Is Crytek an Indie Developer?

But you'll never take my freedom!

by

Earlier today, Microsoft listed a few of the independent studios it's working with for its ID@Xbox program, which lets independent developers self-publish content directly to the Xbox One. One eye-opening addition to the list was Crytek, a studio notable for the Crysis series, the CryEngine development tool, and, most recently, the Xbox One launch game Ryse: Son of Rome.

GameSpot editors Justin Haywald and Tom Mc Shea face off in trying to answer the question: Is Crytek really an indie developer?

Look at how whimsical Stacking is! Surely it must be indie, right?

Justin Haywald: Going by the comments in the story for this announcement and the noise on Twitter, a lot of people seemed almost offended that Crytek could be considered an "indie dev." But I really don't see what the problem is. It's not a plucky two-man studio, but it's no different from the other developers on this list. It partners with publishers to get its content out, just like Double Fine, Inis, and all the rest do.

And unlike some of the other studios Microsoft listed that are recognized only for making ports of existing franchises, Crytek makes the games it wants using its own intellectual property.

Can you not be considered indie if you're also successful?

Tom Mc Shea: Success has little to do with being designated independent or, um, dependent. Various studios have made waves both critically and commercially and still carry the indie developer label, such as Team Meat, DrinkBox, and Mossmouth. My problem is not just that Crytek--with its budgets soaring past dozens of millions of dollars and its cutting-edge, proprietary engine--has no place among the likes of two-man studios, but that the very categorization is fundamentally flawed.

What exactly are we trying to communicate by calling certain studios indie? It can't be based on the size of their bank accounts, considering that the tiny Size Five Games and behemoth Mojang carry that designation. It can't be originality if you look at the plethora of puzzle platformers and roguelikes being churned out by smaller studios. And if you think refinement should factor into that label, look no further than Gone Home, which is just as smooth as any AAA game.

So what does indie even mean anymore?

BioShock dissects human psychology in a way only an indie developer could. Maybe.

Justin: That's the real issue. To some people, indie has an almost hipster-like connotation of "that studio that makes this game I like, but you probably haven't heard of it." Indie studios create games that might be rougher around the edges, but they do things their own way.

The only solution I see is to separate the two ideas. Studios like Crytek and BioShock-developer Irrational are "independent." They develop their own games, but have to seek outside companies for publishing.

Studios like Capy are "indie." They develop their own games, but have fewer than 50 employees (at least two of whom must have dreadlocks).

Tom: And then there's Valve. The Greatest Company in All of Gaming destroys every independence-related argument. Those who seek thoughtful, creative, and interesting games flock to Valve's offerings, and there's no question that the house that Half-Life built develops whatever it wants. But Valve rakes in so much money, and has so much control over the market with Steam, that to label it as anything but a brilliant megacorps is disingenuous.

It's because of companies like Valve and Mojang that I started to avoid using the term indie. The connotation is obvious--studios built on a passion for gaming rather than money--but there are just as many me-too indie studios as there are AAA teams who endlessly recycle, and Bethesda and DICE prove that all the resources in the world won't save you from a buggy project.

Why do we need to use indie, independent, or any other label when no one can decide on a proper meaning?

Sure, Mojang was indie when Minecraft came out, but is it still?

JH: Just because it has a broader meaning than some people put on it doesn't mean it's inaccurate. Valve is a power unto itself, but Crytek, Mojang, Irrational, and Way Forward are all just different flavors of independent.

And any system that lets developers have more autonomy both in how their content is created and how it's distributed is a gross positive. The closer the Xbox and PlayStation 4 come to the PC in terms of giving independent developers more freedom, the better.

Tom: Now that's an idea that I can get behind. The lower the bar for entry, the more experimentation we'll see, which will only strengthen the industry going forward.

