Are indie games better than AAA games?

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I've found myself playing more games than usual this year and I've see a pattern, when playing games by large well known developers I find myself getting bored more quickly than I used to.
For example I've finished all three of the most recent Wolfenstein and they became tedious. I finished the 1st and 2nd Tomb Raider reboot and saw the cracks in the game like when climbing over a log where it made me feel like I might fall but never would.
There are many more examples which I may put forward in the future if people are interested.

Then I play games that seem to be created with true heart to which they glow to me. I recently played and completed two games called "A short Hike" and "Reventure" and they were not only a joy to play but make me feel happy they exist. They awakened the childhood wonder inside that makes me know not all games are simply created to take our money but to also make us feel happy.
It's a feeling I tend to feel with many (not all) games created by Indie developers.
I feel they show more love and art into their games to which many larger developers don't seem to do as often.
Opinions? Thoughts? agreements or disagreements? I'd love to hear them all.
 
I think the problem with a lot of the AAA games feeling a bit bland is that the shareholders in the company got too much power to cut into the development cycle. This was the problem with Anthem as an example, which led the developers having to cut corners and delivering a bad product. It is of course not always like that, but when you have investors, shareholders, and CEOs that push too many buttons, the outcome is often a product that is bad or mediocre at best and developers working in bad conditions. A lot of Indie game studios can often have more control over the development cycle and how the product will be looking at the end because they can avoid publishers and instead use crowdfunding as a way to fund the development.

Another factor to have in mind is that we as the consumers often want to see similarities in for example AAA series. If we play a Far Cry or Splinter Cell game, we want the next game in the series to have a similar feel. If we suddenly got something completely different, it would most likely tear the fan base in two, and the company losing credibility. This means that the developers might not have as much freedom as they want, because they are tied into a business model that has generated revenue for maybe as much as two decades. It is also possible to make a kind of edible omelet without cracking too many eggs, like how Call of Duty: Warzone is a breath of fresh air with its Battle Royale setting alongside the rest of the series.

I also think we as consumers should be pickier when it comes to choosing what game studio to support, especially when you read about how a lot of the developers (regardless of it being AAA studio or not) are being treated like ****, whether it is through sexual harassment, bad wages or horrible working conditions. We do have the power to raise our opinions and put our foot down. If we choose to look the other way, well, then guess what, nothing really changes at all, or at least we are not contributing in a positive way. We can't really be yelling "another bad game" and thinking that we are innocent in the whole ordeal.
 
Last edited:
Jul 13, 2020
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I've found myself playing more games than usual this year and I've see a pattern, when playing games by large well known developers I find myself getting bored more quickly than I used to.
I'm currently experiencing the same. I've found more enjoyment in indie titles (Spiritfarer, Blasphemous, Hadesy Tooth and Tail) then big AAA titles (AC Odyssey was such a chore)
Also I've started to appreciate pixel art much much more and find it visually much more appealing than so AAA graphic wonder.
 
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McStabStab

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Jan 13, 2020
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I like all these takes on the topic, but I will point out an outlier. Building management games. Holy hell do I love me some Cities: Skylines, Surviving Mars, and Tropico 6, but when a AAA company does it, it just hits different. The example I can point to is Anno1800 - absolutely gorgeous city builder developed and published by Ubisoft.
 

Zloth

Community Contributor
I don't think it matters. At least not until you get into the extreme low end of production values. Both can get burned by running out of cash. If it's a big publisher, they threaten to pull funding if the developers don't get something out the door. If it's a smaller company, it's the landlord wanting rent and employees wanting paychecks. Either way, it forces developers to do things they don't want to do. (And that's not always a bad thing: see Star Citizen.)

If it's really low end production values, though, I'm probably not going to be interested. Good games take more time & talent than a single individual is likely to have.
 
I would say the best indie games are better than most AAA games. It's similar to film. Hollywood blockbusters can be really, really terrible with dialogue that leaves you embarrassed and plots designed by focus groups. Meanwhile the small teams who aren't expected to make blockbuster money can go about the business of advancing the art. And then there are the people in the middle who make things that are stunning, like the Coen brothers or Tarantino. They are in the sweet spot. But all those smaller filmmakers produce better films than the blockbuster folks, and I think you see the same thing in gaming. It's not an exact correlation, but you probably get my point.
 
Jun 26, 2020
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I think it depends on the studio, not all AAA companies are made equal, nor are all indie studios, and it really depends on the control the publisher has over the developer. Having worked for both a developer and a publisher, I see a lot of misinformation and assumptions fly around about how these relationships can influence each other, but it's often not what people think. It also depends largely on the studio, these relationships can be incredibly different even under the same publisher.

