Could you imagine seeing Walmart advertising themselves as a ‘mom & pop shop’? You would laugh yourself to tears – sort of how Barnes & Noble tried to play that they were a ‘local bookshop’ back in the 80s and 90s as they rapidly killed off the REAL local bookstore. Well … now the trend is coming to gaming.
Over the last few years the ‘indie’ game has come to earn a very special place for gamers. Created by a very small company – often one or two people – these games satisfy a niche that is underserved by the massive behemoths such as EA. In my favorite genre – RPG – there has been a renaissance of games from companies such as Spiderweb, Rampant, Basilisk, and Soldak. These guys have given us quality writing, engaging gameplay, and countless dozens of hours of fun that have been missing for years.
But now EA has released their own ‘indie bundle’. Yes, the EA who bought and ruined Bioware, who recently EARNED ‘Worst COmpany in America’ by being one of the most obnoxious companies and seemingly bent on abusing their customers as much as possible.
The largest company in gaming is trying to lay claims to being ‘indie’. It could mean two things: either EA are being scumbags or ‘indie’ has jumped the shark.
Rock Paper Shotgun says the latter … but I say ‘both’. Here is some of what they said:
So EA has its own indie bundle now. Yes, I’m aware that hardly makes any sense. At the very least, each game is part of the EA Partners program, which means the devs do, in fact, own their IPs – not EA. That said, it’s all a bit silly, right? Especially in the past year or so, EA’s once again become synonymous with gaming’s fe-fi-fo-fumming, goose-that-lays-golden-eggs-milking corporate side. It is, to be frank, the near-comically polar opposite of the indie “scene.” Clearly, though, EA’s trying to evoke a certain reaction by co-opting that word. But that, in itself, strikes me as problematic, because gaming’s least gentle giant is right: “indie” has a connotation now, and it’s very much coloring the expectations of gamers and indie developers alike. To be a developer of independent games and to be “indie” are now two entirely different things.
Ultimately, then, “indie” – once a term that stood for freedom of expression and unbridled experimental spirit – has now become a ponderous yolk. In many ways, it limits developers and players alike just as much as labels like “triple-A,” “first-person shooter,” and “Zynga employee.” And yet, all of those designations (yes, even the last one) hold an incredibly small amount of water. I mean, what’s Reset? Is it indie? Triple-A? It’s also first-person, but certainly not a shooter. And it uses the term “co-op,” even though it’s strictly single-player. So then, what could we possibly call it?
Where I agree is in how the term ‘indie’ has come to have a certain cachet – it is the hipster update of ‘two guys in a garage’ from the 70s. As a result it is over-used, and has quickly come to mean anyone who isn’t owned by EA/Activision/Ubisoft/etc.
Where I disagree is the connotation that EA was correct in co-opting the term. They are doing what they always do – storming into territories where there is success and trying to milk it for whatever they can before leaving it in a ruined state. That isn’t good for ANYONE.
But the term still does have meaning, and if you look at the games listed by EA, you might see what I mean. Indie has always been about the direct developer control of creation and distribution. Well, totally over control but only somewhat over distribution.I mean, how do you think that PopCap and other small casual developers got games into Wal-Mart? Or into places like Big Fish Games? There have ALWAYS been these sorts of deals.
Which brings us to the EA bundle – if you look you see Shank and DeathSpank and their sequels. These never really were indie games, but are from small developers and have been in a number of bundles since release – and are seeing even broader coverage with this bundle. So in a way that is a ‘good thing’.
But … whereas I try to support pretty much every ‘indie bundle’ that comes along, I very specifically WILL NOT buy this one, and will also not recommend it … despite loving the games I have played and thinking the other two look pretty cool as well. It just … well, as I say EA *deserved* the title they won from The Consumerist – so WHY would I want to give them money to ruin the indie name as well?