I attended 27 panels, demos, meetings, and interviews at last week’s Game Developers Conference 2019 in San Francisco
. I talked to a lot of people: PR reps, marketing managers, developers, publishers, CEOs, and more. And two topics stand out from my discussions:
- indie game discovery
- lagging broadband infrastructure tech
The week kicked off with a talk from Jason Rohrer, has who worked in indie games since 2005. He took on the idea of the “Indie Apocalypse”: that the market is dying up for smaller developers. From using concurrent player data on Steam, news reports, and the sales of his games, he found that while short narrative games such as Tacoma were struggling, open-ended games such as Subnautica and his One Hour, One Life were doing well. These games, he said, are streamer-friendly because they are different almost every time you play them, and they enable players and streamers to inject more of their own personalities into the experience. He called them “unique experience generators.”
This plays into discovery. Dozens of games hit Steam and the other online stores each week. At the same time, multiplayer online games like Rainbow Six: Siege, Path of Exile, and Rust are putting out regular updates to either keep their millions of players engaged or bring them back between expansions and other releases. Then throw in streamers who prefer to broadcast big games over small, new releases, and you’re getting a good picture of why indies are worried about the current system as well as the upcoming platforms from two tech mega-giants: Google’s Stadia
and Apple’s Arcade
. Both point to subscription models, and indies are wondering how they’re going to get paid under these plans — especially if they make shorter games that people play a few hours and then never come back to. And they’re concerned about subscription plans that pay per time engaged, as Apple plans to do (our Dean Takahashi confirmed this).
And this ties into the second concern: technology. Just about everybody had some thoughts about Google Stadia, which is going to be a cloud gaming platform. But broadband in the U.S is kinda a joke. It’s controlled by a few gigantic telecoms that put profits over customer service. Oftentimes, high-speed connections are anything but fast, and too many consumers deal with monthly use caps. One question I heard a number of times: How is Google going to deal with this?
And that’s my biggest question, too.
— Jason Wilson, GamesBeat managing editor