Google has announced their first event targeted toward independent game developers and players, happening on September 24th. The Indie Games Festival – not to be confused with the Independent Games Festival at GDC each year, don’t be surprised if some lawyers from GDC parent company UBM call Google’s lawyers – will take place in San Francisco at the Terra Gallery, and be an opportunity to link independent game developers with players, and YouTubers, potentially to get feedback from all parties on the processes that surround independent games.
Now, because this is Google, this event takes on a particular curiosity. Google’s relationship with games is both with YouTube, but also with Google Play, the primary store for Android games. And it’s the latter part of things that’s so curious. Google even puts the Google Play logo on the announcement banner for the Indie Games Festival. Mobile and indie devs have kind of weird relationship – many have found providence on the platform over the past 8 years of the App Store era, and the modern indie game revolution really kicked off on mobile. But if you go to indie game events, mobile is rarely represented, despite perhaps being the most open to independent developers.
Granted, paid games are a tough business model and free-to-play for indies is often a challenge too. But where developers may be frustrated at Apple for the App Store’s shortcomings on making mobile viable for its developers, Google could be an interesting landing point for a lot of indies. Android testing is still kind of a mess, but it feels like a lot of developers have just sucked it up at this point. Plus, the store has less restrictions – you can make a controller-focused game, they’re doing early access, and you don’t have to worry about app rejections as much. Not to mention, virtual reality is a major project for Google between the entry-level Cardboard and the more sophisticated Daydream headsets in the works. If Google started openly courting indie devs and making it a core part of their platforms, well, the mobile gaming landscape could get really interesting.