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Indie Devs Clarify: Funding Didn’t End From Xbox, “Gold Rush” Is Over For The Whole Industry

The health of smaller independent video games shouldn’t be fodder for console wars.

Last week, a small set of interviews went viral over claims that the proverbial ‘gold rush’ for indie game funding had ended. Today, we get some clarification about those interviews.

We also reported on this piece from last week, which came from PC Gamer. They cited quotes from Mega Crit Games producer Casey Yano, who is known for Slay the Spire, and Red Hook Studios co-founder Chris Bourassa, who is himself known for Darkest Dungeon.

We quoted Casey and Chris directly, based on this report. Chris was the source of the “Gold rush is over” quote, though he didn’t name any company in particular here. On the other hand, Casey identified Epic Games Store in particular, as a company that was pulling back on funding for indie games.

However, we took for granted that PC Gamer implied that they knew someone who claimed that they knew that Microsoft was also pulling back funding for their games. Our report pointed out that they didn’t name Sony, Nintendo, Steam, or other companies, or claimed that they were pulling funding for smaller independent games.

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In a new interview on Gamer Social Club, Casey and Chris returned to clarify their statements.

Bourassa said:                 

“My gold rush comment was meant as an overall appraisal of the indie funding situation – as I said, deals are more difficult to line up, their average size has diminished, and many companies are facing layoffs.

Chris provided a lot more clarification, reiterating he specifically referred to Epic and not Microsoft. He said:

“There were some VERY good deals at the onset of Epic Games, which is what I was pointing to, not Game Pass.

Yeah, those (Epic Games) deals have dropped in value. Game Pass deals are a bit more nebulous as there’s little data out there, a lot more hush hush. I know of two studios who locked great deals though (last year).”

He then painted the bigger picture for the independent video game companies looking for funding in the industry today:

“I thought it (the PC Gamer article) was going to be about lack of funding in general to be honest. The money is just harder to get, the big platforms aren’t being as speedy and the size of deals have come down. It’s not that there is NO money, or that funding is an impossibility, but publishers and platform holders are being much more conservative.

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It’s not meant to be a game pass specific comment. Investment in games is down by a lot in the last 12 months, if not clearly evidenced by the shuttering of several small studios. A lot of publishers have backed out of deals, gutting large teams. That’s just facts.

A lot of the folks I spoke to this year at GDC are definitely pursuing funds from different sources this year. To me (an independent game developer), it looks like these smaller teams are struggling to find funding but we do see some good news sometimes. I also heard from 2 larger studios that several projects lost funding. Whether this was game pass or not is unknown of course.”

As unfortunate as it is to point out, Chris and Casey’s newer interview pretty much indicates that their initial statement were misrepresented, or perhaps there were more things read into them than they actually said.

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As to why any of this matters, not everyone may like to play small scale independent video games. Certainly, a generation of gamers are getting accustomed to free-to-play games, the lion’s share of which are made by large studios and are intended to get unlimited funding from player revenue.

But it matters for the industry as a whole. This isn’t just about the signs of less money going around the industry. Independent games are a major part of the business now; otherwise we wouldn’t see bigger companies like Take-Two start their own labels like Private Division, and we also wouldn’t see companies that exclusively work with smaller games, like Humble Games or Devolver Digital.

So this sort of thing really isn’t something to play console wars over. If the market for smaller games fades, it means even more developers leaving the industry. They won’t be announced in these big industry layoffs, but they’ll still close their companies and move on to other tech jobs. And the game industry will feel the consequences all the same.

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