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Dead Cells Studio Teams With Other Indie Devs For The Triple-I Showcase

Over 30 independent studios will showcase their new projects during the April 10 livestream.


30+ independent studios are teaming up to put on a showcase for their games. Called the Triple-I Initiative, this April presentation will reveal what studios like Mega Crit Games (Slay the Spire), Red Hook Studios (Darkest Dungeon), Heart Machine (Hyper Light Drifter), and Evil Empire (Dead Cells) are working on next, among many others.

The initiative was kicked off by Evil Empire, which first approached many of the studios at last year's Gamescom to pitch the concept. "The goal is to have a straight-to-the-point show packed with announcements as a collective of studios, to speak directly to players, the people who have been directly supporting us since day one," Evil Empire COO Benjamin Laulan said in a press release. "The show will run for about 45 minutes, featuring news by the most successful and creative folks out there. No hosting segments, no advertisements, no sponsorships, no extra fluff, just games."

At GDC, I caught up with Evil Empire marketing director Bérenger Dupré and some of the folks at these other studios to talk about the Triple-I Initiative. First and foremost, with the seemingly rising number of showcases every year, I wanted to know why these studios wanted to make another one instead of preparing material for an existing virtual presentation.

"We've been known for the moment for working only on the live ops of Dead Cells for the past five years and--spoiler alert--we are also working on new games, and we had to announce one of these games at some point, and timing-wise, we couldn't have the leisure to attach this announcement to a showcase because it was not matching with the dates," Dupré said.

"It also allows us to experiment with visibility and another way of breaking through because sometimes you break through because you're in the right spot at the right time or your game looks nothing like another game or its mechanics are so hooky that you just get a kind of a nice flashpoint." Red Hook co-founder Chris Bourassa added. "But you can't rely on a flashpoint every time you ship and none of us want to be one-hit wonders. So how you reach people and how you sell your game has a lot to say about how successful your game is going to be.

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"And some of it's timing," Red Hook's other co-founder, Tyler Sigman, added. "There's been times in the past where I'm like, 'Oh, we would consider being part of another showcase.' But the timing didn't line up. The common denominator there is you're ultimately not in control--someone else is going to determine whether [your trailer is shown] and what I liked about this is [it] lets us just make our own [showcase]. If we make our own, no one can force us to turn it off because we are controlling the power button. So that's good too just because [of] that level of making the opportunity yourself rather than waiting for someone to give it to you."

In addition to these reasons, Dupré said that it feels like the games that will be featured in the Triple-I Initiative rarely fit anywhere else. "At Gamescom in August, we started meeting some friends [to discuss how] we felt that we could create [a showcase] because when you look at the showcase season, you have the big first party showcases, you have awards, and you have the more niche showcases for [specifically] wholesome games or VR, but you don't have [a showcase] for the in-between space."

It's a sentiment that easily ties back to the idea of "indie" games having a very loose definition in the industry. Some think that so long as a game isn't tied to a publisher, it's indie. Others think having a publisher is fine so long as your team and the scope of your game is small enough, but then the definition of "small enough" varies from person to person. Thus the idea of a "triple-I" game and the Triple-I Initiative is born. These are games that aren't large enough and don't have the financial backing to contend with Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo triple-A first-party titles but they're a bit bigger in scope and more well-known than a lot of other studios that are considered indie.

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"Since using letters seems to be the trend in the industry, we figured that adding a couple of Is to indie was a fair way to describe this new format," Dupré said. "Also, triple-I just sounds cool."

"I'm trying to think of when [the term triple-I] first started popping up, but it often gets attributed to some of our games for that reason because it's like, 'Well [we're] not triple-A and double-A is kind of a weird [because] it undersells it because it's still indie, but how indie?'" Sigman said. "And it's not a spectrum where there's a good and a bad side of that. It's more like we identify in a certain way and I think that often our games get mentioned a lot together by either players or friends and so I think the smart thing that [Evil Empire] did was realizing, 'Wait, we already kind of work together,' [and] I think that's really good and it doesn't come at the expense of anyone. We all benefit from more heightened awareness of our type of games."

"It's not [meant to be] a gatekeeping thing," Mega Crit Games co-founder Casey Yano added, clarifying that even the triple-I label has nuance to it. But the hope is that fans will tune into the Triple-I Initiative knowing they won't see trailers for huge games driven by the latest graphics. These are smaller passion projects. "Maybe [it's a game] made by somebody [who] broke off from a big studio and wanted to do something a little bit smaller scale, or something doing something more experimental without any red tape. We're all different. It's not like 'This is a triple-I, this is not triple-I.'"

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Regarding what players can expect to see, all of the studios are currently keeping things close to the chest, but I was told that I can expect to be wowed by some of the announcements. "At least ours is not a small thing," Bourassa teased. "[Evil Empire] was pretty adamant that these trailers, whether it's a world premiere or whatever the content is, need to be impactful and noteworthy. Yes, this is an evasive answer, but basically, there's a standard in terms of the impact."

The Triple-I Initiative will premiere on April 10 at 10 AM PT / 1 PM ET. You can watch it on YouTube and Twitch.

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