Never before has there seemed a better time to be a game developer. The industry is thriving, surpassing the film industry in terms of revenues.
Startup companies are finding success competitive with AAA studios. Most importantly, the tools available to developers are better and more accessible than ever.
Last September, Epic Games stunned the development community when they announced that the Unreal 4 Engine would be distributed free to developers of all levels including students, with royalties only due after a minimum amount of sales.
Now the latest tools and tech are available without the million-dollar initial cost just to get started. Unity soon followed suit, announcing a similar free distribution of their own engine and tools.
With this financial burden released fledgling developers have more freedom to explore their game concepts, developing their skills and releasing their efforts to market. Ideally, without having to recoup expensive overhead, this will lead to more experimental game projects that are focused on entertaining and engaging players first, rather than regurgitating clones of proven successes in the sole pursuit of sales. Games such as “The Stanley Parable” and “Papers, Please” are great examples of this engagement-first principle.
That said, as game developers we still strive for commercial success. But we should be equally satisfied with critical acclaim, which can be leveraged into employment opportunities, brand loyalty, and future financial gain.
Brad Furminger is an instructor in Video Game Design and Production at the Toronto Film School.