#Comiccon is like Christmas morning for #indiedevelopers. It provides a massive opportunity for developers to interact directly with consumers in B2C marketing. Imagine a recess playground full of kids who are already entertained with their friends in activities.
Making a new friend as a new student could be challenging, but luckily for independent games, their reputation has been growing, as well as the market's reviews and sales. Independent devs are mostly welcomed on Steam, where applying and publishing games is an easy process.
Games are promoted more on homepages and in their categories, which makes it easy for gamers to find indie titles. In 2020, Steam announced that 50% of its entire library of 50,000+ games are independent games created by small studios under 20, and in 2022, that number increased by another 8%.
I was fortunate to experience at Comiccon Montreal this past weekend, which happened to be the largest Comicon yet, with over 60,000 people in attendance. There were over 20 upcoming indie titles present, which was a lot more than last year, confirming my research on the growing number of independent game studios.
However, it took me over 4 hours just to get from the main shop exhibit (Floor 2) to the Indie Zone, which was hidden behind the main shops. The Indie Zone had a large space for indies to host board game tournaments, playtests, contests, and demos.
It was a great place to escape after feeling overwhelmed by the crowd. I checked out maybe half the shops in that room before feeling overwhelmed by the armpits levelled at my nose height. If you met me in tournaments before, you know I'm not a tall girl! ;)
But in that closed-in cave, a hole that contained light dawned on me. I found the Indie Zone, where the breath of fresh air and the slap from the cold air conditioner never felt better.
Now that I've made it to Indie Zone, I knew that there was no way I’d have enough time to try out all the games with the long lines. Some might worry about the quality of indie games in a crowded market.
However, independent games have been receiving better reviews than AAA titles, as seen with It Takes Two, which won Game of the Year in 2021 with ratings ranging from 88% to 100%. Indie developers have been gaining popularity due to their advantages in the gaming market.Here's a video of this beautiful moment:
On the other hand, from my perspective, as a person absolutely passionate about games and competing in many tournaments, bigger studios are putting out quick content with no expected quality due to budget and franchise pressures. The cost of creating large game experiences is also increasing, and games are becoming more expensive for consumers.
Now, back to Christmas morning at #comiconmtl. Parents expect cheap, fun experiences for their kids to remember. Indie games provide that experience for them and for gamers looking for fresh and more affordable solutions.
Developers in this growing niche market don't have to release their product until they feel it's ready. Communication between each developer is clear and easier. Although the game may take longer to create, the results are usually beautiful and meaningful. So let’s talk about the games I played over there, shall we?
The first example comes with the first game I played at #comiconmtl, Venture to the Ville, which has been in production since 2019 and presented a demo focused on seeking feedback for improvement.
Venture to the Ville was the first game that caught my attention. I'm a big fan of 2D visuals, whether they are sprite-animated or 3D graphics.
Venture to the Ville stood out to me due to its unique attitude and art direction. It reminded me of Alice in Wonderland from 2010, as it had a creepy vibe while remaining true to the world's persona. In Venture to the Ville, you explore a 2.5D metroidvania with 3D depth exploration. It's as if Metroid and Zelda had a baby, resulting in an incredible game.
You start the game with the main character waking up from what seems to be an experiment that was done on you. Your arm is blackened by the monstrous entity that you now find yourself in "The Vile." But wait, you've got some pretty cool tricks with this new arm. Using it, you can begin your adventure and protect yourself from approaching monsters and enemies while planning your escape from wherever you are.
The lighting and ambiance are stunning. Each NPC (Non-Playable Character) is full of life and has its own personality and unique voice. What makes Venture to Ville stand out is its exploration system.
In most metroidvanias, maps are available to mark on when exploring. But not here. In this crazy town, you use the foreground and background as your map. The visuals are so clean and show the depth of the entire world to explore.
If you get stuck somewhere, chances are you need to retrace your steps by looking in the background or foreground on how to advance. It's such a great idea, something that, as someone who has a horrible sense of direction, I never thought I would enjoy so much. I never actually felt too lost as I was able to backtrack quite easily while remembering where I'd been based on the enemies that I already defeated.
