Mobile platforms have always been a key driver for the rise in independent development. Early on, they offered compact experiences from new developers — low-stakes games with low expectations that allowed developers with limited budgets build up to more ambitious ideas.
But the mobile space has grown steadily alongside independent development. Now juggernauts like Apple and Google have committed themselves to building complex and competitive platforms to support the widening gaming-on-the-go phenomenon, and never has this been more clear than with Apple’s latest move to add a permanent indie games section, dubbed the Indie Game Showcase, to its multi-billion dollar app store.
So what does this move mean for independent games and their creators? And what does Apple’s commitment to independent development signal for mobile gaming, and the industry at large?
Bubbling to the surface
At the most basic level, a move of this nature by such a flagship platform is a kind of validation for independent creators, and signals a level of security for this kind of development that we’ve rarely (if ever) experienced.
It’s a huge corporation and one of the most powerful corporate entities on the planet acknowledging the importance of independent development and cementing an indefinite place for it under its broad umbrella going forward.
But beyond a nod of support, Apple’s move also indicates a level of support and curation that hasn’t existed before. Instead of being tucked into the morass of games and applications that confront an app store user, independent games now have their own dedicated area where savvy consumers can browse through them, where they’re not forced to compete with larger (and inevitably better funded) projects from AAA developers.
Apple has also stated that the Showcase won’t just highlight new games entering the platform going forward, but will highlight older games that predate the new section’s introduction. This means a level of curation for existing titles that they never enjoyed previously, and may mean a sales bump for titles that previously slipped through the cracks due to the App Stores notorious volume of new content.
A room of one's own
As any independent creator can tell you, being featured on a platform like the App Store can make or break your game, particularly in the first few hours or days of its release. The showcase will give indie games a dedicated section outside of the broader App Store for players to find games they may be interested in, representing a sometimes critical second opportunity to catch user’s attention that didn’t previously exist.
The success of this play is already evident in the number of independent titles (like Surgeon Simulator and Prune) moving to the top of the Paid apps sales charts since the Showcase debuted.
The Showcase is also broken down into subsections, like “latest additions” or “our top 25 indie games” that provide a further layer of curation. This type of additional guidance make navigating independent offerings simpler and more customizable, tools that encourage return customers. Apple has also made it clear that indie titles won’t be isolated to the new showcase, but will continue to be featured on the main Game and App Store pages.
Perhaps most importantly for independent developers, the Showcase represents Apple’s long term commitment to a stable, evolving storefront where indie games can compete with industry giants, games that make in excess of a million dollars a day, and a direct conduit to consumers looking for new or alternative experiences.