Each year, the frontiers of the gaming market push further into new territory. As publications and analysts attempt to predict the next innovation in gaming, real-world developments tend to surprise even the savviest experts. In 2022, one of the biggest trends in gaming was the rise of indie titles.
According to Statista, thirteen percent of PC and console gamers stated they were playing a game from an indie developer back in March 2021. This March, that number had jumped to seventeen percent. Clearly, indie games are more accessible than ever before—but what has led to this jump in popularity? And will it be sustained—especially considering the health and growth of the eSports sector?
Feeling Good in the Fringe
An indie video game is a title created by an individual or small development team that is self-financed and directed. Given this definition, just about any game (whether an RPG or an FPS) can be an indie game. However, indie games remain a fringe interest—and that might not be a bad thing.
Other fringe sectors of gaming continue to post steady growth and solid revenue. For example, casino gaming remains a peripheral sector in the global gaming industry. However, even smaller subsets within casino gaming, like poker on mobile apps, bring in millions of players each year and contribute to the market’s multi-billion dollar business.
The same goes for other sectors, like digital card collectible games (DCCGs). Though a relatively small portion of the total gaming population in the world, Magic: The Gathering and Hearthstone had over one hundred million active players worldwide according to a study from Statista back in 2018.
Full Steam Ahead
Even if indie games remain a fringe interest, that doesn’t mean they won’t find their own niche within the overall gaming industry. The rise of indie games has largely been organic, thanks to programs like Steam and platforms like Twitch. Steam provided a place for like-minded gamers to connect with one another, while Twitch presented the perfect channel to highlight indie titles.
Combined, both applications helped push indie hits to the forefront. Titles like Stardew Valley and Rocket League both have Twitch and Steam to thank for their current status as household names. Today, indie games now see coverage from major groups, including PC Gamer, which creates an annual list of the top indie titles available.
Subscription Models Taking on Indies
With publications like PC Gamer pushing indie titles to the forefront, and with a growing number of hosts on Twitch who dedicate their time solely to uncovering the next indie gem, indies are in store for ongoing coverage. And for gamers who catch the indie fever, there will be subscription models tailored to their interests.
Itch.io and Humble are two subscription services that bring gamers the best in indie titles. With customized recommendations from Itch and charitable contributions from Humble, the platforms highlight what makes indie gaming so special in the first place: a new take on classics. Unlike other subscription models from Xbox or Sony, Itch and Humble focus on the latest frontier-pushing games. In the case of Itch, they’ve also pivoted to cover new trends, like visual novels.