The demo's final boss was a great test of the skills I learned over the 15-minute demo. I died twice in the boss alone, but I never felt frustrated with the experience. I was able to learn habits and track my gameplay through experience to use against the final boss. It was such a pleasure to enjoy!
However, I must mention that the game is not close to being finished. Venture to Ville aims for a 2024 release on Steam and console. The team said they still had a lot of work to do, and they appreciated the feedback the players brought to them at the event.
Overall, I added the game to my wishlist on Steam and followed the studio for updates. It's a game with massive potential, and I can't wait to see the final product! Just a short video about this beautiful piece!
Right next to Venture to Ville, I had the opportunity to try out Spiral, a game made by a team of fewer than 10 people. Developed by Folklore Games and SpaceJazz, Spiral has been generating buzz in the gaming community for some time now.
After playing its 15-minute demo, I was left in tears and worry, finally understanding why the game had been causing such a stir. Spiral's impact is remarkable through its symbolic imagery and storytelling. The lighting, camera effects, and tone of the music all contribute to the demo's anxious atmosphere.
Spiral is a third-person narrative title that tells the story of Bernard, an old man who is fatally ill and wants to say goodbye to his remaining memories before his mind fades away. Your goal is to help Bernard remember his past life before he reaches the end.
Different interactions trigger new memories or loss of memory, leading to the end of the demo. It makes me wonder if the final game will have multiple endings depending on the memories you find before the end of the story.
The title made me very emotional, and I appreciated the care that went into the personal story coming from the developers. There was a lot of time, effort, and research that went into replicating this experience of living with brain diseases.
Although there is no release date yet, this game will surely blow people away (myself included). I look forward to playing this game with the lights turned off, on a large screen with loudspeakers, in order to feel every little bit of emotion that Bernard feels and show my utmost respect to the character.
Okay, so. I played Checkmate Showdown, a game that mixes chess and fighting genres, during a tournament in Montreal. Created by BadRez Games and published by ManaVoid Entertainment, this game is unique and got me hooked immediately.
For once, algebra class came in clutch. As someone who isn’t the biggest fan of linear fighting games and chess or puzzle titles, two negatives truly do make a positive.
It starts as a regular game of chess, but when a piece is about to be taken, a 2D fighter breaks out. Each chess piece has its own unique move set and feel, so mastering each one is key to victory.
Checkmate Showdown is designed for both chess masters and fighting game experts, so everyone can have a satisfying experience. It controls smoothly, and every piece on the board presents a unique move set, weight and feel.
Personally, the character I connected with was Knight with his fast and furious combo game. Although the release date is not announced yet, developers said at comiconmtl that they plan to launch the game later this year on Steam.
I have seen many indie titles at #comiconmtl, but none have elicited laughs as loud as those from the booth at Goons: Legends & Mayhem.
It is the Canadian video game we have always wanted: hockey but with frantic blends of Mario Party and Super Smash Bros. The game is fully online and cross-playable across Steam, Nintendo Switch, Xbox, and PlayStation.
It is visually stunning, with bright and vibrant colours that emphasize the unique personality of each character. You play as a team of two, with an automatic cardboard goalie that follows the puck's movement, making it incredibly difficult to score.
The trick is to use teamwork alongside items and unique powers that each character and player earn throughout the game. It is a sports title like you have never seen before, and the only way to truly understand it is to experience it firsthand.
The game has been in production for more than six years, but the hard work is finally paying off, and it is set to be released later this year.
Comicon Montreal's Indie Zone was the best part of my Comicon experience. It was so refreshing to interact with each developer who was willing to show such passion for their project while being able to play the game through their eyes, which inspired me.
I got to understand some of their personal stories surrounding budgeting and the development process of their game while just trying to get the name of their project out to all the gamers out there, even with such low budgets on their hands.
So, they focus on the tools they already have access to through their team's skills. Indie games range from as low as $5 to an average of around $40. This is such an approachable price for consumers.
It helps even more when the gamer feels that they earned such quality in gameplay for such a price. "Three's a crowd," as they say. Smaller teams have more impact on the development of the game.
Every gamer who waited in line for hours to try these games walked out with huge smiles on their faces. It's an experience you see after a good concert by your favourite artist. It's something you remember forever and look forward to when they return to your hometown.
I have to say, Christmas in July was pretty awesome for developers this year!
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