But back on topic, it's a mixed bag for me. Probably my favorite game to come out in the last 10 years was Divinity: Original Sin 2, a game that was kickstarted. I'm not sure where they'd fall under the A categories, but they certainly don't have the backing of the typical AAA studio. Then there's games like RDR2, or just Rockstar in general who produces fantastic and amazingly grand games. Ultimately I think it comes down to a lot of variables, such as willingness to take risks, design philosophy, capacity to innovate, and the genre.

I think my problem with a lot of indie devs is that they don't do anything special other than provide a charm largely missing from a lot of other titles. Some games can do a lot in a 2d space, for example, but most that I see don't really seem to do anything different or special mechanically. They mostly rely on nostalgia for dated styles of gameplay that haven't evolved in decades, and while there's absolutely nothing wrong with that, it really does make the indie space pretty difficult to find something interesting or different in. I am of the mind that gameplay is the most important aspect of a game, though, since that's the focus of the medium.

So I really think that both indie studios and AAA studios are probably in an equal capacity to make some of the best games out there. There are far more indie studios than AAA studios and a huge percentage of what they push out are pretty low quality and forgettable games. But the ones that shine really do put the spotlight on the industry of indie games. The AAA games that we see are generally so well marketed and they're so much more in our face, it's easy to see the bad outnumber the gems. I think this is a factor a lot of people really don't consider. A studio is only as good as its creative direction, and that direction comes and goes as the people do. Some groups of people may do a great job of working together to realize a creative concept one day and fall flat on the next one. It really does come down to the individual game, I think.
 
Agree with a lot of what @drunkpunk says.

Personally if a game has mechanics or a style I'm interested in I'll play it, and if it turns out well for me I'll play it a lot. When I think of AAA I usually first think of Ubisoft style open worlds, COD or Battlefield which don't really inspire me to play them anymore. I know people love them, but I've played those games already 3 times over before they are released.

But when I think a bit deeper I'll remember recent things like how fresh Doom 2016 felt, Sekiro, Control (Ashtray maze!), Titanfall 2's(time switch wall running level!) campaign or even Dishonored and Prey felt in the last couple/few years. These are AAA games in my book too.

From 'Indies' in the last few years I'll tend to think of Disco Elysium, Undertale, Divinity OS/2, Hollow Knight, Slay the Spire, because I loved those games and I played them a lot. I don't necesssarily think those games were any more original then some of the best AAA games. Well Disco Elysium excepted.

Also the line between indie and AAA is quite blurred now, is Ori indie or AAA? Wasteland 3? With MS as a publisher can any game they are behind be an indie? Does it really matter in the end as long as they are good? :D.

Part of me wonders what a game like Disco Elysium would have looked like with a COD sized budget and creative freedom, but it could have turned out worse for it too. I'd still like to see EA/UBI/Activision take big money punts on weird concepts, but I think the realities of the stock market arent going to let that happen.
 
Depends on what you're looking for tbh. The TLDR for me is that indie offer more opportunities for exciting, new and innovative experiences and we should focus on them more, but AAA are the only ones that can delivery some of the greatest, legendary games. If assuming they can bloody put the effort in.


I could rant at AAA industry and how they are just out for money and turned the whole entertainment thing into a commodity choosing safe and familiar products, limiting their opportunities to a core few series rather then innovating and instead lying in bed with MTX and lootboxes, but i would be preaching to the choir.
 
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Zloth

Community Contributor
...Divinity OS/2...
That title seems a little a little warped! ;)

Also the line between indie and AAA is quite blurred now, is Ori indie or AAA? Wasteland 3? With MS as a publisher can any game they are behind be an indie? Does it really matter in the end as long as they are good? :D.
Well we used to talk about B games, too, much like B movies. Nowhere near the AAA budget level but with 10+ full time employees.
 
@Zloth I remember looking at adverts in home PC magazines in the early/mid nineties and seeing OS/2 as an alternative option to Windows. Thats as close as I got to it!

As to B games, I think of those as games that tried to have the same scope as the bigger budget games but with less money. Off the top of my head maybe Remnant: From the Ashes, Mortal Shell, or even Mad Max from a few years ago? Darksiders? Maybe some of the games I mentioned are *AA* then?

I think its a lot easier since the last 10-15 years to get a game out there now, so we have a much wider spread of budget sizes then 15 years ago? Now it feels like we have AAA, AA, B, C, D, E, and F games. I'll add a disclaimer that I'm not really that aware of the financials of developers or the industry in general, so somebody please expand or correct me if I'm wrong.

I kind of want to agree with OP that small studios/individuals even can put their heart and soul into a project, be true to their own vision and create a piece of unadulterated art. Its not always the case but it does happen.

Its harder for larger developers to do it because there is pressure to get big sales and be popular there, but those can still be great games, have original ideas and great style.
 
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