The indie games market is bigger and more diverse than ever before. Every day, tons of games are being released not only on Steam, but on other platforms like the PlayStation Store, Nintendo eShop, Epic Games store, and more. While the current state of gaming is a good thing in a way, since more gamers have more options in terms of games to play, on the business side of things, it’s pretty difficult for games to stand out from the crowd. For an indie game to sell well nowadays, it isn’t only a matter of just having a good game, putting it on Steam, and making boatloads of money like in the early and mid-2000s — now, video game developers and publishers need to, well, think outside the box.
One publisher that has brought unique indie games out into the wild is Dear Villagers, which used to be called Playdius. You probably know some of the publishers’ titles, like Dead in Vinland and Edge of Eternity. With a new name, an impressive lineup of upcoming titles, and of course, an old-school-style turn-based RPG that’s currently in Early Access (Edge of Eternity), we were curious to know more about Dear Villagers as a whole. During GDC 2019, Noisy Pixel had the chance to do so by chatting with Guillaume Jamet, Dear Villagers’ head of publishing.
Brad Crespo: How do you go about deciding which games to publish?
Guillaume Jamet: So before, as Playdius, we were looking for mid-size indie games, but now, we’re looking for high priority indie games and up to AA games — focusing on PC and consoles. We might have some mobile games but it’ll be more mobile adaptions of PC and console games.
We have very strong expectations for what we look for with games. The first thing we look for is a game that can be published on several platforms. We do not want a game that is PC player only or that is sort of PC exclusive. We also look for games that cater to a mature audience and that have nice visuals. The games have to be good looking at first sight so gamers are interested in them, otherwise, they may not play them at all. Art direction is very important.
The other thing that we’re focused on is that we want to tell stories to the players so all the games we publish need to have a strong, single-player experience.
The last requirement is that everyone can enjoy the game. Also, we want to work with developers that can we build and maintain a great relationship with since we do talk a lot with the teams we work with. It’s good for me to be like, “Would I grab a beer with that guy?” and feel like I can be friends with the developers.
BC: Playdius has recently rebranded itself as Dear Villagers. What led the studio to make that change?
GJ: So it’s a new name but we’re not a new publisher or anything like that. We used to be called Playdius and it was the publishing division of Plug In Digital since 2012.
As Playdius, we released many titles on PC, consoles, and even mobile. But we ran into a problem because we released several different types of games, which was very difficult to explain. Our [brand] message got very mixed up so we were lacking a strong brand.
So, we decided to come up with a new brand because of this, and also because many of the people that founded Playdius left the company. We had lots of new people coming into the company and weren’t attached to the name Playdius, so we ended up coming up with a new adventure and name for ourselves.
This one [the Dear Villagers brand] is here for good, I can promise you that. We know what we want to do and how we want to do. Plug in Digital will work more specifically with mobile games, but we’ll be working more on PC and console games.
BC: Throughout GDC, I continue to hear about there being an Indiepocalypse due to the number of indie titles released. Is this something that you believe to be true?
GJ: That term [Indiepocalypse] has been used for a number of years. It was invented, I would say, three or four years ago. An average game that was released on Steam five years ago would do pretty well, whereas now, that wouldn’t be the case.
Indiepocalypse is kind of true because of how many indie games are released, but we don’t fall into it since we’re focused on bringing high-quality games to the games market. It’s important to focus on a few great games rather than a ton of games so we can really focus on marketing for those games. I think that when developers self-publish games, they fall into the Indiepocalypse because they’re not getting the support they need to sell their games. It’s not sufficient to not market your game and to not have it known in the market.
BC: What’s the reception been like for Edge of Eternity since it’s been in Early Access for a little while?
GJ: Reception has been very good, and to be honest, even better than we expected. The game has been doing quite well as an Early Access title. When the game first was released on Early Access, obviously it had some flaws, but the [Edge of Eternity] community immediately understood why. Many people get an Early Access title and as soon as they notice problems with it, they leave a bad review on Steam. But our community understood that, yes, there were some bugs and issues in the beginning, and the community has been wonderful.
Edge of Eternity has been selling really well already. Also, the good thing is that we had a discussion with the developer and told them that we were very happy that the game has improved in quality so we actually put more money into the game to help out. With that money, the studio will be improving cutscenes and so much more.
BC: How has development been for Edge of Eternity?
GJ: So the development team is a pretty crazy group of people, haha. They’re trying to make a JRPG with only a nine-person team. They’re doing their best and they’ve already created 10-12 hours of gameplay. For the game, they want it to have 40-50 hours of gameplay, so it’ll end up being a real JRPG. It’ll have a well-told story, an epic world, and several characters that players can connect with.
The game will actually have a new update coming in July that will be game-changing, I will say. It’ll be the most important update coming to Edge of Eternity’s Early Access since it’ll bring a lot of new content, like a new city.
BC: Could we expect to see a physical release for Edge of Eternity?
GJ: We do want to have a physical edition for Edge of Eternity for whatever platforms we decide to release it on. Whether it’s a limited edition or a complete retail edition, it depends on the [games] market. If we do a physical edition, we would partner with different partners to make the best possible edition. The game deserves a physical edition, for sure.
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