What Makes A Game "Indie"?

In another thread,TurinTur posted the following:

Lots of games considered “indie” has been published by someone, Matrix, Slitherine, Microsoft, Sony, Valve, etc.

To me that’s the essence of a game NOT being indie - i.e. independent. An indie game is a game self published by a small (but not necessarily) developer with no ties to a third party publisher. As soon as a contract is signed with a publisher, whether it is Microsoft or Matrix, a dependency on the publisher to be responsible for certain things (usually marketing, advertising, and distribution) is created, and that game is no longer “indie”, even if the developer is one person working in his or her parents’ basement.

If you have to ask…

Does Valve count as a publisher? What about Humble Bundle? Steam distributes, does ads and marketing on the Steam program itself and also does the sales thing. If being on Steam counts as being published, which it does by most reasonable criteria, then almost no one is indie these days.

I view Steam and Humble Bundle as distributors. Even though Steam has sales and advertises games on their front page (which the publisher or developer probably pays for), they are no more marketing the game than your local supermarket is doing marketing for Procter & Gamble when they put Tide on sale. Also, if a game is published by Sega and available on Steam (say the TW series), does that game have 2 publishers? I think not.


To me it means a game made by a small team without ties to a larger company. With Kickstarter, the budget doesn’t even have to be small even though it usually is. A small team without much budget that works at Ubisoft is not indie to me.

I think it needs 8-bit visuals, 16-bit OCRemix-style music, X-Roguelike gameplay (e.g., FPS-Roguelike, RTS-Roguelike, Point-and-Click-Adventure-Roguelike), and a wildly successful but somehow controversial Kickstarter campaign that flows into a Steam Greenlight controversy, after all of which the game must wind up dying, unsupported, at version on a Bundle sale of some sort.

I believe the term is Roguelite-like-like.

Previous thread: http://www.quartertothree.com/game-talk/showthread.php?60787-What-Does-quot-Indie-quot-Mean-in-Games


Roguelite is our word! HOW DARE YOU, ROGUIST.

Agreed. I pretty much think that if a virtual storefront does the same things that a real storefront does (advertising, sales, etc.), then it’s just simply a storefront. If Valve partook in the actual funding or development (and I don’t count Steamworks), then by default it’s attached to a large company and loses the whole indie aspect from my perspective.

In the end, however, I think I’d side with the view that a game which is developed without having to get approval from a more powerful body (“upper management”), then I’d look at it as “indie” even if it doesn’t always technically qualify: it’s at least made entirely outside of another company’s influence, and that’s the only virtue of any importance to me when deciding to give extra consideration.

I have to disagree. Or at least I think a distinction has to be made between a publisher who funds development and a deal with a publisher for marketing and distribution, but with the game production 100% funded by the developer. In the later case the deal is purely a contract similar to what a developer can have through a distributor but including also marketing. As long as the second party has no input on the game’s production, i don’t see how it disqualifies. Of course people can defend the purely semantic meaning of indie, but as with “game”, the meaning of the word has changed from what it originally signified.

It has to have Indians in it and maybe some cowboys? Or maybe Harrison Ford in it, with a kid shouting indie indie


As the late Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said of pornography, I know an indie game when I see it.

This thread was my fault right?

Ok well i have some responsibility to answer it as well as i can :)


In terms of the direct question in the thread about that game, “if an ‘Indy’ can be called so when published by Matrix”, i think the answer can be yes. In fact any publisher, big and small, can publish an ‘Indy’. It all depends on how the game was created (to qualify for the ‘Indy’ stamp), if money was given by the publisher to the ‘Indy’ developer then in that case i would say it is not an actual ‘Indy’ game, but maybe a niche game made by a small team in a traditional Publisher>Developer relationship.

It appears the creator of Qvingtitusitus…ss (whatever) is one person? That certainly helps your ‘Indy’ credential, BUT not if they work for Matrix (if this is the case here?). So i don’t know to be honest if i can call …that game…an Indy or not. It looks like it might be, and they simply shopped around for someone to help them sell the product they had made (as keeping a constant online ‘store’ presence is beyond many small Indy outfits)?

Using a publisher to sell your game does not mean you are not an Indy, if you created it all on your own, with your own effort and cash etc. The importance of that is exactly what ‘Indy’ is about vs the typical Publisher controlled developer, if you create your game without outside interference or financial help, then THAT is what being an Indy is all about. The creation of said game was all you, and not a committee of cheque writing accountants (in suits).

Does that seem ok? Did i help solve the problem i had created in the other thread? So did the TBS Chariot racing game get made all by one guy on his own efforts BEFORE he looked to Matrix to help him sell the game?

An indie game is a puzzle-platformer that iterates on a single gameplay mechanic and has a “distinct” art style of some sort. It must include at least one silhouette level, and needs an incomprehensible story that’s told in pieces as you play through the game.

Valid point. I would agree that if someone develops a game without influence from, or being beholden to, another company, it qualifies as “indie”, even if they sign a deal to have someone else publish it.

I like Craig Stern’s definition. Link contains the rationale; the short version:

A game that is both (a) developed to completion without any publisher or licensor interference, and (b) created by a single developer or a small team.

Yes, Valve is a publisher (it’s been their main business for almost a decade now), but for all intents and purposes I would say “Indie” means independently developed, rather than independently published.

An indie game is like an indie film, only a game.