Conducted By Adam Ames
Scott MacKintosh from soon to be launched digital distribution platform, Indie City, was kind enough to participate in this e-mail interview. You will read how Indie City was formed, how developers can benefit from their service and thoughts about the PC gaming industry.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your role with the development of IndieCity.
Hi, I’m Scott and I’m the Community Manager for IndieCity. I lurk in the IRC and forums chatting to our community, getting feedback and passing it onto the team, discussing any problems and helping out where I can!
Where did the idea for IndieCity come from?
IndieCity came about from our experiences of trying to find the games that we liked. As a team we have such varied taste in games and we all struggled to find games that were similar to the ones we loved playing, so we decided to make the one stop shop for all things indie gaming!
In its current form, how close is IndieCity to your initial vision?
In terms of what we wanted to achieve it’s very similar, but we’ve changed scope and added a number of features that we hadn’t initially intended to. Things like the download client weren’t designed at the beginning but it solved some of the issues we had trying to balance hosting costs for demos and free game, and it gives a better delivery service to the gamers.
What do you look for in a title when deciding whether or not to sell it through IndieCity?
We don’t decide! One of the starting points for IndieCity was that we didn’t want to be the gatekeepers, we wanted to be the one stop shop for all things indie gaming. This means we want all the titles we can get onto the site! We have a Community Approval Process where selected members of our community test games on a number of criteria, mainly making sure the game is functional and matches up to the description the developer is selling the game under.
Are there any differences in the negotiations with bigger indie developers as opposed to smaller ones?
There’s no negotiation with IndieCity! As we don’t pick and choose titles for the platform, there’s no need for us to negotiate deals with developers, we state our terms and revenue share clearly on the site and if the developer is interested then they’re free to upload their game to IndieCity.
One of the knocks against the various digital distribution platforms is the user having 4 or 5 different programs in order to play their games. How do you react to this?
Personally, I don’t really mind as long as the program is well made and isn’t using unnecessary resources or popping up adverts. Our download client is pretty lightweight and really solved a big problem for us with hosting costs on free games and demos. Hosting them without advertising or somehow monetizing them was a real head-scratcher until one of our community members (TheFinn) suggested peer-to-peer technology. Using peer-to-peer to share files is entirely optional for the users, we understand that people have limited/capped and slow connections (I for one suffer this), but even a handful of people sharing the game files will make an enormous difference to our bandwidth bills!
Using the download client will allow gamers to be pushed demos, if they opt in, of games that the recommendation engine suggests for them, even going as far as installing them. So you can leave your computer on overnight and wake up the next day to a bunch of new games to try out! It’s like the Santa Claus of gaming.
In terms of regular and sale pricing, how much say do you have when making games available via IndieCity?
Developers have total control over their pricing, they can change the price on a daily basis. We’re not going to dictate to developers about pricing, though there will be a minimum price so that developers don’t end up making a loss after card fees and revenue share.
How important is it to get instant feedback about IndieCity from users through online message boards and other social networking sites?
Massively important, I was taken on as the Community Manager from day one so that we could build up a great community and get feedback on all the things we’ve been working on. This has been hugely beneficial for us, leading to some great ideas. Some of our early community have also made tools to help people integrate our SDK with the various languages that they use!
What is your reaction to the recent launch of EA’s Origin and Indievania service as well as the announcement for the upcoming GameFly digital distribution platforms?
We’re not too worried about the major digital distribution platforms as we’re not occupying the same space as them, they’re all large, publisher driven, AAA selling distributors. As for other indie game services, well that can only help promote the world of indie games and to us that’s a fantastic thing!
How do you feel about the various indie bundle promotions and the “Pay What You Want” pricing methodology?
I think they’re a great idea. They promote indie games and allow people who are unsure about the games to grab them at a price that’s more suitable to them. From what I’ve heard from developers I’ve chatted to, it gives them a huge amount of coverage and massively increases their sales.
What can you to do make IndieCity an attractive option for PC gamers?
The recommendation engine, I think, is going to be a great thing for gamers. Current portals rely on the same homepage to push popular games or sales to all of their gamers, not the content that they’re actually looking for. Our recommendation engine will allow gamers to have a customized and personal homepage which will show the games relevant to their tastes.
The Underground is another exciting feature for us. It’s going to be the wild west of indie gaming, where developers can upload alpha/beta/tech demo versions of their games, allowing them to gather feedback and bug test from a passionate user base. For the gamers it allows them to find all these new and exciting titles before everybody else, we’ve all seen how wildly popular alpha/beta buy-ins can be.
What are your thoughts on how the PC gaming industry as a whole are dealing with the problem of intrusive DRM and piracy?
I could probably waffle on about my opinions on piracy for pages and pages, so I’ll try to keep it brief. I don’t think the way that the large companies are handling piracy is the correct way, but I do see piracy as a big problem for smaller developers. Just look at Project Zomboid for example, their client got hacked so that anybody had access to the beta updates, this meant that they were forced to take the client and servers offline so that their bandwidth bill didn’t spiral out of control.
So we’re taking a middle-ground approach to piracy, as we want to afford the developers protection for their games without affecting the gamer with intrusive mechanisms. I think the best thing you can do is discourage casual piracy as you’ll never be able to crackdown on the people truly determined to pirate your game, without upsetting your genuine paying customers.
How do you feel about DLC and its current implementation in the PC gaming industry?
Some people are doing DLC really well and others, not so much! Paid-for DLC can be a good thing, as it extends the life of the game for the developer and the extra money will allow them to continue to work on it post launch. There will always be cases of DLC done badly, horse armour I’m looking at you.
What are some of your favorite hobbies away from IndieCity?
I’m playing a lot of games at home, currently beating my head against a wall playing through Dark Souls on the 360 and thoroughly enjoying the beta of A Valley Without Wind between head/wall interactions. Outside of games I ride BMX when I get the chance and I like to dabble with board games. -End
We would like to thank Scott for his wonderful responses. Developers can sign up for IndieCity right now to be part of the initial launch.
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