“It’s probably because they have less bureaucracy.”
This is what I imagine my colleagues telling me if I were to ask this question:
Why do indie games have better sites?
Exhibit A - BELOW
For example, one of my absolute favorites, Below (there’s also an easter egg in this site involving a shooting star).
This site does something I’ve actually never seen any other site do. Ever. Did you catch it? If not, go back and keep scrolling.
Okay, did you notice you can keep scrolling infinitely? Pretty neat, right? What really makes this neat is that’s exactly what the game Below is about. Your shipwrecked on an island with only a dungeon to crawl. The halls and twisting caverns are generated dynamically so you never really visit the same place twice. But here’s the twist, when you die in this game you start over, shipwrecked. With nothing. Though you may find the body of the your past adventurer and of course loot it.
If you can’t tell I love the premise of this game. I’ve been excited for many years to play it! And to be completely one hundred percent transparent, Below is special for a gaming website standpoint. As someone who builds websites and works in the gaming industry I cannot give you another single example of a game website that is as interesting as this.
exhibit B - NIGHT IN THE WOODS
Here’s another example. Night In The Woods
Let’s take inventory of some of the types of content on this site:
- A trailer front and center that is hosted on YouTube (industry standard).
- An icth.io integration that allows you to buy the game right here, right now (and accepts BitCoin, because you know, we all buy our software in BitCoin now).
- A simple blurb with the pitch of the game and a little tid bit about how they came about making it (indies have to do this I guess cause these things are a labor of love?).
- A string of links to shit like emailing and twittering, that is admit-tingly hard to decipher, but notice…
- A BANDCAMP link! Where you can buy the soundtrack for all of TWO DOLLARS!
- A link to a shop, where you can buy cool t-shirts and whatnots to make your trapper keeper look cooler.
- Accolades. Reviews matter and are human. If you are selling a product, they help when they are positive.
- A gallery, because like the trailer being first up above, converting a viewer to a buyer is about showing gameplay. And this gallery features GIFs. Like a cat-tastic tumblr page my cousin stood up in 2006.
- A few confusing sections about prototypes they made before they finished the game. They could probably do without these.
There are many things happening here. Not all are apparent from the usability side of things, I am well aware. But that aside— it’s a great example of content being both a device to peak interest and a way for people to take actions. Actions such as listening to the soundtrack or consuming a packet of buttons for their or dropping a BitCoin into the virtual coin slot of the internet and actually acquiring and engaging the product there and then!
Exhibit C - FE
Hey, you think I would really write this without featuring some of my work? Hehe.
Here’s one our team built at EA under my direction. Fe
I’m intentionally trying to keep this in the vein of indie games. So for clarity, if nothing else, Fe is an indie game that our behemoth gaming company is publishing through a program called EA Originals. It’s a really cool initiative where we help smaller studios get a broader reach through our marketing, engineering support from out network of developers, and learning from our massive analytics and research departments. It’s a pretty good deal for a indie developer, that is only if they are willing to deal with the backlash of supposedly “selling out”. (Because, if you don’t know, gamers are a rather vocal consumer).
The site we built does a lot of things that we normally do not. First off, it has an easter egg buried towards the footer of the homepage. It’s a match making puzzle that uncovers a little behind-the-scene content that is only shared here and on Entertainment Tonight [Episode #20009392984989348778374]. Just kidding, it wasn’t on Entertainment Tonight, I just thought I’d mention that because my mom will read this and think that’s neat!
We created a OVERVIEW page that has gameplay clips. These clips are not from Game Changers (which is our big influencer marketing devision at EA) but instead they were captured for us by Zoink (the studio making the game).
Lastly, we were able to stand up a MEDIA page where we feature videos, screensavers, the soundtrack, and even a comic book to download. All of which we never do. I can understand why DICE or BIOWARE might be busy building cosplay suits that cost thousands for Comic Con, and that those investments make sense for something that is a at the center of the gaming world like the games these studios create. But what kind of lift are these things really?
THE CASE I’M MAKING
Indie Games are better suited for these types of website and monstrosities like Destiny don’t need a wall of screensavers because they’re communities will make these thing for them in a matter of hours after the games release. Take a look at LFG NET for example. When Destiny (the first one) shipped, it didn’t have the ability in the game to look for a group. So players made a website that did. It’s became so popular that Destiny 2 still did not add the ability to look for groups!
But in the case of consumables like newsletters, soundtracks, and stickers and buttons for your trapper keeper — we assume that communities will make this stuff but they actually won’t. Communities do make things. Take for example Dragon Age Keep website. (Which isn’t with us anymore - rest in peace - so I can’t share a link). What it was was a community board for people to share things they made, like this amazing pumpkin carving!
October is a long way away and yet this is totally inspiring me to want to carve a dragon into something.
Anyways, to wrap this up, both can be true but neither are always. If this were science we would be FALSE. So indie game sites are better because they give the game the attention it deserves from the people that make it (usually). The titles need more support to get off the ground as they traditionally have a long tail. That’s why making things that live in the modern gaming zeitgeist is something that almost all indie game websites do. And I think it’s something the bigger companies are ignoring and they shouldn’t be. Let get back to our roots and help our gamers share and enjoy the things they love, one trapper keeper at a time.