Creating a great indie game is no easy feat, but finding an audience for that game is a whole other challenge. This results in over 50% of indie games never making more than $4000 in revenue, a figure that can be destabilizing if you hope to create a sustainable future in the industry.
Fortunately, the market for indie games continues to grow. Seeing many publishers over the last decade begin to specialize in distributing and publishing indie titles.
Let’s take a look at seven such publishers you should keep an eye on.
Perhaps the biggest-named indie game published, Devolver was founded in 2009. But it wasn’t until the landmark release of Hotline Miami in 2012 that Devolver exploded onto the indie game map.
Since then, Devolver have increase their catalogue year-on-year, publishing many of modern gaming’s largest indie hits—including The Talos Principle, Minit, Gris, Ape Out and Inscryption.
The past ten years have also seen Devolver dive into a wider array of genres and styles. Initially they seemed hyper-focused on twitch-heavy action games, but now their roster includes everything from puzzlers to narrative experiences.
Devolver’s prized position in the industry, and their impressive backlog of landmark indie titles, makes them one of the most desirable indie publishers out there.
As the games division of Annapurna Pictures—the film production house behind hits like Zero Dark Thirty and Her—Annapurna Interactive is known for foregrounding narrative and tender storytelling in the games they publish.
To date, Annapurna have helped to fund and publish a variety of games worldwide, including Kentucky Route Zero, Gone Home, Florence and Outer Wilds.
Unlike some other publishers, Annapurna Interactive keep a relatively coherent style between all the games they publish, meaning if you are hoping to approach them for a publishing deal it’s worth playing their back catalogue first.
Proudly naming themselves “pioneers of developer-focused publishing”, Curve Games is a global, multi-award winning publisher who aim to curate, shape and amplify quality indie games.
With early hits like The Swapper and OlliOlli, Curve have published a wide variety of genres over the years—from sports games to RPGs to puzzlers.
Working on both PC and console, Curve games were named ‘Publishing Hero’ at the Develop Industry Excellence Awards back in 2017.
As both a developer and publisher, Team17 truly know what it means to be in the indie game market. In their over 30 years as a company, they have developed for large series—such as the Worms franchise—while publishing many new classics—like Overcooked .
Based in the UK, Team17 pride themselves on being “gamers and developers who love fun, quality games”, an ideology they take through with them from development to publishing. Forever united by their “independent spirit”.
Humble Games—the publishing division of Humble (formerly Humble Bundle)—set out on a mission to help indie devs see the light of day. Their bio states “we wanted to make it easier for developers to succeed and found that publishing is the next way to give back.”
Adhering to the tenets of their parent company, Humble is dead-set on supporting the wellbeing of indie gaming.
While they are younger than many other on this list, we’re confident that humble will continue to grow as they have done since their initial launch way back in 2010.
Self-publishing is also a fantastic way for indie developers to get their work out there.
Itch.io is perhaps the premiere site for developers, given it’s free to publish and has a whole host of pricing options for developers to choose from—from “pay what you want” pricing to set price products.
While self-publishing hands you all the control, it’s worth noting that self-publishing can make it incredibly hard for your game to stand out—even if it is excellent. This means that it will be up to you to promote, share and market your game in order to get it seen.
If you’re just starting out, Itch.io is perhaps the best option as you can easily publish small works which may not be viable for commercial publishing. And, who knows, perhaps an influential team will play your indie on Itch.io!
The elephant in the room—Steam—is the platform for PC-based indie game publishing.
Much like Itch.io, you can self-publish through Steam, allowing you to be your own publisher. However, be warned, that due to the huge amount of games on steam it may be incredibly difficult to get organic eyes on your game.
Moreover, Steam take an industry standard 30% cut from all your sales, which certainly does add up.
If all these thoughts about publishing have left your head in a spin, perhaps you need some inspiration. Given the fast nature of indie gaming, many of the best indie games, including those published by the above publishers, can be found at fantastic discounts!