The age of buying games digitally is officially upon us with platforms such as Steam, Origin, Desura, and GoG making it more convenient than ever for PC gamers to nab their favorite games from the comfort of their own home. But for those who prefer independently-published games, the options for digital distribution become a little more narrow, which can be tough considering the fact that, for many independent publishers, digital distribution is the only viable option. Fortunatly, one company is aiming to change all that.
Online indie-distributor IndieGameStand recently launched their long-awaited indie store (the store went live on September 24th after an extended beta) which offers daily DRM-free deals on select indie games. Buyers can pay what they want for each game offered and a portion of the proceeds from each purchase go towards supporting gaming-centric charities and non-profits. I recently got to see the IndieGameStand’s store in action during the second annual Boston Festival of Indie Games, and I also got to chat with Mike Gnade, indie game lover and one of the co-founders of IndieGameStand.
Nate Hohl: Thanks for talking with me Mike. So, first off, tell me a bit about how the idea behind IndieGameStand was first dreamed up. There’s already a pretty healthy number of options for gamers who want to digitally buy indie games such as Steam and GoG.com but you guys are taking the unique approach of focusing solely on indie games and offering extra benefits such as DRM-free games, charity support, and 4-day flash sales. How has it been going so far?
Mike Gnade: The idea for IndieGameStand (IGS) started about 2 years ago in response to all the game bundle sites that cropped up. As a huge indie gaming fan, I felt that I was re-buying the same game over and over. I also felt like each bundle was more about the bundle than the great games that make up bundles. I looked at sites like Groupon and Woot! and thought that we could do a better job spotlighting one game deal and indie developer at a time.
I also felt like it would be nice to give choice back to consumers. We’re coming up on our first birthday now and we’re really happy with our first year and hope that we can continue to grow and focus on the indie gaming community.
NH: One benefit of your site is that indie developers can reach out to you directly in order to feature their game on the IndieGameStand. How has that been going?
Mike: Yeah as I mentioned before, it’s really important to us that we stay focused on indie games. We are always looking out for great indie game developers and will reach out to them personally to check us out, but we also have an awesome community that regularly suggests indie gems to us. If a developer finds us first, our site makes it really easy for them to get access to our self-service developer portal. Once they are in there, they can setup their game for our site in under an hour (or 3 minutes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2Y_Ied9Tpw ) and opt into our new store or enter our pay-what-you-want (PWYW) deal queue.
NH: Would you say that IndieGameStand is a better alternative for indie developers than, say, Steam?
Mike: Steam is a monster. It has a huge user base and services the entire PC (and mac/linux) gaming community. There are great indie games on there, but there’s also huge AAA games like Bioshock and GTA IV so our platform is certainly more focused and open to all of the indie game developers out there. I think the real advantage of IGS is that we’re focused on the needs of indie game developers. Our platform has been built to be flexible while also supporting the upload of Steam/Desura/GOG keys. It’s really a tool for indie game developers to use.
There’s very little red tape with IGS and once you’re in our developer portal, we have some great features that will make developer’s lives easier. We support Steam Greenlight links and if you’re greenlit and upload keys to our platform, they will automatically be distributed to all of your customers on IGS. We even have a built in newsletter system that lets you email all of your IGS customers about game updates (perfect for games still in development) or promotions.
One of our goals is to help indie game developers from the moment their game is playable through the development process, Greenlight, and ultimately a full release on other platforms like Steam and Desura. The best part is that when consumers discover great new indie games on our site, the developer has the ability to reward them and provide them with not only bonus content, but can easily upload keys, ports and more via our platform.
NH: Your “pay what you want” policy, which allows buyers to virtually set their own price no matter how high or low, seems like an interesting strategy. Are most buyers paying below the listed price or do you find many are usually willing to pay the full amount? Do you plan on revising the pay what you want format or do you think it’s good in its current state?
Mike: We have a few limits setup with our PWYW policy. First off, our minimum is $0.25 so that we’re not processing credit card payments that we’re not making money on. We’re actually really proud that our average price per game is much higher on IGS than other bundle sites. Our purchase process does a great job pushing buyers to beat the average or pay a little bit more to unlock different rewards like Steam keys, Bonus Content, additional games, and even swag and other merchandise. We have no plans to revise our 4 day PWYW deals, but we are obviously excited to be expanding into an indie focused game portal store that gives indie game developers the power to set their own prices, sales, and more.
NH: What are some things that you have planned for the future of IndieGameStand? Do you one day hope to offer special incentives for buying through IGS such as pre-order bonuses, physical goodies, or even exclusive DLC?
Mike: Obviously, our big plans have been to launch this new indie store. We sacrificed our tanning schedules all summer while we worked on it. It would be awesome to offer pre-order bonuses, physical goodies and exclusive DLC on IGS in the future, but ultimately we really like to take a backseat to the developers. We don’t want to dictate release schedules, bonuses and exclusivity to game developers. Even though IGS has never mandated exclusivity of any kind, there have been developers that have uploaded exclusive DLC and bonus content which is really cool. Right now we’re so focused on the store that some of our other ideas have taken a backseat, but we’re very adamant about listening to our community and game developers so if any of your readers have ideas you can submit them and vote on existing feature requests at http://support.indiegamestand.com.
NH: Mike, thank you so much for your time!
The IndieGameStand store is up and running right now so if you’re a fan of great deals and indie games, be sure to check out their official website for the latest deals, news, and other info.