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'EA Indie Bundle' ruffles feathers
'EA Indie Bundle' ruffles feathers
May 3, 2012 | By Mike Rose

May 3, 2012 | By Mike Rose
Comments
    39 comments
More: Console/PC, Indie, Business/Marketing



Publicly-held megapublisher Electronic Arts has ruffled the feathers of a number of indie developers by launching a bundle of games called the "EA Indie Bundle" via Valve's Steam digital distribution platform.

The bundle contains a selection of titles from independent studios whose games have been published by EA, and includes DeathSpank and DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue from Hothead Games, Gatling Gears from Vanguard Games, Shank and Shank 2 from Klei Entertainment and Warp from Trapdoor Inc.

However, Twitter has been abuzz with developers noting their distaste at the use of the word "indie" from a huge corporation like EA, with some accusing the company of trying to cash in on a grassroots term. The bundle's name once again opened up the old argument of what "indie" means today, if anything at all.

One developer against the use of the word is Minecraft creator Markus Persson, who tweeted, "EA releases an 'indie bundle'? That's not how that works, EA. Stop attempting to ruin everything, you bunch of cynical bastards."

"Indies are saving gaming. EA is methodically destroying it," he continued, reiterating that he does not consider his company, Mojang, to be "indie" any longer.

Elsewhere, Size Five's Dan Marshall commented with tongue in cheek, "We're simply going to have to come up with a NEW word for 'indie.' One that's clearly-defined and THE MAN can't take away from us."

He later joked, "Let's gather some indies together for a quick 'AAA Bundle,' then we're square."

However, some indies defended the bundle's name. Squid Yes, Not So Octopus developer Rob Fearon noted, "The EA bundle is EA Partners stuff. The studios/people behind the games are indie." EA Partners is a label that publishes third-party games from independent developers.

He continued, "It's dead easy, don't worry what is/isn't indie. Worry whether people/corps are abusive towards you. That's the important one."

Halfbrick's Ryan Langley had a similar train of thought, explaining, "To be honest I don't mind the EA Indie Bundle thing at all -- I mean, Klei, Vanguard and Hothead are all indie developers who EA published."

"I mean, would you be pissed if Microsoft made an XBLA Indie Bundle with Braid, Fez, Castle Crashers, Toy Soldiers & Limbo? All Microsoft published," he added.


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Comments


Todd Boyd
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Yeah... I don't see the problem. I compare this to folks abandoning their favorite band because they "made it", or because they opened for some "mainstream" band on their last tour. If EA was trying to pass off the games they developed internally as indie, then I could see why it would cause a ruckus.

Bruno Patatas
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Getting more disappointed every day with the whole indie scene. What is wrong with this? In music, a lot of the big labels sign indie bands.
The quote ""Indies are saving gaming" for me is the joke of the day.

I prefer much more the old "bedroom coder" mentality than the new "indie developer" status (where developing a game is now compared to being in a concentration camp)...

Agon Ushaku
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Markus Persson seems not to be quite informed about the indie-publisher deals that are reality now days. I consider his comment for really strange (not to say stupid)..somehow disappointing but I am watching it positive way as inverse marketing that will make more bundles to be sold and that way help those indie studios financially.I am happy to see even more indie-publisher deals in the future, it is better way to sell games. Minecraft is a unique case of huge success without help of publisher I think that is the reason why he cant understand a thing about deals like that.

Cordero W
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I don't use the buzzword "indie" nowadays for naming myself. I'm a game developer. Not a big one like EA or Activision, but it still makes me a game developer in the traditional sense. I may be indie in that I'm independent, yet why dilute what I really am.

Benjamin Quintero
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The reason why people are getting upset is because "indie" is yet undefined. Valve is "indie", Epic is "indie", until recently id Software was "indie". I don't exactly agree with the sentiment, but under the current blanket definition of "indie" they qualify. Any of these developers could submit to IGF just the same and though they may get a few ugly stares, they qualify.

"publisher independent business" and "indie" are not the same, but that misnomer is not going away; pretty much ever. "indie" is the new x-treme, it's what the kiddies like.

EDIT: Also I should note that part of "indie" implies that a majority of the money you pay for a product will directly help that developer thrive. When the money is being filtered through a giant like EA, and the developer ends up with like $1 out of each sold copy, it can raise some concern over the validity of claiming this to be in the best interest of the indie developer.

