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Analysis 7th generation - First Party Indie Games


Nov 11, 2018
One new thing that was introduced on consoles in the seventh generation was the idea of downloadable games. As AAA games became more expensive and difficult to develop, smaller teams found refuge in the digital services on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii. However, because digital distribution was seen as more of a novelty that generation, indie game development on consoles was in a state of infancy. Thus, the big 3 took matters into their own hands by publishing their own games created by indie talent.

Microsoft was the better of the three at digital distribution with Xbox Live Arcade, which launched alongside the Xbox 360 in 2005. Over the course of the 360's life, Microsoft published a variety of XBLA titles, many of which helped define the service and have since been ported to even non-Xbox consoles. Games like Dust: An Elysian Tale, and Mark of the Ninja were killer apps for the service, and complimented Microsoft's bigger first party offerings on 360 like Halo and Gears of War.

Sony's PlayStation Network got off to a rough start early in the generation, as they scrambled to figure out how to successfully copy the success of Xbox Live. But over the years Sony eventually refined PSN into not only a solid Xbox Live alternative, but also a home to smaller, more unique games. As Sony doubled down on first party support that generation, they published a wide range of PSN-exclusive titles for the PS3, some of which were strong enough to join the ranks of bigger titles like Uncharted in terms of critical acclaim, with their biggest indie partner being That Game Company, which developed Flower and Journey, two titles that were some of the most notable games on its console.

Then there's Nintendo's WiiWare, for the Wii. Nintendo has never been the greatest at online or digital distribution, and while they've gotten better in some ways today, the seventh generation was filled with growing pains for them regarding this. WiiWare was never as popular or influential as PSN or XBLA, and like those services, was bogged down with several unneeded policies. Never the less, it still was home to a lot of really good games, many of which were published by Nintendo themselves. Games from indie developers that utilized the Wii Remote in smart and intuitive ways such as Curve Digital's "Fluidity" which got a sequel on the 3DS called "Fluidity: Spin Cycle". You Me & The Cubes by Fyto, which involved flinging little creatures on a series of stacking cubes by shaking and throwing with the Wii Remote. Plus, Bonsai Barber, a hair cutting simulator developed by Zoonami, a team comprised of former Golden Eye 007 developers from Rareware.

So the big three's efforts to publish indie games as first party exclusives really helped establish the concept of indie development and digital distribution on consoles. Today, Nintendo, Sony, and Xbox still publish digital exclusive games, even from indie developers. Nintendo recently published Paladin Studios' "Good Job!" on the Switch for example. But it's not as frequent as it was in the 7th generation. This is because the policies of the big 3 have evolved significantly to the point where its now possible for studios to self-publish on consoles with ease, and because digital games are no longer considered separate from the rest of the console's library as full retail games became available for download, rules regarding file size limits and demo restrictions have been done away with. Add on the fact that all three current consoles run PC-based architecture, and it allows indie games to be bigger and more ambitious than what was possible during the 7th generation.
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Oct 12, 2014
Telling how dead PC gaming was at the time. All of those games would've been on PC too in this day.