Google has announced the winners of its inaugural indie games contest, with Nerial's Tinder-style fantasy title Reigns taking the big prize.
The Android platform holder held a showcase in London yesterday, showing off the 20 finalists to the industry, press and public, with anyone that played at least half the games invited to vote. The developers behind the 10 most popular games then pitched to a jury of industry experts, who selected the final winners.
Reigns creator François Alliot won a dedicated YouTube influencer campaign worth €100,000, an Android Developer Story documentary about his title, one month's premium placement on Google Play in various territories, a Pixel C Tablet, and tickets to GDC and Google I/O. Reigns also won the Unity prize, which includes two tickets to a Unite event and a 12-month Unity Pro subscription.
"Winning this feels great," Alliot told GamesIndustry.biz at the event. "It means people like the game, they like the weird stuff I put in it. That's a good thing.
"The exposure it gives me for Reigns will help me with Reigns 2. That's very important for me, building that brand. Having new devices to test the game is also helpful."
Time travel puzzle title Causality by UK indie Loju and Swedish-made strategy title The Battle of Polytopia by Midjiwan were named as runners-up. They also won tablets, a YouTuber campaign and premium placement on the store.
Also in the Top 10 was Pinout, Rusty Lake: Roots, Happy Hop: Kawaii Jump, Blind Drive, Lost In Harmony, Paper Wings and Gladiabots.
The Top 20 were chosen from more than 1,000 submissions from 12 countries. Google Play's business development lead Matteo Vallone told us selection was based on "a variety criteria of objective and subjective criteria".
"The more objective is the size of the studio - while it's hard to give an exact number, for this contest the limit was 15 people," he explained.
"The fact that you're independent from big financers, such as publishers or VCs, is another thing that makes you independent. Now, you can be supported by some investors, but it shouldn't have the huge financial power that other companies have over certain studios.
"There's another layer that's a bit more subjective and that's that you can see it in the games. An indie game is often crafty, charming, innovative. It really comes through when you play the game. If you meet all the criteria that I've mentioned, you're probably trying to do a different type of game - and that's another thing that defines you as an indie. It's difficult to define, but if you know what an indie game is, you know when you play it."
Following the success of this year's competition, Google is already planning to host another next year.
Google Play's EMEA director Ishan Chatterjee added: "We are the world's largest marketplace for content as a whole. For us, the indie category is becoming an increasingly important part of our overall catalogue because it provides our users with a nice diversity of things which are different from the big name companies and their titles.
"Indies titles often provide moments of delight for our users - that's why we're doing our best to identify and showcase these games, and to help their developers stand out from the crowd."