Justin Nearing
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Deathspank and Shank ARE indie (indie enough to warrant being in an indie bundle). And I've never even heard of Warp or Gatling Gears, so thay have to be indie.

I could see issues with forcing in Deadspace: Token Facebook Game or Mass Effect: The Forgotten Dev Team to the bundle, but they didn't. I thought it was a win for independent to medium sized game developers to get their game widely distributed (or even distributed at all). Isn't getting people to know your game exists the hardest part of being a indie? I don't see the guys from Klei, Vanguard, Hothead, or Trapdoor lamenting the soulessness of EA et al.

Notch is actually the angriest rich guy in game development. You would think he would spend more time making "going indie" a viable option for developers, instead of warring against studios he has more in common with now than he does with indies.

Luis Guimaraes
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Markus Persson is just trying to look cool to his players. Those words aren't aimed towards EA.

Eric Geer
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I have mixed feelings about its labeling---but more money to the Devs!

I thought EA only put their sold their digital games on Origin? Maybe they are having a change of heart---and trying to get as many sales as possible for the Devs!!

Kyle Redd
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From what I gather, at least one of the bundled games (Warp) requires Origin to play, even though it is sold through Steam. And all of the games require acceptance of EA's phenomenally awful EULA and ToS to play at all. "Indie" indeed.

Eric Geer
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^Ugh...

Derek Smart
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It's bullshit.

Nobody gets to cry foul just because a bunch of "indies" happen to have their game sold/promoted by a big label publisher like EA.

Yes - the "indie" moniker has completely lost its true meaning due to how the industry has progressed over the years. But to be "truly indie", you need to fund, develop, publish/sell your game without any external assistance (funding, marketing etc). That's indie. And in this case, EA correctly labeled the bundled because it was developed by indies and published by them. To cry foul would mean that Sony Pictures Classics should not be allowed to distribute - let alone fund - indie movies without everyone being up in arms about it.

As I said, the furor is just the usual (it has been a slow week after all) industry bullshit. And notch is just being a drama queen.

Adam Bishop
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Corporation cynically co-opts a useful cultural term. People respond with "the term doesn't mean anything!" with not a hint of irony about the fact that it had plenty of meaning before they let corporations cynically co-opt it.

E McNeill
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To be fair, the line *was* already blurred. Braid was published by Microsoft, after all.

Kellee Santiago
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This article is using the term "Indie" just as much to garner interest as EA is as anybody does, so don't get sidetracked by it and what it means for the "Indie scene." None of these developers represent me or anybody else, we're just a bunch of people making games in the best ways we know how.

E McNeill
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Thank you.

Christopher Enderle
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Can't wait for that XBLA Indie Bundle.

Roberta Davies
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Just now I've been playing the Microsoft-branded "Triple Pack" disk of Trials HD, Limbo, and Splosion Man. It doesn't call itself an indie bundle, but how else would you describe it?

I've also got two other Xbox Live disk compilations, but they're arguably advertising demos, showing what you get if you subscribe. The "Triple Pack" is sold as a straight game disk with no mention of Xbox Live.

William Johnson
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The problem is Indie is a label that can get a developer noticed. If big publishers start to use it it will dilute what little meaning being indie is. While it is debatable if the term indie actually has meaning or if it means anything, it was a term that helped sell smaller games, that don't have a lot of marketing muscle and are usually self funded.

EA is already a juggernaut. They don't need the indie moniker to sell their games. In theory that is. I'm sure they'd like to attach themselves to the good will of the gaming community by saying they support indie developers...but that just does not sit well with me...'cause I just dislike them a lot.

Kelly Kleider
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"Indie is a label that can get a developer noticed"

Like face in the crowd? Indie really means unfunded small developer. Any other attempt to define it becomes an ideological fight.

Sergio Rosa
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Because of things like this, I simply call myself (and my 3-men company) an "independent" game developer, and not an "indie" game developer. There was a time when it was all about the games, but now it seems some indies are more into struggling to make themselves feel "special."So, just like many here said, shouldn't EA giving attention to independent teams in their EA Partners program be a good thing? EA could have simply released a "bioware" bundle or a "sports bundle" instead. The important thing here is devs getting a nice cutt of every sale.If anything is "methodically ruining gaming," it would be the remarks from these indie elitists and their "us Vs them" attitude, thinking that the "indie" label makes them special in any way. The gaming industry should be about making games, not arguing about who's better and cooler.

