Indie video games make their mark

Indie video games make their mark

PARIS - Indie video games made by tiny teams on even tinier budgets are increasingly competing with the big guys, making inroads on consoles after cutting their teeth on phones and tablets.

While a blockbuster console game by mainstream publishers can set you back as much as 70 euros (S$110), an indie - or video game produced by an independent developer - costs much less, if anything.

In a sign of their growing appeal, both Microsoft and Sony have stressed that indie games - which started around the 1970s - can be played on their new Xbox One and PlayStation 4, the latest battleground between the gaming giants.

Microsoft launched its Xbox One on Friday in more than a dozen countries including Australia, Brazil, Britain, France and the United States. It went on sale less than a week after Sony's PlayStation 4 hit shelves on Monday - which notched up more than a million sales in the first 24 hours.

The console war can only bode well for the indie movement, whose developers number in the hundreds if not thousands, from individuals on shoe-string budgets to big teams with sophisticated studios.

For Sony, that future includes bringing independent game makers into the fold.

"They are making it a lot easier for people to self-publish on the PlayStation," said Katie Hallahan of US-based Phoenix Online Studios.

"It means the player will have a good variety of games, not all shooters and action but cool stuff that is a little different," she added.

"Xbox has been noticing that and catching up."

Some indies self-publish, some enter into contracts with mainstream firms. If their product catches on, it can sell in staggering numbers up into the millions - like "Braid", touted as one of the biggest all-time indie games, "Minecraft" or "Cave Story".

"In our team, we all worked first for large (game) publishers. Most of us then left to concentrate on personal projects and escape the constraints of doing games to order," said a French games developer speaking on condition of anonymity.

"We know we will not make a billion dollars in three days like "Grand Theft Auto V" but our way of working, in a small team, allows us to be easily profitable even if our games (only) cost a few euros," he said.

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