Why Indie Games Fail To Keep Their Place In The Spotlight

Most indie games fail to stay relevant in the long run even after having highly successful launches.

Story Highlights

  • Indie games have been at an all-time high by claiming most of the successful titles of the year so far.
  • However, after spending their early weeks covered in spotlights, they follow a sad trajectory into shadows.
  • Although this pattern has some exceptions, the natural outliers of any normal trend.

We can all agree that, lately, indie studios have been producing better games and content than most AAA studios. The past few years stand witness to games like Lethal Company, Fall Guys, and Stardew Valley, which topped the charts with just the efforts of relatively small developer teams.

However, one overlooked aspect is that most of us quickly forget about these games. We can blame our short attention spans or insufficient content in the game, but the overall result is that almost every indie title fails to engrave itself in the spotlight as a AAA game might.

How Indie Games Become Popular

The video game industry is extremely cutthroat and competitive. Loosely speaking, there is a less than 1% chance of an indie game from a relatively small developer finding success. However, some legendary games have bet against those odds and won.

Some examples are indie titles like Stardew Valley, Palwold, Lethal Company, Among Us, and many more sensations that took the internet by storm. Each managed to target a market in unique ways that set them apart. This Reddit reply by u/RealityBeholder captures the effort and thought behind an indie game quite well.

byu/Inner_Wallaby from discussion

These games showcased true passion, commitment, and dedication from their respective developer teams, who properly understood what the players wanted. It is easy to say their success was all luck, but it would be foolish to disregard the years of effort that go into games we all love and occasionally play now and then.

Why Does The Spotlight Fade?

The answer to this question is one of the most important points game designers and producers consider when making their idea a playable reality: relevance, ensuring the game stays relevant as long as necessary to garner enough sales for profit, and ideally becoming a classic with recurring scales over many years.

Many games can be used as examples of how important this feature is. Palworld, almost everyone was talking about it in January, but it collapsed immediately in a few weeks. The chart below shows how quickly it lost relevance, which seems to be a popular trend with indie games.

Palworld player chart since its release | Source: SteamDB

One might argue that this is the case with games, regardless of whether they are indie titles. However, if you look at the history of gaming hubs (Steam and Epic Games) and their sales, it shows that AAA games generally stay relevant longer than indie games. That’s to be expected as they have a much higher budget, can keep the titles exciting with regular updates and frequent bug fixes, and offer more content on average.

Some Exceptions Of The Rule

Naturally, there are always outliers, so there are some exceptions to the rule as well. Granted, these are incredibly low in number, but that’s simply a testament to how exceptional these titles were. They managed to keep ahead of the curve and introduce something to their genre that gamers of all ages have come to enjoy and regularly replay over the last few years.

Two popular indie games as proof of the statements above are Stardew Valley and Rust. Both are extremely old games, with their releases over 5 years ago. Each of them brought something fresh to their genre and became classic titles. Stardew Valley was an overall success story from game to developer, while Rust was the ultimate streaming game that got much of its early popularity through Twitch and YouTube.

Stardew and Rust Comparison Chart
Stardew Valley and Rust player relevance chart (to date) | Source: SteamDB, eXputer

With enough support and direction, most indie games have the foundation to go far. Additionally, with the gaming market’s recent trends hinting at AAA studios’ carelessness, there has not been a better chance for Indie Studios to take the throne again.

Future Trends Of Indie Games

The future of indie studios looks pretty bright if you look at the trend of the past few years. Granted, some AAA game studios have been performing extremely well with titles like Baldur’s Gate 3, Spider-Man, and the Cyberpunk DLC Phantom Liberty.

Comaparison Chart of Games
AAA Games Vs Indie Games release comparison chart | Source: Statista

Historically, the proportion of indie studios to AAA studios with successful titles tips in favor of indie studios (refer to the chart above). However, it is important to note that there will be only a handful of AAA games in the coming months, while the release of indie games never stagnates.

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Ibrahim Akhtar is a guides & features writer at eXputer. He uses his passion for gaming to provide insightful takes in his articles. Ibrahim spends most of his time defending Baldur's Gate from the forces of the Absolute. He has accumulated more than 15 years of gaming experience, having 1000 hours in The Witcher 3 and twice as much on Skyrim V. Ibrahim has previously worked at TopTierList. You can keep up with his Steam account to stay up to date on his latest explorations.

Experience: 1+ Years || Previously Worked for TopTierList || Education: Bachelors in Data Science.

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