Chris Taylor of Gas Powered Games and Epic president Mike Capps both revealed during DICE that it's getting harder for development studios like theirs to remain independent of big publishers.
During the event in Las Vegas this week, Taylor and Capps both told Gamasutra that there's a "big line" between mid and large sized indie development.
“We’ve been independent for 12 years this May,” said Taylor. "There’s a real fine line. I guess it’s a big line between indie development on the iPhone and [what we do]. Mike’s doing bigtime independent stuff, and we’re doing medium independent stuff.”
“It’s getting harder and harder to be independent, especially at our size,” Capps added. “Knowing what you know well is important. It’s all about picking a battle. For us it’s about tech and making a good game, and knowing what we don’t do well.”
Financial concerns is what causes the most fretting for larger independent companies, and because of this, dependency on the money end can lead to outsourcing.
“We [as an industry] kind of fell into a rut these past 10 to 15 years, in that even though we were independent, we were so dependent on these publishers that we were basically outsourcing studios. That’s not being independent," said Taylor. "You can call yourself that, but that’s all it is. It’s been really unfortunate for a lot of independent developers who are basically beholden to the traditional publisher model."
"Once you get on that cycle it’s hard to get off," Capps added. "It’s like, ‘Oh, your independent IP is great, but why don’t you do this license for us at the same time?’”
“We walk a very fine line because we can’t say bad things about anyone, but our customer walks into Best Buy or Fry’s, and they don’t know we’re an independent company. They think we’re huge,” said Taylor. “We went three years without upgrading our hardware because we couldn’t make it a priority to pay for that.”
“There are some really difficult financial situations in this industry,” said Capps. “You can make a game like Shadow Complex, be a 10- to 12-man team for a year, get to be a best-selling game on [Xbox Live Arcade], and then still have money be tight.”
That is one of the reasons Microsoft's been such a good partner for Epic, according to Capps, because “somebody’s got to put up a billboard in Hong Kong, and it’s not going to be me.”
GPG's next title is Kings and Castles, a new RTS for PC and consoles.
Epic's currently at work on a FPS it's co-developing with its People Can Fly studio, and it's slated for release sometime during Q4 of EA's FY11.