Moreover, Steam represents a niche for which developers who want to follow Introversion's independent trajectory can aim. "Something interesting is happening with online digital distribution," says Delay. "Specifically regarding Steam and Xbox Live Arcade - we now have two distribution channels that offer excellent royalty rates direct to the developer along with high numbers of potential sales, with none of the problems of retail store releases. Both of those channels are open to indie games made by small bedroom teams, without a publisher or retailer in sight. To my knowledge, this is the first time this has ever happened, and it's very exciting to be part of it."
Very exciting, but also fairly profitable for a developer who has, so far, avoided taking any of that tainted publisher cash. Could it be that Delay and friends are just trying to make a buck, after all? Is Introversion doing this all for love, or for the almighty dollar? "We're, of course, working for love," says Delay. "But money is nice, too. For a while, we worked for love only and no money on Darwinia, and it was a very difficult and painful experience that I wouldn't want to repeat. Furthermore, we'd never have finished Darwinia or started on DefCon if we hadn't made some money to keep going. I guess you could say we work for love and money, and most companies just work for money."
That's the core difference between what independents like Introversion are doing, and what it means to be a small cog in a large company. Even the bosses of those big companies are directed and manipulated by forces that will never be under their control. As I was putting this article together, I took a trip to see some other game industry folks who are following their dream and stepping outside the accepted way of doing things. One of these people (who shall remain nameless, since this article is not really concerned with his story) was once one such boss of a very large company. As he drove me back to the train station, he admitted how relieved he was to finally be doing something other than simply aiming to make money. He shuddered at the memory of over-marketed franchise-farces of old. "At last," he smiled. "It feels like I'm doing something that's actually good for the soul."
In Introversion's case, what's important is they keep a light on for those people who do want to take another path. Who do want to make it on a shoestring, and to make it their own.
Introversion may not win the war, but their battles have been joyous, even righteous. They are making what they want to make, and at the same time remaining independent. They're creating their own system. That's definitely worth fighting for, and it's definitely good for the soul.
Jim Rossignol is a writer and editor based in the South West of England. He writes about videogames, fiction and science.