Indie Game: The Movie (Case Study)

October 25, 2017 5:37 pm Published by
Indie Game: The Movie (Case Study)

Indie Game: The Movie (2012).
Documentary, Drama.
Rating: 15.
1hr 34.
Directors: James Swirsky , Lisanne Pajot.
Staring: Jonathan Blow, Brandon Boyer, Renaud Bédard.

A documentary that follows the journeys of indie game developers as they create games and release those works, and themselves, to the world.

What were your expectations before watching the film? And what could be regarded as the source of your expectations?

  • Low budget feel about a niche topic.
  • Expected to be about a small coding company or group that attempt to make it big within the industry.
  • Released at Sundance Film Festival, associated with independent films.
  • Aimed at social groups: C1/2 and D – based on story topic 
  • Aimed at teenagers, early twenty somethings – based on story topic 
  • In-depth look at computing game industry and very specialised. 

What was your overall feeling or impression when you finished watching?

As a graduate of Computer Science, I really enjoyed this film. 

Once I had finished watching this film I had the feeling and thoughts of the great sacrifice and commitment that these talented coders and creators had gone through to ensure success of their product. Further to this, not only did they have to sacrifice a social life but so did their partners. The game making: coding, designing, drafting, re-drafting became all-encompassing. 

It was interesting to see that both creative sides focused on their core morale purpose and the reasons in which they started each project in the first place. This was particularly true with Meat Boy, whereby the creators did not care too much about the take up or set high expectations for high reviews, they wanted to make the game for them and to support, engage and enthuse the new generation of gamers to become designers and creators themselves. 

After I watched the film, I was eager to see how both FEZ and Meat Boy did in the gaming markets and was eager.

What captured your interest and drew you in? and/or What barriers prevented you fully engaging in the film?

As mentioned previously, as a graduate of Computer Science – I found this a very interesting documentary. It was interesting to see how the independent video games industry is ran, it’s competitive nature and the success stories that can occur. 

I liked how the film focused on two different creative projects from start to finish and the roller-coaster ride and emotion that this brought with it. 

What is the demographic / target market for this film? How do you know?

Primary audience was BC12 18-25 year olds25-35+ bracket, who may already be aware of the Directors’ work (Wheatley).

What was the impact of the film on local, national and global audiences? How do you know?

By the time, Indie Game: The Movie premiered at the Sundance Film Festival…

  • The film had raised over $ 150,000 in pre-orders.
  • Received over 3,000+ detailed screening requests
  • Accumulated a fanbase/mailing list of 30,000 people.
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
  • IMDB: 7.7/10
On launch day, Indie Game: The Movie…

  • iTunes:  IGTM reached #1 in documentary on the iTunes store and #14 of ALL MOVIES on iTunes (sandwiched b/w Mark Walhberg & Katherine Heigl films)
  • Steam: IGTM reached #7 of all games on Steam, and #2 in the ‘Under 9.99’ charts.
  • IGTM Site, powered by VHX:  People responded really well to the way we offered the film.  Web traffic was at an all time high (165K uniques for June),
  • The digital release created a new wave of reviews, articles and mentions.  Twitter & FB activity was at an all-time high, the terms ‘Indie Game’ and ‘The Movie’ were trending worldwide.


  • 29,049 Facebook likes
  • 27,200 Twitter followers
  • 30,000 e-mail list
  • 10,000 personal e-mails replied to
  • 2,784 fan e-mails replied to after the original June 12 release
  • 3,000+ screening requests
  • 1.3 million views of behind the scenes footage on YouTube
  • Debuted at 2012 Sundance and won “Best Editing”
  • Worldwide screenings – 25 countries, 100+ international community screenings, 30+ festivals
  • IGTM reached #1 in documentary on iTunes, #14 of all movies on iTunes
  • IGTM reached #7 of all games on Steam
  • In June (release period), got 165,000 unique visitors 

Gross Profit: (undisclosed)

  • 29% Tour + Theatrical ≈ $200,000–$250,000 (≈ 20% Theatrical, ≈ 80% Tour)
  • 58% Digital ≈ $400,000–$500,000 (41% Steam, 30% iTunes, 29% VHX)
  • 13% Broadcast ≈ $89,660–$112,070
  • ≈ $689,660–$862,070 TOTAL GROSS PROFIT
  • Net ≈ $539,660–$712,070

What have you learned from reviewing this film and related case study materials? (was there anything particularly notable about the film itself, or the approach to distribution and marketing that has implications for the wider sector?)

“This film could not have been made & released the way it was five years ago, heck, not even 2-3 years ago” (

Despite the small size of the team, the two core ideas within this project were:

  • leveraging accessible technology/tools
  • early, active audience engagement

These two elements are both something that could be adapted and adopted to other projects. The graphic, below, illustrates the key tools that were used to help and empower the creators. 
Audience engagement was key, they had a “thinking like a fan” mantra that meant they got their audience on board quickly and at the very start of the process. They aimed to respond to all emails, fb posts, made frequent blog posts, and offered pre-ordering opportunities. 

The release was quick, after Sundance Film Festival, this was done to continue momentum and consolidating buzz, supporter timeline (some had been following and supporting the film for 1.5+ years), concerns regarding piracy. 
However, the self-study website ( explores the idea that the film may have missed general cinema-goers due to the quick release Although the film did well in the cities that they toured, the creators feel that this would have been larger if they had a bigger team and extended the theatrical window. 

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This post was written by noxford

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