But instead of trying to arbitrarily label every developer, instead of trying to separate the Infinity Wards from the Vlambeers, or debating where Housemarque and Thatgamecompany fall, we should just call them all game developers. Then we won't unfairly downgrade Retro for having Nintendo to help it out, or excuse Paradox for releasing buggy games at launch. Without an indie designation, everyone could be looked at through the same filter, and we could let the games speak for themselves.

Discussion

87 comments
forneverbdocked
forneverbdocked

You can only be determined an indie when an independent review board of hipsters grants you that title. The review hearing goes something like this: "Your company name is what? I've never heard of you. YOU ARE GRANTED INDIE STATUS"

Coolspot18
Coolspot18

Does it matter if a studio is indie or not? As long as they produce a good product, who cares!

Darknight765
Darknight765

This is a dumb argument.  You sit here and pick and choose what something is classified as just because you don't like them in that category.  That would be like me saying a whale isn't a mammal just because it isn't a land dweller like most of the others.  Does it breath Oxygen?  Does it give birth instead of laying eggs?  Guess what, its a mammal.  For indie studios its even easier.  Do you fund all your shit? Yes.  Are you on contract to a publisher like EA? No.  Guess what you are indie.  Doesn't matter how much money you have or how many games you have made or how big your studio is.  Game, set, match.   

forneverbdocked
forneverbdocked

"The lower the bar for entry, the more experimentation we'll see, which will only strengthen the industry going forward."

Isn't that how some of the earliest game consoles almost destroyed the whole gaming market? Anyone could develop games for the consoles and there was so much garbage shovelled around that the entire console experience almost died because of lack of trust in products available. That's the whole reason a bar was created in the first place. Forget history and you are doomed to repeat it.

TigusVidiks
TigusVidiks

I admit , there certainly is a grey area for what is considered indie or not.
But Crytek is certainly not indie.

Talavaj
Talavaj

In my eyes, the indie does not stand for the independence in terms of ownership rights, it stands for the independence of ideas and mind not thwarted by the investor's greed.

Neo_OnionKnight
Neo_OnionKnight

The message to take away is not to rely on mere titles like "Indie" but to look for substance. Games made with passion, new experiences to offer, stories to tell or must be told. Classifications can come later because Indie or not a good game defines itself.

FallenOneX
FallenOneX

We'll put it this way; Technically, George Lucas was an independent film maker. Who here would consider "Star Wars" an Indie film series? If you really want to stick with that story, than no one should ever complain about what he did to HIS movies, they were indie films.... (NOPE, not going to go for the obvious pun on this one)


Edit: is Nintendo an independent developer because they produce their own games?

BuBsay
BuBsay

If Indie developer simply means a development company not owned by a publisher, doesn't that make a lot of gaming companies that release AAA games indie? First one that comes to mind is CDProjekt Red.


Indie can be a lot of things, but companies like Crytek are definitely not the first thing that jump to mind.

Butt_Chunx
Butt_Chunx

A studio like Crytek with their many years of making highly successful big budget AAA games using their proprietary engine and extremely talented and experienced staff can not ever be considered by definition an "Indie" developer.

VenkmanPHD
VenkmanPHD

Crytek? The people who made Crysis? Aren't these the same guys who made Far Cry? I could be wrong there...

Either way, I think the word "indie" is often misused.

let's not forget it means independant.

Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

AAA developers are not indie developers.  If the amount of people who coded the game can't fit on one screen you're not an indie developer!

thisBlueDude
thisBlueDude

Just rate them by AAA, AA, A. Kinda like batteries.

The-Neon-Seal
The-Neon-Seal

If they are they're one of the few doing it the other way round to everybody else. Namely: nice graphics and generally uninteresting in every way beyond that.

X1WarDog
X1WarDog

Any studio that is not owned by another company/publisher is "Indie". The term is often misused, but it doesn't change the fact. 

There may be a need to create a new term for small studios, developing less mainstream games, even if they still fall under the umbrella of "Indie".


