How COVID-19 pandemic affected game development for the independent game market

Like many industries, video game development was also impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic with larger studios delaying projects in order to cope with the changes.

One side of the game development industry that has does not appear to have been affected as severely is the independent side of the industry.

While this may not be true for all indie game devs currently working on games, MM was able to speak with a handful of devs working on projects that told us how the pandemic and lockdown situations in their own lives actually helped them to focus more time on their work.

Conrad Grindheim, 21 from Switzerland is the solo developer of The Outbound Ghost and when asked about the impact of the pandemic on development he said:

“I’m very fortunate, it hasn’t really affected me very much at all. If anything, it allowed me to really knuckle down and get the game done more quickly […] So in that way it really benefitted me and I’m very much an indoors person normally so fortunately, it didn’t affect me too much.

“I was very careful about the pandemic as well, so I really didn’t do anything for a long time. I still don’t do anything, even though I’m double vaccinated cause I don’t want to contribute to the spread.”

For developers like Mr Grindheim who are working on these projects by themselves, working from home was already the normal way of working while they create these games.

But another developer, Ewoud van der Werf, 19 from the Netherlands has been working on his title SCHiM with the help of a publisher Extra Nice since around the time the pandemic began in early 2020.

“I’m working a lot more from home and the developments of the beginning stages of SCHiM- actually, that’s right when it happened. Most of the game is developed where I am just at home and then I nowadays, I go to the company like twice a week but still a lot of stuff is made at home.”

One of the positive outlooks that came from the new global workstyle of working from home was the how new opportunities became available to people, like the Twitter trend PitchYaGame that saw indie devs pitching their games to a wide audience.

Roee Amar, 26 from Israel is working on Do Not Buy This Game which tells the story of a game developer trying to create a game while the player is going through it and is drawn from Mr Amar’s own personal journey when trying to make a game previously.

When asked about his own experiences with working on his title during the global pandemic, he said:

“Being locked in is difficult I feel, and it really affects how you think about stuff and how you actually can interact with your environment, and that was not ideal. Like it’s hard to actually put out your best ideas and get stuff out there and actually, you know, creating the thing when you were kind of locked into this situation, but I did work, and I did manage to progress quite a bit in that time.

“Ironically, it had its upsides as well, like having all those online communities come together and try and create opportunities for people, since they can’t actually meet right now, really made it easier to kind of get yourself out there. And especially when you don’t live in Europe or the USA, it’s way, way easier that way to actually engage with people on a global scale as an equal of sorts.

“And those opportunities weren’t there, at least not as much before the pandemic. And I hope they do stay there after. It’s a mixed bag. It has those personal lows, but also weird opportunities that just wouldn’t be there otherwise.”

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