A regular rogue’s gallery of independent game developers – including the makers of Dead Cells, Slay The Spire, Darkest Dungeon, Spiritfarer, Terraria and V Rising – have clubbed together to run their own videogame showcase: the Triple-I Initiative. Initially screening on 10th April, it’ll be a 45-minute, unhosted, back-to-back series of trailers, reveals and surprise game or demo releases, designed (as per the press release) “to highlight fan-favorite games and hype up established indie classics as well as new IPs”. It could become a yearly thing, but that’ll obviously depend on how well the first showcase goes down.

According to a few of the organisers, the IIIIs – as they shall now and forever be known – reflect a high level of anxiety even among more established indie teams about finding an audience, together with a feeling that they aren’t being served by existing showcases like the Geoffies, with their blockbuster headliners, celebrity cameos and extended Kojima soliloquies.

The inaugural showcase won’t make anybody any money directly. There will be no sponsors or advertising, and all the participants are chipping in to meet the cost of production. The idea began life at Evil Empire, the current developers of Dead Cells, who have spent much of the past year or so convincing other studios to join.

“We came up with this idea when we had to announce our own game, and couldn’t find a fitting place to announce it in the showcase landscape,” Evil Empire co-founder Benjamin Laulan told me during a quick chat with several of the participating devs at GDC last week. “Because on one side there are the big showcases such as the Game Awards, which are more for triple-A games and games with really huge budgets. And on the other hand, there are showcases that may be more focused on [smaller] indies. And we couldn’t really identify ourselves as a studio, I mean, between those two. We felt that there was this in-between spot that needed to be filled somehow.”

“We literally for years have been building our entire plan of how to announce games around the big tentpole showcases,” added Rodrigue Duperron, marketing and publishing director for Thunder Lotus Games. “It’s part and parcel of being companies of our size – that fear that you’re gonna announce something and it just sort of floats away into the ether, or gets stomped by one of the bigger announcements hours or days later, and no one remembers. So there was just something so obvious about what our friends here tried to put together – it’s a need that exists.”

{ e.preventDefault(); e.currentTarget.closest(‘figure’).innerHTML = e.currentTarget.querySelector(‘template’).innerHTML; enableElements(); })(event)” title=”Click to play video from YouTube”>
Cover image for YouTube videoThe Triple-i Initiative : New digital showcase announcement

A sceptical soul might look at the currently confirmed IIII participants and object that most of them are plenty famous enough, with pretty strong player followings – certainly, I don’t see any names which I don’t already recognise from magazine covers or the Steam featured slot or, indeed, the Games Awards. Do studios of this stature really need a whole showcase all to themselves? Exactly what will the ratio of announcements be between slots for well-known series and promotion for new work? Devs who are trying to make a living from their very first release or who are experimenting with unproven styles of game may not feel excessively sympathetic to the cause.

Still, I can see the argument that in a time of economic precarity in which hundreds of games hit Steam every day and the biggest live service projects command an on-going and outsized share of attention, there’s room for another showcase dedicated to smaller teams – even those who, as Red Hook co-founder Tyler Sigman acknowledged, have had “their day in the sun”. It was also intriguing, back at GDC, to hear these seasoned developers talk a little in broad strokes about the eternal problem of discoverability on a marketplace like Steam, and how indies have adapted to changing times.

“We’re like ‘third stage indie’,” Duperron went on, reflecting on Thunder Lotus’s journey since its founding in 2014. “Early days, being indie was notable in and of itself, and there was an appetite to discover and support those games. And then a lot of us are second generation, where we kind of learned from that and had some success. But there’s like an arms race now in the industry. And some of the marketing techniques or the hooks that landed in the second generation are no longer relevant. And we have to find new ways of trying to break through.”

“I think one of the most sobering parts is when you see games that are quite good, get released and just disappear,” added Sigman. “And that just goes back to not taking anything for granted. We’ve evolved our marketing over time, but you just need to find new ways to reach the people, you know. It’s a weird case where the audience continues to grow – you know, games like Palworld had numbers that we haven’t seen like, ever. But simultaneously, more and more games are just disappearing.”

Watch out for more from my chat with the IIII participants in the coming weeks. You can watch the first showcase on Youtube, Twitch, bilibili, Steam and the Ian Games Network at 10am PT/1pm ET/7pm CEST on 10th April.

Similar Posts