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When Indie Games Go Mainstream: Why Popular Appeal Isn’t a Bad Thing

July 6th, 2022 by Clark Kent Comments

Indie developers command respect from players the world over. Take, for example, Viridi. This game was developed by Zoe Vartanian, Badru, Isa Hutchinson, and Michael Bell. The aim of the game is to grow and nurture plants in real-time. It was published by Ice Water Games in 2015 and, despite its niche and somewhat simple premise, it was a hit on Steam.

Over 8,000 players gave it a “very positive” rating, which reinforces the idea that indie games can be as popular as multi-million-dollar creations. Moreover, it proves that games don’t have to be multi-layered, multi-level epics to be fun. Something that’s outside of the norm but well-crafted can be just as impressive as a mainstream hit.

Indie Games Can Crossover

Indie games have always had a place in the industry, but they’ve done more than occupy a niche. Certain indie games have broken through and become mainstream in recent years. Not only have they broken through, but they’ve also spawned new trends. For example, we’ve all heard of Undertale. Developed by Toby Fox, this indie classic was released in 2015. The premise was simple: you’ve been dropped into an underworld filled with monsters and your goal is to get back above ground to safety.

On first inspection, this game doesn’t look much. The graphics are, respectfully, basic, and certainly not a match for modern hits like Call of Duty. However, that doesn’t matter because the gameplay is engaging and entertaining. As well as improving your hit rate by timing attacks, you can use the battle system to negotiate your way out of danger. Add to this a unique soundtrack, and Undertale went from an underground hit to a mainstream legend.
Starting New Trends

This focus on gameplay rather than aesthetics is why a lot of indie games go mainstream. We’re not saying they don’t look good; a lot do. However, with limited budgets, indie developers often put more effort into a game’s dynamics than its looks. The same could be said for online casino games in the late nineties.
When developers at Playtech combined random number generator technology with digital graphics, a new genre was born. Online games that mirrored the dynamics of a real blackjack table or slot became a reality. They didn’t look great, but the gameplay was engaging.

Fast-forward to today and the online casino industry is worth upwards of £4 billion in the UK alone. More significantly, it’s a global industry. From the US to countries as far-flung as the UAE, casino gaming is popular. Why? Like Undertale, it was a matter of timing and, of course, the entertainment factor. Casino games have always been popular, all that was missing was the technology to make them easily accessible online. As the internet gained momentum and smartphones began to take hold, the industry grew.

A Concept that Broke Through

Essentially, online casino games went from niche products to global hits because they evolved in sync with the internet. Such is the level of popularity now, there are dedicated sites that review and rank iGaming providers, to make sure customers are well informed. If you look at the list of online casinos in the UAE on ArabianBetting, the best have been ranked based on the choice of games they offer, how secure they are and which have the best-value promotions. From digital slots to live dealer tables that combine webcams and RFID trackers, there’s a wealth of options.

Accessibility and diversity have made casino gaming popular with a broad demographic. According to a report by the UK Gambling Commission, both males and females across all age categories have played these games in one way or another. Therefore, just like Untertale, we can say that a niche product has not only gone mainstream but created a new trend.

Of course, we all know that there’s a certain desire to keep indie games off the radar. The idea that only a select few are privy to the wonders of a niche product has a certain appeal. However, there are times when indie games are too powerful to keep away from the limelight. Rather than baulk at that, we should embrace it.

Any time something outside of the mainstream becomes popular with the general public, it’s a testament to the quality of the indie gaming scene. What’s more, it can inspire budding developers to take a chance on their own ideas, and that’s something we should celebrate.

Usually very busy as, em, professional cos-player but also enjoy putting fingers to buttons from time to time.