Why are indie games better than AAA?


The great debate, indies v AAA, is one better than the other? Are they all part of the same ecosystem? Or does one need the other to survive? We put the question to our Indie Devs, why are indie games better than AAA? The Ask Indies series is a great chance to get the answers straight from the experts on indie games. It’s also an opportunity for indie devs to update the community on their projects and progress. If you are interested in putting a question to the community then make sure to leave a comment, we’d be happy to put it to the devs. If you’d like to join our community of devs to answer Ask Indies in the future, drop us a line. So let’s put it to the guys who will know: Why are indie games better than AAA?

Tony Pearce, Co-Founder, Reality Gaming Group. We’re currently working on our new Emojibles trading cards and Emoji Clash game for mobile & PC.

‘Independent games companies are the lifeblood of the games industry and are able to create titles that large AAA games companies would not take a risk with. At the beginning of each platform cycle it’s independents that create the market: this happened with PC games, then mobile, social and now blockchain games. Clearly AAA games cost more to make and therefore have to appeal to a wider audience, so certain ideas and concepts only work as a small indie game. Indie developers often don’t have the big overheads that AAA publishers have and therefore can be more nimble, only restricted by their imagination and not sequels and deadlines.’

Perry Monschau, Nysko Games, Co-Director. Currently working on The Dwarves of Glistenveld.

‘I wouldn’t say indie games are better than AAA games, but that they follow different objectives. AAA games have high quality assets, graphics, sound design, voice acting (usually), dialog (sometimes). Where AAA games tend to lack is creativity in design, though there are a few exceptions. I guess it really depends what you’re looking for in a game. AAA will give you something that rarely pushes you outside your comfort zone and is packed full of eye-candy and whatever the equivalent is for your other senses. Indie games tend to be rough around the edges, maybe even rough through and through, but what they might offer is an experience you’ve never had before, perhaps one you’ve always wanted but no AAA company will dare to try. The bottom line is, indies make games about anything, whereas AAAs make games that they think will sell.’

Serkan Hassan, Studio Director, Exient. Currently working on Lemmings.

‘I feel that indie games have the potential to offer unique, original experiences without the commercial strain that comes from having hundreds of people working for several years on a AAA title. Don’t get me wrong, us indies face all sorts of pressures but I think that being free of the excesses that come with AAA means that you can focus on fun ideas and concepts that entertain your audience while also respecting them and their time. My gaming tendencies have shifted away from the 40+ hour epics to games that can entertain me in 5 to 10 minute bursts and I feel that indies have always been better in this space. I’ve put more time into (and got more out of) titles such as FTL, Rogue Legacy and Bad North in the last few years than I have from your usual sprawling open world AAA title.’

Andi Hagen, developer of Xoo: Xeno Xafari, Alien Squatter, and Void Pyramid.  Currently working on Xoo: Xeno Xafari the collecting RPG with maximum vibing.

‘Thinking about this question made me realize that I don’t even play AAA games anymore! My favorite game genres (RPGs, shmups, interactive fiction) aren’t well represented by the mainstream, and that’s probably why I like indie games better. They can support niche genres, themes, concepts, and audiences that the mainstream can’t really do.’

MIK0, PSA2020, Lead Developer/ Art Director. Currently working on building a community around my upcoming game PSA2020

‘Indie games are better because the developer’s vision and message (more often than not) isn’t diluted by constraints set by big publishers.’ A Space For the Unknown screenshot

Ed Brew, LabelRadar, CEO. Currently working on helping various talented indie developers source amazing music for their game soundtracks.

‘Indie Developers are inherently more driven to provide new, unique experiences for gamers, with AAA games historically proving to be more constrained in what they can offer. Many AAA releases are re-hashes of tried and tested formats, whereas Indie are always looking to explore that new avenue or find a different, bold approach, to create something brand new. There are definitely higher expectations of AAA games, which means that when an indie game delivers a solid gameplay experience, it is that extra bit more impressive given their more limited resources. At LabelRadar, we are proud to level the playing field, ensuring that indie games have access to music resources that are just as powerful as those available to AAA games, regardless of budget.’