Marky360
Marky360

Of course Crytek is an indie dev indie stands for independent and that's what Crytek is there not owned by a publisher. Not all indie devs suck and make stupid puzzlers and the like that would be more at home on an iPhone than a console some indies actually are good and make real Triple A games and those are then indies should be supported.

ghost59
ghost59

crytek owns   9 studios, they can make any game they want. 

Hurvl
Hurvl

Is Crytek an indie developer?

Short answer: No

Neutral, lame answer: It depends...

Longer, more complex answer: The current meaning of indie developer is a small studio, with a small budget making small, niche titles with a small audience. Notice how I've used the word "small" 4 times. Any studio that can't be described using the word small in any way, can therefore not be called an indie studio in that sense of the word. 

Being indie can be seen as someone who's not letting money and publisher influence get in the way of their creative vision, that indie devs are the only true artists or auteurs of the gaming industry. They're therefore more credible, like a quality assurance, that would become meaningless if anyone could call themselves indie, just like the word celebrity has lost some of its meaning when reality-TV attendants became celebrities.

A studio CAN however be indie if it's making a game that a publisher can't interfere with, because they are then independent, i.e. indie. 

Conclusion: We need a new word to distinguish one meaning from the other, because talking about real indie studios and wannabe/fake indie studios gets ridiculous very fast.

rufusamatrix
rufusamatrix

The meaning of the term "indie" or "independent" can have different projections that vary with the variety of you, me and anyone . For purpose of simplification -not conclusion- we can say there's the financial independence and the creative independence, where in most games defined as "indie" the financial independence is the bridge to close the gap between the financial capability and the creative independence. And in most games defined as "not indie" or more commonly "AAA" the financial capability or dependence partially or completely occupies the creative independence. Exceptions like Irrational Games and Rockstar are where the best kind of game is made IMO, where games have the looks of a mainstream game but the soul of independent game (even though there are some bits and pieces of their games that bowed to mainstream pressure) . The concern is never about whether games should be dependent or not, it's about how much creative freedom is traded for a stronger financial capability. Also, we should keep in mind that the term "creative freedom" isn't uni-defined, in some cases, the devs hopes' are on par with the publisher's expectations (every gamer has a list for that type of game), in other cases the devs are indistinguishable from the publisher (many Japanese companies, most notably Nintendo). Finally, we should also examined how companies that we call "mainstream" and "indie" define themselves and each other. Mojang, for example, recently stated: "we're no longer indie" while MS defined Crytek simply as "the studio that doesn't to a publisher". All in all, the industry and community will never universally define all said terms, but gamers and critics usually have the "good graces" to distinguish games from each other, away from all these concrete, mechanical definitions.  

Boddicker
Boddicker

I think the indie moniker should be controlled by how many employees you have.  If you have say 15+ you're no longer indie.

ff7100
ff7100

Crytek and indie? All i know is if they make one it will have graphics like AAA titles but gameplay for lil kids oh wait that will make it an awesome indie!

UpInFlames
UpInFlames

Irrational is not independent, it's owned by Take Two, so you might want to find another example.

DanielL5583
DanielL5583

'Indie' basically refers to independent developers; developers who not only develop the game themselves, but also publish and in some cases distribute it themselves.

Crytek usually develop games for EA or Ubisoft (see Far Cry and Crysis), and are therefore not independent.
Valve develop games and publish them on their own Steam platform, so they can be considered independent.

It's a common misconception of how the term 'indie' works, similarly to how 'doujin' works in otaku circles. Basically, 'doujin' simply translates to 'independent', and 'doujinshi' means 'self-published work' - books and stories that are written, created and published independently. Doujinshi is often misinterpreted as being the work of fans of a series, when in fact that is far from the case, as there are many original doujinshi works out there.

'Independent' has no bearing on the budget, the game's size, the game's style or how psychoanalytical it can be. The only criteria a game needs to fulfill to be considered an independent work is who develops and publishes it.

resorber
resorber

Indie developer my ass, judging by how Crysis has developed to another mass appealing generic money grubbing wankfest and how Crytek works with fucking EA, i don't think so.

