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The game’s nomination has sparked debate over what makes an indie game, because despite having the conventional ‘low-fi’ appearance that some indie games have, its developer Mint Rocket is a small team within Nexon, a South Korean company that made $1.8 billion in revenue in 2021 alone.
During a recent Q&A session on Twitch, Keighley was asked for his thoughts on Dave the Diver’s nomination at The Game Awards.
Keighley answered that the definition of an indie game is hard to define, and that ultimately it’s up to The Game Awards jury to pick nominees.
“Look, it’s a great question,” he replied. “Independent can mean different things to different people, and it’s sort of a broad term.
“You can argue, does independent mean the budget of the game, does independent mean where the source of financing was, does it mean the team size? Is it the kind of independent spirit of the game, meaning a smaller game that’s sort of different?
“I think everyone has their own opinion about this, and we really defer to our jury of 120 global media outlets who vote on these awards, to make that determination of ‘is something independent’ or not.
“You know, in other industries, sometimes there are things – I think in the film industry the budget can’t be above this amount of dollars or it’s not independent, so I don’t know.
“Some people have said Larian with Baldur’s Gate 3, that’s an independent game. Kojima Productions with Death Stranding, some people say that’s an independent game. And even though that’s an independent studio, of course it’s funded by PlayStation.
Keighley also pointed out that some of the other indie games nominated in this year’s Game Awards have publishers, asking: “If you have a publisher, is that still indepedent or not?”
Addressing Dave the Diver specifically, he said: “That game is made by a group named Mint Rocket, it’s a smaller game from a smaller group but it’s part of Nexon, they’re employees of Nexon which is a very large publisher. So I think it’s a fair debate and discussion – is that game truly independent, or is it not?
“And you can kind of argue it either way. It’s independent in spirit, and it’s a small game, I don’t know what the budget is but it’s probably a relatively small-budget game, but it is from a larger entity, whereas there are other games on that list that are from much smaller studios.
“But even something like Dredge is published by Team17, so is that independent or not, because you have a publisher?
“It’s a really complicated thing to figure out and come up with strict rules around it, so we let people use their best judgement, and you can agree or disagree with the choices.
“But the fact that Dave the Diver was on that list meant that out of all the independent games that the jury looked at, or what they thought were independent games, that was one of the top five that they looked at this year.”