Indie games still a strong play

I wasn't so much surprised as pleased to see an article in Wired describing independent game development as a healthy industry.

With so many computer and console games costing millions of dollars to develop, produce, and market, and with the seemingly enormous power of a small number of retailers to control offline distribution, it is good to see attention being brought to the innovative gameplay and distribution models of independent games developers.

While it is certainly true that you won't be able to compete head-to-head in a first person shooter with a small amount of resources, the next big game trend may well be a device invented in the proverbial garage.

With the Internet as a chief mechanism for discussion, marketing, distribution, and even in some cases a strong part in the gameplay itself, small developers are creating innovative product and getting it directly to users.

The article focuses mostly on PopCap Games, the developers of Bejeweled, an online-only Java-based game that evolved into an online and offline game.

PopCap is particularly interesting because they started out small with a series of well-regarded online-only games, but found that in order to make better money they needed to offer a richer experience and offline gameplay that required them to create downloadable OS-native versions. They have been quite successful, providing Macintosh, Windows, and Palm versions of their games.