Google Play announced the 20 finalists for its second annual Google Play Indie Games Festival. The festival celebrates Android mobile games by independent developers and will take place on September 23 in San Francisco at Spin, a restaurant and event space.
The event is free, and attendees will be able to play the games and vote for their favorites. A panel of industry judges will select three winners. Around 300 people showed up at last year’s event, and Google Play intends to continue to keep it small so that there are more opportunities for 1-on-1 conversation. The winners last year were all puzzle games: Bit Bit Blocks (Greg Batha), Numbo Jumbo (Wombo Combo), and Orbit – Playing with Gravity (Highkey Games).
Android is now the most-used platform on mobile, which puts it in a good position to capitalize on a thriving mobile games market that market research firm Newzoo predicts could hit $65 billion in 2020. One of the main hurdles to success for mobile games and apps is discoverability; app stores are often saturated with new titles coming out every month. Google Play’s been tackling the discoverability issue with initiatives such as the Free App of the Week section. The indie games festival pulls double duty in giving developers a chance to showcase their work as well as hopefully helping players find new games to play.
“With so many games available on Google Play, it’s important that fans are able to find unique and great experiences from indie developers,” said Kacey Fahey, Google Play’s marketing programs manager, in an email. “Indies are great at thinking outside of the box and are some of the first to adopt new features and platforms.”
One of the finalists is Slayaway Camp by Blue Wizard Digital, a puzzle game that riffs on classic horror movies by having you murder teenage camp counselors as a masked serial killer named Skullface. Jason Kapalka, one of PopCap Games‘ co-founders, says that starting Blue Wizard is a return to his indie roots with “less bejeweling and more teenage decapitation.”
“It’s definitely great to get more exposure for the game,” said Kapalka in an email about Slayaway Camp’s nomination. “The downside to the accessibility of the game market on mobile these days is that you have a lot of competition and noise … literally hundreds of apps competing for eyeballs are released every single day. So getting called out by Google in that ocean of apps is really helpful.”
Kapalka says that the festival is a good start to get indie games more attention.
“It’s pretty tough to get attention in the app store these days unless you have a big brand or lots of marketing dollars behind you, especially for a premium rather than a free-to-play game,” said Kapalka. “And there are relatively few critical channels like magazines or streamers when it comes to mobile games for players to check out, unlike the PC and console space.”
Blue Wizard’s representative plans to show up to their demo dressed as their game’s psycho killer star Skullface, armed “probably with a chainsaw or machete” to try to convince the judges. On the panel this year are Alex the Gamerette, a YouTube creator; Lina Chen, the cofounder and CEO of Nix Hydra; Emily Greer, the CEO of Kongregate; Jamil Moledina, games strategic lead at Google; Dean Takahashi, the lead writer for GamesBeat; and Sarah Thomson, the business development lead for indie games at Google Play.
The finalists are:
- 7 Pin Pool (SPG Inc)
- Age of Rivals (Roboto Games)
- Beast Brawlers: PvP Arena (V2 Games Inc.)
- Brave Hand (Heart Shaped Games)
- Covens (Raincrow Studios, LLC)
- Crashy Cars (Pixelbizarre)
- Dokudo (Sense of Wonder)
- Flipping Legend (Hiding Spot)
- Gladiator Rising (Happii Gamer Studio)
- Jigsaw Story (Happy Square Studio Inc.)
- Loteria Latin Bingo (Gorilla Bean Games)
- Maruta Escape (Busan Sanai Games)
- NoStranger (Black Vein Productions)
- Slayaway Camp (Blue Wizard Digital)
- Space Tunnel (Spacewave Studios)
- Splitter Critters (RAC7)
- Star Vikings Forever (Akupara Games)
- Storm Wars (Zom.bio)
- Tiny Bubbles (Pine Street Codeworks)
- Topsoil (Nico Prins)