Interview: Jonathan Blow on indies, the death of the Windows Store and his future
The latest issue of games™ investigates the industry’s indie uprising, talking to the developers at the vanguard of alternative gaming pursuits. The brain behind the innovative platformer Braid, Jonathan Blow, discusses the bright future of indies, the death of the Windows store and his future.
Jonathan Blow: I don’t think of myself as part of a movement. What I am doing is pretty different from what other independent game makers are doing. I am independent because that’s the way I am able to pursue the ideas I find interesting. The games I make would not be made by larger / more-conventional companies.
Conversely, what’s bad about it?
I don’t really have anything to say here apart from what I said above.
Do you see indies having a bright future in the current gaming market, or is it more a bubble about to burst?
It depends o who you are talking about. There are a great many indies making 99-cent or free-to-play iOS games who are losing lots of money. So if that is what you are looking at, the bubble burst a long time ago.
But for people who are not looking at this as a business, but rather as a way to do creative work, I think things are just fine, and will continue to be fine for a long time. The Internet makes it much easier to find people interested in your stuff than it ever has been in the past. Of course, it helps if what you are making is actually interesting to people (which most 99-cent iPhone games, etc, are not).
Where do indies sit in this brave future we’re entering? Will we see trickle-down from the squeezed mid-budget dev studios, for example, so we’re left with indies, a few AAA games and not much else?
I don’t know. I don’t expend much mental energy thinking about things like that.
PC/Mac/Linux are obviously great for indies, but consoles traditionally aren’t as open – do you see this changing with the next generation of machines?
It is very likely to change, because otherwise those platforms will have a lot of trouble competing.
There is also the possibility that one or two platforms will try to stand out as “we are the places that only accept the best developers”, but the problem is that you need to show a big quality differential to end-users in order to make up for the lack of selection. It seems very difficult to do.
Actually, thinking along the same lines, is Windows 8 making it harder for indies to get their stuff out there to PC users, with its more ‘walled garden’ approach?
Yeah, the Windows Store stuff is pretty terrible. I hope it dies a quick death.
What’s in store for your future?
I am working hard on finishing The Witness. Beyond that, who knows!
Finally: why should people pay attention to indie development?
I don’t know, why should they? This is something every developer needs to answer for themselves: Why should anyone out there pay attention to my game? All too often, because developers haven’t asked themselves this hard question in an honest way, the answer is: They shouldn’t. If, as a developer, you can figure out how to generate an honest and strong answer to this question then you are doing okay.
To read the whole Indie Uprising article, featuring interviews with Thomas Grip, Justin Ma, Derek Yu and more then pick-up games™ issue 131 in digitally or in newsagents from 17 January.