Harbinger_CR
Harbinger_CR

"Valve. The Greatest Company in All of Gaming"
Nope.

xxmavr1kxx
xxmavr1kxx

This is a long article that just explains nothing. The length wasn't needed.

Indie is short for independent.. independent developers. It doesn't matter how large or small the company is, if there independent there independent. 

The generation now ( You know the one that keeps COD on the top of the sales board) see "indie" and misinterpret it for a smaller budget, smaller dev, or iphone app. 

So there is a misunderstanding of the phrase "indie dev" DO they really need different classifications? Why can't we just let them be what they are INDEPENDENT, and educate some people on the correct meaning. 

MateykoSlam
MateykoSlam

easy, not AAA then indie
all those crappy shitty games that get 8

hadlee73
hadlee73

It would be kinda neat to make a challenge to Crytek if they want to call themselves and indie studio (not that they don't have the right to, but this could be fun). Get them to chose no more than 5 of their development team, give them a budget of $1m (less than the Kickstarter amount of Shadowrun Returns), and get them to make a game that contains at least 5 hours playing time. And then get it green-lit on Steam. :P

b00me
b00me

There is no argument to be made. Crytek IS an independent developer. An independent developer is a privately owned company. And if that company wants to control and finance it's own IP, why can't they self-publish it? Crytek should have to find a publisher and have that company get a percentage of the profit when it's not necessary?

LesserAngel
LesserAngel

"Technically" Crytek is an indie developer, but it's really in name only. I have yet to hear about an indie developer refuse to make a game because "there isn't a market for it" (Timesplitters). Indie developers tend to make the kind of game THEY want to make, not what's dictated by the market.

Nothing about Crytek says indie to me.

TomMcShea
TomMcShea moderator

The PC has been doing just fine without any barriers.

Darknight765
Darknight765

@Talavaj I'm sorry when was the definition of a term left to interpretation?  Independent- (1) :  not subject to control by others :  self-governing (2):  not affiliated with a larger controlling unit <an independentbookstore> 

R2C25
R2C25

They publish them themselves... case closed.

The-Neon-Seal
The-Neon-Seal

@Marky360 I think calling Crytek 'good' is a bit strong. Have you played any of their games since the original Crysis? They're awful. All flash, no substance.

ghost59
ghost59

@DanielL5583  crytek isnt owned isnt owned by  EA  and only worked with ubisoft  once. 

jonny_dutch
jonny_dutch

@DanielL5583 But at the same time, Crytek aren't owned by, or tied to a publisher, they could feasibly create a true indie game if they wanted to. They are technically an independent developer, they just don't make independent games.

troll_eat_troll
troll_eat_troll

@resorber/facepalm, look up the meaning of independent before you post any further dumb comments.  independent =/= cooperation.  EA doesn't dictate how Crytek should develop their game but cooperate to publish it.


TenraiSenshi
TenraiSenshi

@MateykoSlam Although the strict meaning seems to be evolving all the time, the term "indie dev" basically refers to a development company that is independently owned or self-published. In other words, an Indie dev is basically a development company that develops games independently of - or without the support of - a publishing company (think EA, etc).

This means that if a development studio working under a publishing house develops a non-AAA game, that does not automatically make that game an Indie game just because it's not a AAA title, because in order for it to be an Indie game, it has to meet the basic criteria stipulated above (to develop the game independently of a publisher). This also means it is possible that with the right funding, an Indie dev could publish AAA games as well, which is what I think Cloud Imperium Games is trying to do with Star Citizen, which has already reached over $30 million in funding.

Basically, what I'm trying t say is your comment is quite inaccurate and that you have a very ignorant view of Indie devs.

ghost59
ghost59

@LesserAngel ill just  call them middle man 

a man  between both indie and  AAA

West123
West123

@LesserAngel they could hate timespliters to them timespliters was just a way to keep the lights on...timespliters has noting in common with there other games...kinda like RYSE

BuBsay
BuBsay

The original was developed by Crytek though.