George Blott
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Debates like this have, of course, gone on in the music world for a while now. The people debating the proper use of descriptors are not making or listening to music and in my opinion are wasting their time.

I can see this particular issue being bothersome if they called it an indie bundle without mentioning EA. But they call it what it is. Is it unfair of them to try and get some brand-association with the humble indie bundle by using similar terms? Maybe... but come on. EA is *the worst company in North America*, no? Surely this is just a minor offense.

I think this bundle is great for Klei and the rest of the teams involved.

Vin St John
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It's an (Indie Game) Bundle, not an (Indie) Game Bundle. Nothing wrong with that!

Gordon Durity
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It's so hard as an independent self-run developer to get your game out there and have people even aware of it. This is a good thing. It increases exposure to the smaller developers and hopefully earns them some revenue so that they can continue to make more interesting games. What's the big deal?

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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I think this is definitely a bad thing, but you have to look at it from a high level perspective. And that is dependent on what EA is trying to do with this: if they are trying to use their brand to help indies, then great! But based on how they treat their internal staff with crunch (I know it's supposedly gotten better after the EA spouse incident, but I still hear stories through industry channels that it is bad in modern times) and how they treat gamers (letting servers expire, forcing origin on gamers), I have no reason to assume the best.

The worst thing that could be happening is that this is a sign of publishers trying to stop the talent leak that lets developers become self sufficient while also reaping their own rewards. We really should be moving in a direction that removes publishers or at least minimizes the power they have over us, and this move is in the opposite direction. This isn't about "indie", it's another battle in the war for developer independence. The future we are moving toward should be one that has no "independent" label because _everyone_ is independent (free from the abuse and idiocy of suits and market guys). Until then, any deals with EA and their kind are like sleeping with the enemy.

Chris MacDonald
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Ever try getting on XBLA or PSN and actually making money without a publisher? It's not easy. Unless you develop for PC, it can be an expensive business to get into and contains a ton of uncertainty. I can guarantee you there is a guy who is making the next Fez or Braid right now but doesn't have the slightest clue of how to promote that game and will probably lose his shirt in the process.Making indie games is great. Making money by making indie games is even greater. When you have a family to feed and employees to pay, EA Partners looks like a pretty great deal. A lot of posters on here can spout a bunch of hyperbole about EA being the devil, but if all they are doing is publishing and helping market games from smaller, indie or boutique studios then more power to them. It doesn't mean people need to go out and buy Madden or Fifa. At the same time, everyone including Notch need to get off their high horse and realize that people need to make hard decisions in this life.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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Yes, it is very hard - because you are competing with other games that use publishers. Publishers provide the cure to the disease they create. Look at the mainstream game industry, where developers are forced to crunch for months at a time (not on their darling titles like indie devs do, so it actually feels like work) and given no creative say on the result of the project. Then when the project is done, devs are fired -- sometimes even if the project turns a profit! Used and abused, exactly what the indie scene is trying to exodus from.

Publishers helping indies are trying to make sure the indie sector becomes the same way (dependent on publishers). If we had another economic system built on trust and cooperation (not necessarily socialism or communism, don't attack me :] ), then I would be more optimistic. But as long as we have cutthroat capitalism where corporations are financially _obligated_ to their stakeholders to increase their profits as much as possible, even at the expense of the small guy, I have no trust in any of their motives.

"Nice game you have here... sure would be bad if something happened to it. You know, for a small cut, we could help 'protect' it from failing in the market."

It's like how government welfare causes the poor to become dependent on the government to the point where, in the long run, the poor are worse off and are being kept down by their dependence on the government -- even though in the short term it seems to benefit them. What are these indie studios going to do when the next EA indie bundle doesn't include them but instead includes their competition? Will they be able to compete with other indies backed by EA? Wouldn't indies start fighting to get that EA advantage, offering higher and higher percentages and more and more control to EA, until the indie scene has become what it was constructed to escape? Paying EA for no extra value, simply forking over money so they won't side with the other guy?

With all this said, I don't blame any of the devs for signing up with EA if that's what they "had" to do (though I wouldn't let EA spray me with water if I was on fire), I just wish they would be honest and not call it an "indie" bundle since they caved in. That is not fair to their peers who are still trying to make it without feeding the publisher parasite. If EA is really going to do this ethically I guess I won't dislike them for it. But they don't deserve my trust anymore; they have had plenty of years to earn that back, so my first instinct is that this is just a cynical cash grab, simultaneously profiting off of the indie label that seeks to expel such evil from its ranks while limiting the ability for developers to ever escape the publishing paradigm.

