US: Charting the rise of indie video games
March 17th, 2022, Graeme Bruce

US: Charting the rise of indie video games

The video game industry took massive strides in the last two years as Americans clamored for different forms of entertainment to bust the isolation and boredom brought on by the pandemic. While the industry's future remains bright, it does face challenges, at least in the short term.

The US has largely shed all COVID restrictions, and more people are comfortable seeking out other forms of leisure. On top of shifting consumer habits, a slew of high-profile game delays – which began in 2020 because of the pandemic – continue to plague studios.

As the video game sector grapples with these challenges, YouGov consumer data shows all game genres saw a year-over-year decrease in players – except for one. Our data shows 31% more PC and console gamers played indie games in the past year, compared to 2021, as gamers looked beyond the typical AAA offerings.

What’s further interesting is this increase is apparent across all types of gamers, from casual video gamers to hardcore players, those who take video games seriously or play competitively. In March 2021, 23% of this group said they play indie games on console or computer – a figure that rose to 25% this year.

The rise of indie titles may be attributed to the rising popularity of Steam, which offers its users a huge library of titles from independent developers. Fueling the spread of indie games may also be Roblox, a gaming storefront dedicated to user-made games, which came into prominence over the last few years but became properly famous after its initial public offering in March 2021. A wider adoption of indie games may also be the result of the rise of subscription platforms like Microsoft’s Game Pass which has a significant lineup of small-studio titles. On top of that, advances in game engines such Unity, Unreal Engine and GameMaker Studio 2 make them more accessible than ever, making it easier for small developers to make their gaming concepts a reality.

Indie developers have the ability to make niche games that cater to more diverse audiences. Titles such as Death’s Door, Stardew Valley, Celeste, and Among Us have helped amplify the indie genre in recent years.

Receive monthly topical insights about the gaming and esports industry, straight to your inbox. Sign up today.

Discover more gaming and esports content here

Want to run your own research? Start building a survey now

Methodology: YouGov Profiles is based on continuously collected data and rolling surveys, rather than from a single limited questionnaire. Profiles data is nationally representative and weighted by age, gender, education, region, and race. Learn more about Profiles.

Image: Stardew Valley