When you turn on a video game, it's usually a multi-million dollar production. War simulator "Battlefield 3," football extravaganza "Madden NFL 12" and snowboarding game "SSX" are just a few of the titles that come to mind.
However, several smaller, independent developers are starting to make a splash on the scene. And gamers, along with big game companies, are starting to take notice.
Yesterday (June 25), Activision, makers of the " Skylanders " and "Call of Duty" franchises, announced the winners of its Independent Games Competition, awarding top dollars to developers who presented innovative ideas. The winners turned out to be solo developers like Christopher Hui, whose "Iron Dragon" action flight adventure game won first place – netting him $175,000.
Sony and Microsoft, the makers of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles, respectively, have also given a great deal of attention to the "indie" game scene.
Sony has picked up the rights to several up-and-coming developments for PlayStation Network, including the music/rhythm action game "Dyad," put together by solo game maker Shawn McGrath, and "The Unfinished Swan," an artsy adventure by student Ian Dallas and his team at Giant Sparrow. Both games are due for release this year. [ 10 Best PlayStation Vita Games ]
Microsoft has for years been running an Indie Games channel on its Xbox Live service, home to Mommy's Best Games' frantic "Shoot 1Up," a vertical scrolling shooter inspired by those from years before.
Gamers are also getting directly involved with developers, thanks to the insurgence of Kickstarter campaigns. These donation programs help game makers build funds for dream projects, including Tim Schafer's "Double Fine" adventure title. Schafer was shooting for a $400,000 funding goal; he eventually grossed more than $3.3 million. Other projects, including "Shadowrun Returns," fared just as well, exceeding small goals and guaranteeing that the game would be made, and provided with extras. [ Top 10 Gadgets on Inventor Site Kickstarter ]
Hollywood has taken notice with the recently released "Indie Game: The Movie," which is available as a download on iTunes and, appropriately, the Steam game service, for around $10. The movie follows the ups-and-downs of developers trying to make their dream projects, including Jonathan Blow, the producer of the best-selling "Braid," and Polytron, the team behind the adventurous platformer " Fez ".
Even though gaming thrives on its huge franchises, independent titles have clearly found their place in this market. And what's more, a lot of the games being offered are a great deal of fun.