Sierra is back as indies conquer Gamescom

Christopher Dring
Sierra is back as indies conquer Gamescom

Once again Gamescom became the home of indie development.

There were a number of blockbuster game reveals, certainly. And despite the slew of indie titles, not one of them made it on to the shortlist for Gamescom’s official Game of the Show.

Nevertheless, it was the range of inventive indie titles that was attracting the most attention.

Xbox showed off a sizzle reel of ID@Xbox games, a year after the programme was first announced, while Sony filled its conference with indies. Only a few minutes were spent discussing the likes of Destiny and Far Cry 4.

“The killer apps are important,” says PlayStation boss Andrew House. “But people have been looking for a range of content.”

Xbox’s marketing boss Mike Nichols adds: “The reason you buy a console tends to be: ‘Which system has the best games?’ I like to play FIFA, but at the same time several of the indie games I have seen here are what I’m most interested in playing. They provide variety and that’s what excites people. They’re not just buying a console for one game – they’re buying it for all of the options it opens up. That’s one reason we invested in ID@Xbox, and you’ve seen our progress. But we still have a lot of work to do.”

ENTER SIERRA

Sony and Microsoft unveiling a slew of indie titles was expected, and a repeat of last year’s show. What wasn’t predicable was Activision joining the party.

The Call of Duty publisher famously likes to focus on ‘billion-dollar’ franchises. Outside of a handful of movie tie-ins, its big investments remain in CoD, Skylanders and Destiny.

So the news that Activision has resurrected its Sierra label, with the intention of signing indie games, came as a surprise.

Sierra is publishing a range of titles from independent studios, including classic Sierra IP like King’s Quest and Geometry Wars, new IP and possibly HD remakes.

Senior director of external development Bob Loya says: “We’re gamers and we wanted to do this stuff for a long time, and unfortunately there wasn’t a path in Activision to do it because we were focused on big blockbusters. 

“With digitally distributed games becoming bigger, we were able to make a compelling argument that we could be financially successful doing this.”

Activision is not the only big publisher to invest in indies. Square Enix has its Collective division. But Loya feels Sierra offers something different.

He says: “Outside of just funding – and there are many ways to get funded these days – we help with QA, localisation and managing the product. A lot of indies are PC-centric, so they haven’t done console before, and submitting on console can be tricky first time. We also have marketing, PR and community stuff. One of the unique things we have is a dedicated digital sales team, which will give indie games as much timeshare as Skylanders.”

This article originally appeared in MCV 801. 

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Tags: Activision , Microsoft , Sony , gamescom , sierra , Gamescom 2014 , MCV@Gamescom

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