Opinion piece by our executive editor examines the state of play for independent games studios

The more things change for studiosâ?¦ the more they stay the same?

In the latest opinion piece posted to Developmag.com our executive editor Owain Bennallack, inspired by the recent Develop 100 listing, has looked at the past twelve months of studio activity around the world and wonders, despite big changes in the market, has anything really changed for the better when it comes to independent studios?

The piece, available to read here, punctures the myth that digital distribution and the like will give new life to independent studios – given that the rise of PlayStation Network games and the like came at the same time of a period of intense consolidation.

Says Bennallack: "As empire building execs reshape the industry like Greek gods playing dice over chessboards and canapés, excited talk on the ground in 2007 as ever concerned new distribution channels and even – contrary to all visible evidence – the resurgence of independent development. In reality, 2007 supplied more prosaic truths: Making blockbuster games is ever more entrenched with the biggest players, and voluble people with opinions don’t like working for publishers. Bungie is perhaps the exception that proves the rule, making headlines precisely because going it alone as a big independent is these days newsworthy."

In fact, he adds, there is "a cadre of senior management now exists who’ve never known independence nor aspire to it. Typical is a jewel Microsoft has kept hold of – Forza developer Turn 10 – whose head says he’d prefer to make games snug in Redmond’s cocoon than worry about balancing the books."

He adds: "PlayStation Home and Xbox Live Arcade, casual games, mobile distribution, advertising, micro-transactions – these might eventually change up the playing field, but for now it’s business as usual. I’m no longer even convinced the death of boxed retail product will truly open things up. Some newcomers will emerge, but access to well-managed talent, deep pockets and marketing blowouts are the constituents of a nearly all modern game hits, and digital distribution won’t change that."

To read the rest of the piece, click here.

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