I work in the beer industry and follow the games industry. I have passion for each, and there’s more in common with them than you might think. Craft beer is produced by small and independent breweries that want to brew good beer and build a community. Indie game makers are small teams inspired to make something that they’ve dreamed up that isn’t out there. Both are characterized by passion. While you can make money in each of these endeavors, that’s never the main drive. It’s a need to create and a passion for the craft that keeps people going.
I play a ton of indie games. I drink a lot of craft beer. They’re both fascinating industries to follow. They’re developing as more and more consumers become aware and interested in each. Today, I’m looking at the beer industry through the lens of games. There’s been news recently about the Brewers Association’s release of a seal that denotes a brewery’s independence. The Brewers Association(BA) is a national advocacy group that works to represent and support these craft brewers. Near monopoly Anheuser Busch-InBev has been losing market share to craft beer for years. To combat this, they’re buying successful breweries to capitalize on the market’s growth. That in itself is completely fine. When you’re in a competitive industry and succeeding, there’s a chance a bigger fish come along. The issue is that these breweries are using the new financial backing to take sales from craft breweries without disclosing that ownership.
That Warm, Fuzzy, Feeling
Maybe every person who buys an indie game doesn’t looks at it this way, but for most, I think that part of the appeal is that these games are made by small teams who work hard.
They had a dream, followed through, and now you get to enjoy it with them. It feels different than buying a blockbuster AAA title that a huge team helped with to get done. This isn’t a knock on AAA, those games can be astounding. The difference is that everything about them let’s you know that you’re big budget game. Indie games appear, they don’t have the money to market much, so you have to work harder to find them. That’s part of the appeal to me. When I buy something from an indie developer, I feel better about the purchase than when I buy AAA. My sale matters more to that small team than It does to a massive publisher planning to sell millions of units.
This applies to craft beer in the same way. People get excited to buy beer from the brewery that I work at because we’re in their hometown. I can give you a tour through the whole operation. I like to spend money at other breweries to support them. The issue is that breweries owned by a massive conglomerate are capitalizing on the good will that helps fuel the industry.
Misrepresentations of Funding
It would be like if Ubisoft never told anyone that they developed Grow Home. What if they left out the splash screen and tried to market it at the PAX Indie Megabooth? I doubt people would be too happy about it when the news came out. There’s a special prestige to the Indie Megabooth that allows it to compare to AAA to some consumers. It would be in-genuine for a company like Ubisoft to try to take advantage of that when they have the budgets they do. That is obviously the right way to do it. Big beer funded breweries are not doing it that way.
These breweries say that the BA is making a big deal about nothing,. They say the focus should be on the quality of the beer and that’s it. The quality of the beer is important without a doubt. Unfortunately, when the parent company of these breweries, AB-INBev, uses their influence to stop beer distribution companies from carrying smaller brand competition, prevents small breweries from buying any hops from South African farms, and buys RateBeer.com to push their brands, the focus is off the quality of the beer.
Once you know about the anti-competitive practices that AB-InBev has been using now that craft breweries are taking a sliver of their revenue, the seal that denotes a brewery as independent becomes a little more important. The next time you’re picking up a 6-pack or grabbing a pint at your local tap room, look for that seal or google the brewery you’re buying from. You might get that same warm, fuzzy feeling of supporting someone’s dream that you get when you buy from an indie game developer. Or, you might find out that you’re actually lining the pockets of Belgian and Brazilian billionaires.