The creators of Bad North on where gaming is going

The duo behind hit strategy game Bad North discuss what it takes for independent games studios to stand out, and how our definition and understanding of play is evolving

As tools to design games have become cheaper and more accessible, indie games studios have boomed. Platforms such as Steam, as well as the Nintendo Switch store, have given makers direct access to huge audiences, and the opportunity to create more unconventional takes on play.

Oskar Stålberg and Richard Meredith – who work together together as Plausible Concept – understand what it takes to stand out in this ever-more crowded market, having designed, built and released acclaimed strategy game Bad North – which challenges players to defend their islands from hordes of marauding Vikings. The game has been praised for its alternative take on the strategy genre, as well as its minimal yet distinctive art style.

CR met with the pair to understand whether good design is enough to get people’s attention, why chasing trends is a bad idea, and what the future holds for games, and how we play them.

CR: What do you think of the state of games at the moment? Are there more opportunities for indie designers and developers?
Richard Meredith: Yes and no. There’s definitely a lot more opportunities there, but it’s a really tough market. It’s saturated as well. I think that towards the beginning of this decade you had a few standout indie successes, and the consoles started looking at indies and promoting them. That sparked this idea of indies being significant, which has carried on to today. Then all the tools became much cheaper, even free, and more readily available. So many more people were making games, and there were more opportunities for people to do well – and incredibly well. But there’s an awful lot of people trying and struggling to actually get their stuff out there, and get eyes on it and people buying it.