UBM Tech (producer of Gamasutra.com and the Game Developers Conference) established the Independent Games Festival in 1998 to encourage innovation in game development and to recognize the best independent game developers.
We wanted to create a similar event to Sundance for independent game developers - and that's just what we've succeeded in doing with the Independent Games Festival, which has awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash prizes (and brought major exposure and a much higher profile) to a multitude of indie and student game developers who have entered. There are three main elements to the Festival itself:
The Independent Games Festival Pavilion
Located on the show floor at Game Developers Conference, and open to any members of the public or game professionals who have bought an Expo Pass to the show or above, the IGF Pavilion showcases every single finalist for that year's Festival in playable form. Members of the development team for each IGF finalist are on hand to discuss and demonstrate the title and talk to top game publishers and distributors attending the show. The 2015 IGF Pavilion will open March 4, 2015 and run through March 6, 2015.
The Independent Games Festival Awards
The IGF Awards take place on the evening of the third day of Game Developers Conference, and are a major celebration of the best in indie gaming, with thousands watching the award presentation before the Game Developer's Choice Awards are presented. The 2014 IGF Awards, including custom interstitials from Mega64 and Hey Ash Whatcha Playin'?, are available for online viewing. The Festival Awards will take place March 4, 2015.
The Independent Games Summit
The Independent Games Summit seeks to highlight the brightest and the best of indie development, with discussions ranging from indie game distribution methods through game design topics, guerrilla marketing concepts, student indie game discussions. The seventh annual IGS was held March 17-18th, during the first two days of GDC 2014, and the eighth is planned for March 2, 2015 through March 3, 2015.
"The Independent Games Festival, for me, stands for a number of things: the celebration and recognition of the achievements of independent developers, the legitimacy of independent gaming, and a high mark that we can all aim for as creative people."
- Derek Yu, Bit-Blot (Aquaria)
Independent Games Festival Prizes
The main Independent Games Festival, to be held in March 2015 at San Francisco's GDC 2015, will be distributing seven major awards at its ceremony, as follows:
Seumas McNally Grand Prize ($30,000)
Excellence In Visual Art ($3,000)
Excellence In Audio ($3,000)
Excellence in Design ($3,000)
Excellence in Narrative ($3,000)
Nuovo Award ($5,000)
Audience Award ($3,000)
In addition, the IGF's Student Showcase competition, which is the premiere competition highlighting the top student-created indie games, also gives out the following awards each year:
IGF Student Showcase Winner (seven winners, $1,000)
Best Student Game ($3,000)
The Independent Games Festival competitions have a diverse, industry leading set of judges which includes representatives from mainstream games, the press, significant independent gaming websites, as well as previous winners, finalists and a number of indie veteran judges from the previous IGF judging pool.
"The IGF has captured my attention for quite a few years now (before I really thought about making games myself). It's a showcase of some great games, many of which are novel or experimental in nature, a place for developers to meet each other, and also a competition, which I think is quite motivational! I think it's got the right balance between novel/bizarre games and slightly larger/commercially-successful ones (which might help bring media attention to all indie games)."
- Peter Stock (Armadillo Run)
IGF Success Stories
Since the Independent Games Festival & Summit started, there have been multiple major IGF prizewinners that have gone on to much larger exposure, garnering increased distribution, a bigger profile, and getting lots more gamers playing their art. Here are some of the highlights:
1999 - Vicarious Visions, now a major handheld / console developer, honored for Terminus.
2003 - Super X Studios' Wild Earth, a photographic game based around a worldwide safari, takes multiple prizes and subsequently becomes a motion simulator ride and a Wii title.
2005 - Fan favorite N wins the audience award, and, as N+, releases as a hit XBLA title, as well as notable Nintendo DS and Sony PSP versions.
2005 - Multi award-winner Alien Hominid receives publishing deals in the U.S. (via O3 Publishing) and Europe(via Zoo Digital), much critical acclaim, and even spawns mobile and Xbox Live Arcade versions.
2006 - Grand prize winner Darwinia gets both digital distribution via Valve's Steam system and U.S. retail distribution from new indie label Cinemaware Marquee.
2007 - Design Innovation winner Everyday Shooter is signed by Sony for distribution on the PlayStation 3's PlayStation Network, after Sony's John Hight plays the game at the IGF Pavilion during GDC 2007 - Everyday Shooter's Jon Mak also appears at the inaugural Independent Games Summit.
2008 - The team behind IGF Student Showcase finalist Narbacular Drop is hired by Valve. The game is reworked into Portal and goes on to win the coveted Game Developer's Choice "Best Game" award for 2008, as well as numerous game of the year accolades.
2008 - Design Innovation winner Braid debuts on Microsoft's Xbox Live Arcade to notable success.
2008 - Excellence in Audio winner Audiosurf launches on Valve's Steam distribution service and goes on to become the highest selling game of February, outselling even Valve's own Orange Box (including Team Fortress 2 and Game Developer's Choice "Best Game" winner Portal.)
2009 - Petri Purho's Crayon Physics Deluxe spawns an iPhone version courtesy of Hudson, plus a popular PC downloadable version.
2009 - The Behemoth's follow-up to Alien Hominid, the IGF-winning Castle Crashers, tops XBLA charts to critical acclaim.
2009 - IGF multi-award winner World Of Goo launches as one of the best-selling, best-reviewed WiiWare titles of all time, alongside a popular PC version.
2010 - The team behind 2009 Student Showcase finalist Tag: The Power of Paint are hired by Valve to implement new paint gun mechanics into Portal 2.
2010 - Playdead's stark monochromatic platform title Limbo is a smash hit on Xbox Live Arcade, following its summer 2010 release, picking up a 2011 Game Developers Choice Award for Best Visual Arts.
2011 - Multiple award winner Minecraft has now sold almost 16 million copies and spawned a worldwide cult around its charming open-world game design.
2011 - Nidhogg becomes a live-event multiplayer mainstay and a regularly showcased game at fighting game tournament Evo.
2012 - Grand prize winner Fez is widely ported to consoles and handheld devices, where it cumulatively sells over one million copies.
2012 - After a string of PC and console releases, Spelunky is quickly embraced as a speedrun & livestream community favorite and critically lauded for its smart use of procedurally generated levels.
2013 - Richard Hofmeier's Cart Life sweeps multiple awards including Grand Prize and becomes one of the year's most talked about games.
2014 - Multiple award winning Papers, Please is hailed by many -- including renowned publications like Wired and The New Yorker -- as the best game of the year.
"I've never been around a group of more passionate, creative, intelligent, funny, and thoughtful people in my entire life as I was at the Independent Games Summit. IGS for me is all about people. The panels are very informative, but the best thing I took out of it were my discussions with indie game fans and developers, both in and out of the conference rooms. It was like being wrapped in a warm unicorn rainbow of brotherhood (and sisterhood)."
- Derek Yu, Bit-Blot (Aquaria)
Independent Games Festival
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If you have further questions on any of the categories, or any other queries in general, please contact the IGF Content Directors.