What's Next for the Indie Game Scene?

Published: April 15, 2015 1:00 PM /


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With the success of Braid in 2008, we saw an explosion of platformers that has only recently slowed down. Are we just getting tired of seeing so many of them? Braid, FezLIMBO, Super Meat Boy foreshadowed a mountain of platformers that have bogged down Steam and saturated the indie game scene, which opened the way for something new to take its place.

I'd argue we are now seeing the rise of the roguelite/roguelike (here's a great article that distinguishes the two), but who knows how long that will last. These last couple of years have seen quite a few great roguelites released, starting with the likes of SpelunkyFTL, and Binding of IsaacMore and more indie game developers seem to be gravitating toward the genre, likely for many of the same reasons that many originally were drawn to making platformers:

  • Many recent indie games in the genre have been given high esteem, like those listed previously and quite a few since like Rogue Legacy or Risk of Rain. 
  • It's far easier to get away with a smaller budget on something like the art style/animations than if doing other genres that almost, or do, require a 3D space.
  • Roguelikes/roguelites, just like platformers, have easy ways to extend the amount of gameplay it can offer.
  • Both genres offer a reasonable amount of variety within, allowing for wide appeal in terms of both audience and developer interest in trying something new.
  • And finally, both are easy to pick up and can be played quickly without all that much of a time commitment.
There are probably even more similarities, but those seem, at least to me as an observer, the most significant reasons for indie game developers to gravitate towards the genre. Right now there isn't a lot of complaining to be had as we are still all continually seeing great games produced with little overlapping. The well has yet to run dry.

But I fear that will not be the case forever and that there will be some kind of Shovel Knight-esque crescendo that will bring a close to its dominance. Now, Shovel Knight only came out not too long ago, so I may be calling this too early, but I would argue, that at least to me, the amount of platformers coming out made me largely uninterested in any announcement of one. Shovel Knight was a huge exception to what had been going on recently, which may have helped make it the huge success it was due to it being a great breath of fresh air in something that was largely becoming stagnant due to saturation.

This phase of roguelikes/roguelites doesn't seem to have hit that moment yet, and I can't really predict when that will be. But considering the great many that are coming out, and are planning to come out, it may be sooner than we all would think.

That only leaves one question, what's next? That of course is only true if you accept what I have presented, which is admittedly purely anecdotal, but from someone who spends a reasonable amount of time paying attention to the indie game scene and talks with a lot of people who do as well.

I may be wrong about there being certain phases to the indie game scene, but roguelikes/roguelites are definitely incredibly popular at the moment, which I don't think people can deny. So I could put it another way: what will be the next big genre we see an explosion of games from? I'm not entirely sure but I would bet that it has to do with many of the same reasons I believe platformers and then roguelikes/roguelites did, which I listed above - the single most important of which I believe to be the ability to get away with consistently being able to be produced using 2D graphics.

What is the next genre that will take the indie game scene by storm? Have we already seen the next genre's Braid? 


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