Everyone must have played Angry Birds by now, of one guise or another. Even my mother, who has looked on in a confused manner at the hours I spent shooting ducks and eating mushrooms on my trusty old NES (with the rather pointless robot), has, briefly, played Angry Birds.
And, if you have then you will have noticed, quite probably, that the publishing house of this game is not other than Rovio. However, Rovio has gone (back to being) Indie… sort of… with the introduction of Rovio Stars.
Rovio Stars is their new indie mobile game publishing program. The more cynical amongst you might see this as just a purely business motivated exercise, something that allows the now giant Rovio to snap up the best indie games on the market to help their own profit margins,
The more generous or level-headed of you though might see this a way for Rovio to give something back to the indie games community.
Whatever way you see it, the one thing that cannot be denied is that this is a great way to get your game developed to a high standard, with their experienced game production teams helping to mentor you; to help you fine-tune and polish your game by using their extensive know-how. They can also support you with their marketing too, which, if you have ever seen the way Angry birds is pushed around the world, you will know is pretty damn good.
Again, the cynical amongst you might suggest that they will only pick the ones that they think will be the most profitable, the ones that they imagine lot’s of kids will be annoying the other train and bus customers with. Maybe, though, they are interested in ideas that differ from the norm. Ones that take a new approach to a platform/shoot-em-up/flick-objects-into-other-objects type of games.
It does sound a little like Chillingo, which is a division of Electronic Arts, but maybe the games market is learning a few lessons from the music market. You see, once upon a time there were major music labels (the likes of Sony etc), and there were indie music labels (the likes of Factory etc).
Major labels noticed that some of the more credible bands and artists preferred to be on an indie label. Their credibility was important to them and to how they communicated to their fans. However, these bands just never really had the marketing budgets for full-on assaults on the charts and for global domination.
The major labels saw the potential in these bands and came up with a (not-so) genius plan. They would simply just buy the indie labels. This way, the artists kept their (so-called) credibility but got a marketing budget with which to push their musical offerings and the major labels saw very healthy returns on their investments.
Incidentally one of the biggest indie music labels in the 80s/early 90s was Stock Aitken Waterman, who gave us such delights as Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue. I will leave that one up to you to decide if it is a good thing or not. However it did help open the world up to a greater variety of music, and Rovio Stars or Chillingo could help get games out into the market which might otherwise have been lost because of a lack of marketing or production knowledge… or even just a bit of friendly old advice from people that have been there and designed the t-shirt (and cups, and mouse mats, and cuddly toys…)