Are We Indie?

Anyone who follows the games industry will know that Indie games have taken off in a big way. The advent of low priced downloadable games on consoles, and eventually handhelds, has made it easier to design, create and sell a game without having financial backing or selling yourself to the highest bidding publisher.

I’ve done some research on the matter and there doesn’t really seem to be a consensus on what makes a developer ‘Indie’. Perform a Google search, and you’ll find dozens of debates on the definition of Indie. There are some overarching themes, such as being artistically and financially independent, but when it comes to teaming up with a publisher or having employees, it starts to get complicated.

When we started out, some ten years ago, we made Toki Tori for Game Boy Color with absolutely no budget. We spent a great deal of time on the game in our spare time and used imported flash-cart tools to run our code because we were not part of the Nintendo developer program. So far so Indie, I presume.

Then we met a guy who had the crazy idea of shopping our game around at E3. The rather unexpected result was us landing a publishing contract with Capcom, including a pretty good amount of money up front. So long Indie status, right?

But does accepting money for your hard-earned work mean you are not Indie? Do you have to suffer financially to be called Indie? Is it not possible to have marketing when you are an Indie? Are the guys from 2DBoy not Indie because part of their well-deserved success can be attributed to being promoted heavily by Nintendo, one of the biggest publishers in the world?

Two Tribes is a privately owned company, no funding involved, we have about a dozen people working on several games, some partially funded, some original concepts, some ports of great existing games. But still, with each and every title we try to go the distance and make it into a great experience. I don’t think I can end the debate by coming up with a great definition of my own, but I do know I’d like to think of Two Tribes as an indie developer.

Perhaps I’m too close to it though, so I’m going to ask you the question: ‘Are we Indie?’

Collin, Sunday November 14 2010