Game industry veterans Greg Costikyan and Johnny Wilson announced today that they are joining forces to launch Manifesto Games, a new venture to build a strong and viable independent game industry. Its site will offer independently-developed games for sale via direct download--a single place where fans of offbeat and niche games can find "the best of the rest," the games that the retail channel doesn't think worth carrying. Three types of games will be offered: truly independent, original content from creators without publisher funding; the best PC games from smaller PC game publishers, including games in existing genres like wargames, flight sims, and graphic adventures; and niche MMOs.Link
While games were once the domain of hobbyists, today, the game industry considers any title that sells fewer than 1 million copies to be a failure; "The typical game store only has 200 facings," notes Costikyan, Manifesto’s CEO., "They can only carry best-sellers. On the Internet, there is no shelf space and you are limited only by how well you can market yourself, your site. This is where niche product can rule." Manifesto believes that an independent game market is analogous to film or music, where less commercial offerings aimed at identifiable markets and produced at lower budgets than the "blockbusters" can achieve profitability and critical success.
"The game industry has become moribund,” notes Costikyan. "Because of ballooning budgets and the narrowness of the retail channel, it is now essentially impossible for anything other than a franchise title or licensed product to obtain distribution. Yet historically, the major hits, the titles that have expanded the industry to new markets and created new audiences have been highly innovative. It is time for us to find a way to foster innovation, because it's not going to happen if we leave it to the large publishers."
"Many companies are entering the direct download space," Costikyan continues, "but in most cases, they're either focusing on casual downloadable games, or on offering the back catalog of major publishers. It’s amazing that casual game publishers can succeed selling games to people who, historically, haven't bought them, but we’d rather try to sell games to people who already buy them. By offering greater exposure to independent games, we'll be introducing gamers to a universe of games they haven't already seen--and that, we think, is the winning strategy."