Indie devs, including the creator of Boyfriend Dungeon, are speaking out about their concerns following the Microsoft and Activision Blizzard merger. They fear that indie devs who do not release their work on Game Pass won't be able to compete with the industry giant, describing the pricing of games as a "race to the bottom".
While Game Pass has helped indie titles reach a wider audience, some worry for the games that don't get approval to launch on the service. Boyfriend Dungeon developer Tanya Short says that the recent Microsoft deal "strikes fear" in the community, worrying that this could leave riskier, quirky games unable to reach an audience.
Speaking to the BBC, Short is particularly worried that this will leave big companies with a total monopoly on every major launch window in the year.
"This Activision acquisition strikes fear in us because it makes it so much more obvious – maybe they could dominate the rest of the year and then what do we do?", she says.
This is echoed by Yura Zhdanovich, a developer behind indie cyberpunk game, Replaced. He is concerned about the fate of indie titles that don't make it on to Game Pass, and how this cheaper way of gaming makes audiences less willing to spend money on smaller games.
"Conceivably, indie games outside of these services [Game Pass] might lose engagement as subscribers focus most of their attention on games they can access for free within the service", Zhdanovich says. "People are prepared to spend $1,000 dollars on a telephone and then get very offended if you ask them to pay $4.99 for a game."
The BBC also spoke to a representative from Microsoft, Sarah Bond. She says that Game Pass will continue to benefit indie developers, as internal data suggests that it encourages players to try games they wouldn't usually pick up. She says that 60 percent of Human Fall Flat players had never played a puzzle game before, and 40 percent of them went on to pick up another puzzle title outside Game Pass.
It's also worth noting that Game Pass has previously been praised for its indie game support. Back in 2019, the developer of Descenders was surprised to see the title reach 600,000 players via Game Pass, and even saw boosted sales just by having it featured in Game Pass advertising.
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