developers of the upcoming Super Meat Boy, have discovered a workaround, at least on the Xbox 360. The game — a two-dimensional throwback platformer, like Super Mario Bros. with twisted humor — will store new level data under “Title Managed Storage,” a section of Microsoft’s servers usually used for non-essential data like weather, sports game rosters and other settings. By storing level data instead, Team Meat can offer new Super Meat Boy levels at no extra charge, and at no cost to them.

To boot, what a quote from Super Meat Boy co-developer Tommy Refenes (asterisks mine): “In a world where it costs $2 to unlock content in a game that you’ve already purchased it is nice to have the power to totally say ‘f*** you’ to that system and go our own way.”

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Indies Band Together For More Pay-What-You-Want

For a short time, you can get five computer games for a dollar, or $10, or $100 if you wish.

A group of independent game developers are selling the “Humble Indie Bundle” until Tuesday, May 11, allowing buyers to set their own price on the five-game package. The bundle includes World of Goo, Gish, Lugaru HD, Aquaria and Penumbra Overture. All games are available for Windows, Mac or Linux, and are DRM-free.

There’s also a charitable angle: Buyers can allocate all, part or none of their purchase to the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Child’s Play.

Radiohead popularized the pay-as-you-wish model with their 2007 album “In Rainbows,” released as downloadable MP3s before the CD launched. It was a successful experiment, as the band made more money before “In Rainbows” went to hard copy than they made in total for their previous album, “Hail to the Thief.”

Last October, World of Goo developer 2D Boy tried the idea themselves. The combination of media exposure and love for the game resulted in more than $100,000 earned. 2D Boy also surveyed buyers, and most said their contribution was all they could afford, or that they liked the pay-as-you-wish model and wanted to support it.

The folks behind “Humble Indie Bundle” are sharing statistics in real-time. So far, the developers have raised more than $300,000, with an average contribution of just under $8. One anonymous benefactor spent $500 for the bundle, whose actual value is $80. Another fun statistic: The number of Mac and Linux buyers are roughly equal, and about half the number of Windows buyers.

I don’t think you’ll find any consumers who don’t like pay as you wish, as long as it works for the seller. All these games are more than a year old, so the bundle seems like a great way for developers to build up cash and attention for their next indie undertakings.

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Lessons From Pay-What-You-Wish Gaming

worldofgooLast week, two-man game studio 2D Boy made like Radiohead and let people set their own price for World of Goo, a game in which you construct gelatinous towers from cute little goo balls. The promotion, which has now been extended until October 25, is in celebration of the game’s first birthday.

2D Boy has now shared the sales figures, the range of prices paid, and the results of a buyer survey. Media buzz and word of mouth gave sales a hearty boost, reaching 57,000 downloads at an average of $2.03 per download, (over $100,000 even after Paypal’s 13 percent cut), but it’s more interesting to see what people said about 2D Boy’s pay-what-you-wish model.

Asked why they chose a particular price, survey respondents mostly said “That’s all I can afford right now” or “I like the pay-what-you-want model and wanted to support it.”

“How much the person feels they can afford seems to play a much larger role in the decision than how much the game is worth,” the developers wrote on their blog. Incidentally, most people said the game should normally cost $10, not the $20 it usually sells for.

The data is enlightening enough on its own, but there’s one point I want to bring up: Shortly after World of Goo was released last year, 2D Boy estimated that piracy rates were roughly 90 percent. Given the survey responses from the sale, I’ve got to think there’s a correlation between piracy and the feeling that a game’s price isn’t justified.

2D Boy doesn’t draw any conclusions, saying that other developers would have to try the idea under different circumstances to get a better picture of what’s happening. They’re right, because World of Goo is an exceptional game and a critical darling. But other developers should take this model for a spin to see if its legs are sturdier than goo.