Julia Nolan, Integral Studios, Eidolon, Game Developer and Writer. Currently working on a new project in planning, but currently finished with “Eidolon” and “Epilogue

‘What I love about Indie games is that they can be highly experimental and serve a niche audience. A hundred million dollar AAA game, almost by definition, has to make money, which often limits them to genres, playstyles, and audiences that have been successful in the past. Indie games can take on niche audiences (think “Gone Home” regarding a riot girl lesbian from the ’90s) or unusual playstyles (think “Gorogoa” with its unique putting pictures together to solve puzzles) and create things that are really unique and special.’

Bradley Smith, Creative Director and Co-Founder at Miracle Tea. Currently working on making a stargazing gardening game called Alula.

‘I see AAA and indie games as two completely different types of experiences. I see AAA games like going to a huge concert with thousands of people that you watch in awe from a distance. Like an Iron Maiden show. It’s expensive and flash and there’s a lot of moving parts and props that require many people to make the show go smoothly. There’s a lot at stake if it goes wrong which means things have to be done a certain way. People have to follow rules and watch what they say. It’s catchy, it ticks all the right boxes and a lot of people know about it and can hear it from afar. It’s often a feat in human achievement. I see indie games like a small punk gig in a packed out basement. The singer pours their heart and soul about something pure or deeply emotional and you’re right in their face feeling it with them. It’s intimate and passionate and personal and vulnerable. The artist personally lets you in to share the experience with them, they look directly at you and you get a sense of where it comes from. The experience is raw and messy and ugly but it’s real. There’s creative freedom, no rules, and nothing at stake. Anything can be said. To me, that’s what makes independent games special that doesn’t really happen in the AAA space. I do think that independent games, for the most part, do tend to push the medium forward, especially in terms of design. You’ll generally see things that no one else is doing in the independent space and find designs that seem ahead of their time. I always feel like mainstream games are always a few years behind what people are doing in the independent scene, with a few acceptations of course.’

Dan Bernardo, Playtra Games, CEO. Currently working on I Action Strategy RPG game for PC and Nintendo Switch called Grid Fight – Mask of the Goddess.

‘No… and yes. Although both are obviously subject of intense passion by developers and gamers, I think they serve very different purposes in our industry. Indies very existence is about change and evolution. We want new and unusual. We want to explore what can be considered fun, many times paying homage and deconstructing classics in the name of the creating of something original. Triple-A games distillate and find common denominators from the best indies can produce, turning otherwise niche experiences into games ready to be appreciated by a much broader audience. In their own way, they are unbeatable for the audiences they appeal to. Discussions about their merits become meaningless if we are measuring water and air using a stick. Time and scope separate indies and triple-As and this isn’t as bad as some people think.’

Marcos Cevallos, LinkUp Games, Ultimate Reality, Developer. Currently working on Ultimate Reality, A 2D Pixel Art Platformer Fighter

‘An indie game is not necessarily better than a AAA game, however; indie games generally work with limited resources, making developers think smart on how they will make their vision become a reality. This limit on resources, either via funding or marketing, can make even the simplest mechanic an amazing experience. For example, Hollow Knight’s simple, but effective combat system leaves for many levels of mastery. Another game mechanic that stands out is Shovel Knight’s brilliant “shovel” mechanic. The player could perform a move where the shovel pointed downwards and this move could be used for platforming or fighting purposes.  This use of simplicity can at times put over convoluted game mechanics that AAA games adhere to shame. This is how indie games strive and how they are remembered. The use of simple mechanics and how they can further challenge the player is at times one of the most entertaining ways to make a game. Sometimes less is more, and indie games are a proof of that.’

Thanks for reading our article Why are indie games better than AAA? For more interesting articles on the indie games industry, check out the links below. 






This Article was written by: Harry Cole

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