John Flush
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"EA .... ruffles feathers" - I'm really weird in that I read "EA" and instantly tune out until I find something I agree with. I feel sorry for developers that have them as a publisher.

Evan Combs
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How can you be indie, but be dependent on publishers? Those two things are just not compatible in any way, shape, or form.

Yes, having a common definition for a word is very important.

Chris MacDonald
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I would in return ask why was Braid dependent upon Microsoft Game Studios? Why get greedy and not just release only on PC? Fez is also published by Microsoft Game Studios, it must not be indie enough.

Like many others, I think the word "indie" is just hipster slang. It's really just another way of saying "niche" or "exclusive". If anything it's another sign of the same old tired journalism and consumerism that needs to pigeonhole everything in this world.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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Regardless of what "indie" means now, independent -- as in independent from publishers -- has a history in game development. It is not just a word, it is a thing to cherish, the way things ought to be -- which is why it is very hurtful that people confuse and mangle the word.

"Indie" does not mean pretentious hipster bullshit, it means avoiding the temptation to feed the publisher beast that tries to control the industry built from _your_ work, that tries to tell you how many hours a week you have to work while limiting the fruits of your labor to a flat salary with no job stability while they take the lion's share. It is simply the modern day equivalence of feudalism. It means being free from tyranny, which is what my country (The United States) was founded on. That tyranny has found its way into our business elites and government today is a tragedy too often overlooked.

Evan Combs
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This has nothing to do with being indie enough, you are either independent of third party funding and publishing or you are not. This has nothing to do with hipsters, or being artsy, or any of that bullshit. It has to do with the proper definition of the phrase independent developer, which is typically shortened to indie because most people are too lazy to say or spell independent developer.

If you want to argue with people who care more about their games/music/movies being indie go to Starbucks. All I care about is the proper use of words and phrases.

Paul Laroquod
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Independence is a concept with a clear meaning that is distinct from exclusivity. If people can no longer distinguish the two, that's on them. There is nothing confusing or ambiguous about this word whatsoever; there are only a lot of people who don't want to accept its definition when it doesn't include something they like.

Ed Macauley
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You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Michael K
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"EA indie bundle" is kind of anti-marketing, like selling "tooth death candy" to parents, everyone buying those indie bundles to support indies being independent, won't by it.

Maria Jayne
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I'm not sure why people are so upset, if these games were made independently and then, EA published them, they still count as Indie to me. If EA had a hand in funding or developing them then yeah I can see why calling them indie would be incorrect.

I'm more offended about what that Notch guy said. I guess he's still riding the minecraf wave.

Kelly Kleider
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Guy toils in garage making game... 2% of game buyers notice and pay $1 for game
Guy becomes indie hero vows to make bigger, better game
Guy hires other indies to make game ... 4% notice and buy game, but operating costs are now 8x more
Guy gets a small injection of cash for going with big publisher

Some in community attack guy for not sticking with their deluded idea of how business works.

The world of Indie development is better described as a tightrope walk shared with 10,000 of your closest friends...the crowd cheers until you fall, then they look for the next "star"

Todd Boyd
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If Notch himself is saying that Mojang is no loner indie, then let's please stop giving them "indie press coverage".

Kyle Johnson
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The problem is not that EA is trying to support games created by Indie studios they've partnered with in the past. It's that EA is trying to appear to support indie games in general.

If EA is trying to say they support indie:
1: Where is EA's Indie Bundle of games by studios EA hasn't published in the past?
2: If EA supports Indie then why doesn't Origin carry indie games?

It feels more like EA is trying to get into a party they weren't invited to, by sliding in behind someone who was invited.

A large number of gamers don't trust EA. Ironically, EA might have hurt the sales of the games in the EA Indie Bundle.

Video Game Industry Definitions:
Indie: Applies only to games. A game not dependent upon a publisher for promotion, sales or distribution.
Independent: Applies only to studios. A video game development studio that is not owned by a publisher.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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Also noteworthy: Which logo is the biggest in this picture? http://store.steampowered.com/sub/14499/

EDIT: Hell, the developers don't even have their logos on it. But why should they, they just made the damn games. This is clout grabbing, what happens when you make a deal with the devil.


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