As another year winds down I’m officially declaring it the year of the downloads. The main theme that I remember most about this year is the growth of the download market across the board, as well as numerous unique titles released through it. The reason why this is as important as it has helped alleviate several problems with developing niche titles in the Indie market.

Being an independent developer can be great, you can work at your own speed making the games you want without having anyone telling you otherwise; however there are a few things holding you back. First is the market itself, niche titles made by Indies do not find themselves in a retail store as the games aren’t mainstream enough to be able to be placed next to Halo 3 or Final Fantasy. Speaking of retail stores, the cost to get a game on the shelves would probably blow most indie developer’s budget. Thanks to the rise of the digital market, developers have found a way of getting their games to the gamers without having to deal with the stores. Now here are some great examples of downloads over the year.

Mega Man 9 (XBLA): Of course I had to mention it and one of the prime examples of the benefits of digital content. There is no way in hell Capcom could have released MM9 in the stores today (in 1994 yes) and have it be profitable. Add in the price of marketing and stocking the game would have made it a disaster. However with the savings on making the game downloadable and of course the retro graphics, made it a hit I believe; hopefully give Capcom ideas for a MM 10.

Bionic Commando Rearmed (XBLA): Even though I did not like BCR due to its difficulty and game mechanics, I still need to give the developers credit for an excellent remake. Expanding on the original while still providing a great graphical update makes it a great addition to XBLA.

World of Goo (PC and Wii): Now this is what I’m talking about, a unique game which could have only come from an indie developer. The game truly oozes style (no pun intended) and makes me relive my days of playing Jenga as I try to build a tower. The developers were even nice enough to release the game with no copy protection.

Good Old Games (PC): While not an actual game, I’ve been dreaming of a service like GOG for some time. The ability to buy legitimate copies of hard to find games at a low price guaranteed to work sounds like a dream to me. GOG already has access to several hard to find classics and the site should only grow from here.

Braid (XBLA): Well duh, after I put it on my best of list; I couldn’t imagine this title being released in the retail market but quality is on its side and it is one of my favorite games this year.

With this short list, I probably didn’t even scratch the surface of the indie market. 2008 has proven though that retail isn’t needed for your game to be a hit. Even though the cost to develop a game has risen dramatically, it has become a lot easier to get your game to the people; as the indie market has proven, you don’t need millions of dollars to create an amazing game.

So happy New Year, I’m ringing it in with the X-Com collection I bought off of Steam, so now I officially own a copy of the X-Com series. I’m also ringing it in with the fact that I’m going to go bankrupt with all the games I still need to buy… well technically I don’t need to buy them but you get my point.

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“2008, the year of the downloads.”

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