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Published on September 24th, 2013 | by Chris Scott

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Question of the Week: Will Bigger Publishers Try to Move in on Indie Space?

Welcome to Critically Sane’s Question of the Week, where we do our best to answer an inquiry posed to us by the community. Have your own question? Tweet it to us @criticallysane or put it in the comments below! This week’s question comes to us from @Boots_33

Now that indies seem to have killed the mid-tier, do you think bigger pubs will try their hand at similar games?

Independent developers have certainly made a name for themselves and mid-tier development has all but ceased to exist during the latter half of this generation of games. That said, I don’t know if I would say they killed off the mid-tier games. Mid-tier developers and publishers, most notably THQ and Midway, closed up shop this generation because of a variety of factors, none of which I think can be laid at the feet of independent developers.

THQ in particular was attempting to compete in the AAA gaming space. With big budget games like Homefront they tried to compete with EA and Activision. Except, they didn’t have the money or experience to play with the big boys and ultimately faltered on multiple occasions. Those missteps caused them to make more and more bad decisions in an effort to try and make things right. THQ was unable to right the ship and closed up shop.

Regardless of who or what killed off the mid-tier, they are effectively gone. This does leave open the door for big publishers to try their hand at what I’ll affectionately call art-house games. In fact, Sony has dabbled in this type of game all generation. From Flow to Flower to Journey, Sony has played the indie card quite a bit. And they have played it to much success, with Journey winning numerous industry awards last year, including more than a few game of the year awards.

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Sony shouldn’t be alone in this venture though, nor do I feel they will be. The model Sony has adopted is very similar to the one they work with in film. While many know Sony Pictures for inflicting films like After Earth and Grown Ups 2 on the film-going public, they’ve also released “independent” critical darlings, Before Midnight and Blue Jasmine. Their big budget successes fund their more artistic endeavors. It is a system that seems to work quite well.

I think companies like Electronic Arts, Activision, Ubisoft and Microsoft must have seen Sony’s success with this type of strategy and will be adjusting their own ever so slightly to try and get in on the action. Hopefully this means that more artistic fare can and will come from big time publishers and we can get our Call of Duty’s as well as our Bastion’s, our Dragon Age’s as well as our Brothers’, and our Halo’s as well as our Gone Home’s. We ultimately can have our cake and eat it too.

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  • My Name is Earl

    I think we’ll see a lot of developers forgo that space to focus on mobile/tablet/browser based games.
    Perhaps cheaper to make, easier to tie into a product and really a low barrier of quality is expected.

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