Indie Games Seem To Be Doing Better Than AAA Games

Expensive doesn't always mean better and Indie games' success against AAA titles is a proof.

Indie games are doing better than AAA games
Indie games are doing better than AAA games

A relatively recent trend in the gaming industry is that independent games seemingly perform better than their bigger counterparts. I think a big part of this trend owes to Indies’ innovation-focused mindset. The big giants usually stick to their conventional blockbuster mindset, appealing to wider audiences for a more realistic and premium gaming experience.

Key Takeaways

  • Indie games are catching up and, in some way, dominating AAA games.
  • Creativity flows in an open and unrestricted environment. Indie developers enjoy more freedom in expressing their ideas as compared to AAA developers and hence, create better games.
  • Fans also love these games as they are affordable and the short but relevant storylines accompany stable gameplay mechanics.
  • Indie games of every possible video game niche are available online. On the other hand, AAA titles focus more on generalized storylines. 

In digging up more details about it and analyzing their performance side by side, I think there are a few very obvious reasons that perfectly explain this phenomenon.

Bold V/S Playing It Safe Mindset

Indies are usually free from any kind of external restrictions and pressure from investors etc. I believe this is a big factor in their promotion as it allows developers to take bold steps, bring in innovative ideas, and execute them at their own pace. 

Indie games taking her ground in US
Indie games are taking their ground in the US (source: Statista)

On the other hand, AAA titles are mostly produced in restricted environments, where they are made only for monetarily beneficial purposes and to satisfy and fill investors’ pockets. Consequently, these soulless projects shy away from taking innovative steps and take them at a slow pace for maximum profit.

Sticking to the old-school storyline concepts while only improving graphics, etc, is also an obvious result of this conservative approach. Indies, on the other hand, produce uniquely original ideas and gameplay dynamics with little care about reactions. 

Budget Friendly V/S Costly

In most cases, the latest Indie games are cost-effective and budget-friendly as compared to their latest AAA titles. You can find the latest Indie title within a budget of $2o-$30. However, high-end AAA games usually start at $50 and go over/up to $100.

More often than not, purchasing an AAA game is not the only transaction you may have to make. Here comes the issue of micro-transactions, which now account for over 30% of the industry.

You must buy extra things inside the game to rank up fast or do things your way. This is another reason, in my opinion, that indie games generally receive more love.

My emphasis on the word ‘latest’ is very important to put the comparison in perspective, as some older AAA titles now retail below $10. Comparing these older versions with the latest Independent titles would be absurd, of course. 

Niche Focused V/S Market Focused

Triple-A games take years and often decades to make and are backed by heavy investment. Consequently, it is natural for them to appeal to a wider audience for better ROI.

Sticking to the same tried-and-tested concepts provides a storyline that everyone likes. Hence, these games are focused on the market rather than individual interests.

best selling video games of all time
AAA titles gross higher than Indies because of higher budget and huge market appeal (source: Reddit)

This is why large sums of money are invested in their marketing campaigns, which are consistent in their message and appeal to everyone equally.

Indie games usually target a specific niche to cater to their interests. This builds a unique and long-term emotional connection between the game and its players.

The success of games like Cuphead and Hollow Night for old-style action-lover players is a good example of how niched games can attract their specific audience more effectively.

Performance Oriented V/S Experience Oriented

One thing I observe in most Indie games is that they have highly optimized game mechanics. Even with low graphics, these games provide a better gameplay experience than many heavy titles. This is partly because they have shorter stories, and developers enjoy creating them.

This immersive experience, often accompanied by unique storytelling and creative art styles, surely makes them more fun to play.

The big boys, however, focus more on performance. High-definition graphics and uncapped frame rates may appeal to the eyes but require equally powerful GPUs to process them.

Most of these big names are also poorly optimized and come with lots of bugs. You might be able to afford a $60 game, but having a setup that can run it as smoothly is another problem.

Let’s say you can also afford an expensive setup, but even then, running modern games efficiently has become a troubling concern. My experience with Dragon Dogma’s disappointing release is everything that I don’t like about AAA titles.

Indie games are indeed abundant, and there are far more trashy games than fun ones. However, I think this is not a negative thing. Rather, the developers are ready to take risks and present new ideas in abundance. People, in return, accept the ones they like and ignore the ones they don’t like.

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