Indie games are inexplicably tied to the future of gaming, according to Busan Indie Connect Festival Chairman Seo Tae-geon.
On this year’s event’s last day, we spoke to the chairman about the history of the Korean indie game festival, as well as future plans and his own thoughts on the SEA gaming industry,
Okay. So what would you say is the mission of the BIC?
Seo Tae-Geon, Chairman of the Busan Indie Connect Organizing Committee
Tae-geon: So basically what our mission is to create a venue for communication. And it is really manifested through our name, Busan Indie Connect Festival. And it does not actually have the game in our title, right?
Busan is a global city and indie is all about, we’re all about the Indie spirit and connect, We want to connect between the developers and the consumers, giving users and festival. Basically, we would like to create this venue for festival and venue for communication.
The reason why game is missing in the title of BIC because of course we are a gaming event. So that’s why we left it out.
Do you think it’s important for indie games to have their own exclusive event like BIC where they don’t have to compete with bigger games?
Tae-geon: Well, these indie games are not trying to avoid the competition, but we need this venue for indie games so that people can focus more on indie games.
There are many definitions of indie games and I think there’s no one answer and it’s really difficult to come up with one definition of indie games. It seems like that we’re going forward, we’re having this similar vision. Everyone has like similar definition but how we really define it with words may be a little bit different.
So my definition of indie game is the games I make because I want to. It is not because the market wants it or the user wants it.
Many people think the indie games have lower budget and lower quality, but I think that is not the essence of indie game but it’s more of a game that is not for profit seeking, but people make it because they want it and then they happen to earn money. I think that is all about indie games.
It feels like the landscape for indie games has changed drastically In recent years with many more opportunity for smaller titles to get the spotlight. What would you think of think about this.
Tae-geon: So I totally agree with what you’ve said. Things have changed dramatically. And BIC was first if established in 2015, as you know, and ever since then the indie game environment has changed dramatically.
And back then in Korea, there were indie game developers, but nobody really paid attention to them, they were not under the spotlight and we knew the importance of creating the ecosystem for the indie game developers, and nobody was actually doing anything to support them. So that’s why the BIC was established.
So back then, we had major gaming development companies and they were seeing very high revenues. There were many major game companies in Korea and they had major online games as well. So they were really, they didn’t really care about indie game back then and even the government, even the private sector, they didn’t care.
That’s why we started the BIC and BIC started doing that job. But things have changed because Google held indie games related event and then you see the Smallgate, Neowiz, these big companies are paying attention to indie game developers. They’re trying to support these developers. So we’re seeing, we’re witnessing the changes.
DANGEN Entertainment winning the General Division Grand Prix award at this year’s BIC Awards
So I was thinking about why this is happening and this is strictly my opinion. I think it is big because the market is maturing. We are we have this major commercial games and the market is maturing: Our users, game users are maturing and they are looking for something new.
Even the companies that develop this games, they’re looking for something new. So it seems like that we are actually going back to, I mean, focusing more on the essence of games, which is entertainment.
Of course, this large, I mean, big games have their own entertainment point. They have the business model, and users have been been entertaining themselves through this business model on these big games. But however, users are looking for something else. They are looking for variety of games. They are looking for more creative games. I think maybe there are some changes within the users. So, and that’s why these developing companies are also looking for different direction.
So I would like to make a very bold statement. I think the future of the gaming industry lies in indie games.
This year’s BIC Festival is already pretty grand. What do you think is the future of the event?
Tae-geon: So we started nine years ago, and I think the fundamental would remain the same, which is to create the venue for communication. So that fundamental will stay the same even if we evolve and change in the future.
So if you take a look at the progress of our development for the last nine years. We started as the B2C event but then we added the B2B area and then we started with more of a general division but then we added the rookie division and we mainly focused on competition but in order to encourage the participation we also added the non competition section. So what we are basically doing is trying to expand the boundary so that more people can participate like business professionals, like students, non competition participants.
So I mean in the future that’s what we will basically be doing, being the venue for the communication. we started as a global award for indie games and we will maintain that as well.
But I’m not really sure what would be the limitation for the venue for communication. I mean, until when we will expand what kind of genres we will encompass. I mean, until now we tried our best to get the feedback from our developers and that’s how we evolved. We will continue to do that. Maybe in the future, maybe we will not just focus on the games and include different genres. So we never know and we are open for these changes and feedback.
Kriegsfront Tactics, an example of SEA Games on exhibit at BIC Festival 2023 Image Credit: Toge Productions
There is a lot of strong title being developed in at the SEA region right now what do you think。 Of the sea region, as a growing player in the industry.
Tae-geon: So many of the southeast Asian countries are dramatically changing from the game consumption countries to the game producing countries.
I am witnessing these changes and it seems like there are a lot of potential for cooperation. And I think the days will come for this SEA countries to lead in the global market with their games that they develop themselves.
So each countries have different cultures, right? And since we have different cultures, their games may be also different. And I think it’s same for the Southeast Asia because based on your culture, you can make very unique and original games. And what we believe in Korea is that what’s Korean is more global. For example, you may know Squid Game or other Korean dramas or Parasite, the movie BTS, PSY.
We are first, we were wondering why is this working in the global market because these are so Korean. And I think this goes same for the Southeast Asia. We are we gained a lot of confidence through these experiences. So I think the Southeast Asia will be able to create some thing really unique to your culture. And then that will be working on the global level
I’ve been talking about this three times already during the BIC. So a company model from probably Smilegate. And I definitely agree with what the CEO told us. He said, I’d rather fail with original than succeed with imitation. So I think that is what indie games are all about. We want to take our own indie games and go to the global market.
This year is the 9th year for BIC, with next year marking the 10th anniversary. Anything big planned?
Tae-Geon: So I’ve been thinking about this question for quite a while, but honestly, we haven’t made any definite decisions yet.
But I feel a little bit of pressure to change and to do something new. What we will do is definitely get the feedback and opinion here from the developers, indie Game Developer first. And I’m thinking maybe next year we will invite famous indie game developers or professionals in the field so that we can hear them out. So that’s what I’ve been thinking about.
As this year’s event winds down to a close, it’s clear to see how much it means to so many indie developers. A space just for indie games can make a huge difference in getting your game seen, and the amount of indie developers here show just how important BIC Festival can be to them.
Our thanks to Seo Tae-geon for taking the time out of his busy schedule to chat with us, as well as the Busan Indie Connect Festival for arranging the interview.
For more information about Busan Indie Connect Festival 2023:
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