Once upon a time, the term 'indie' meant you were making games on your own with little outside help or support, and the results were often basic or crude when compared to 'AAA' titles. These days, the distinction has become harder to make, as games that are considered to be 'indie' titles are often as polished and playable as those which have come through the publisher system – and we're also a point where characters from games like Undertale and Shovel Knight are appearing in big-budget releases like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Given the shifting nature of the industry, do we really need to categorise games as 'indie' or 'AAA' anymore? Artist Paul Veer – who worked on Cadence of Hyrule and Sonic Mania – thinks the debate is pointless and doesn't do the games industry any favours.
Speaking to Nintendo Force magazine, Veer said:
I think it definitely is harder to describe these days, but I also don’t think it’s really important to make that distinction, at least not for me personally. In the end we all just make games, and recognizing that rather than trying to split up the industry and fight over who is or isn’t AAA or indie is a very good thing if you ask me.
He adds that the aforementioned cross-overs are proof that the divide between indie and publisher-led titles has never been less relevant:
It feels like it’s making collaborations between individuals/indie developers and larger studios possible and more common. And I don’t mean just stuff like Shovel Knight or Undertale being represented in Super Smash Bros. You’re seeing a bunch of smaller studios taking on larger franchises nowadays, with games like Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap, Cadence of Hyrule, Streets of Rage 4, and River City Girls all happening in the past few years. Or even something like Toby Fox doing the soundtrack for Game Freak’s Little Town Hero. I genuinely hope we get to see lots more collaborations like that and I don’t think we would have seen these kind of things if we’d kept separating AAA and indie.
What do you think? Do we still need to be labouring under the impression that indie games are somehow a different proposition from those titles that come from publishers or larger, publisher-owned studios? Or does Veer's argument ignore the fact that titles like Zelda: Breath of the Wild could never be produced without the massive financial support of a company like Nintendo? Let us know with a comment.