In roughly two days, independent game studio Addo Games will close out a funding drive for their iPad game in development, "Robots Love Ice Cream" -- a game paid for largely by fan donations through Kickstarter.
Currently, the project is underfunded by about $8,000, but after being featured on sites like Destructoid.com, Wired.com, and others, it seems like it might have an influx of last-minute donations to take its developers over the finish line.
But it feels like brands are missing a major opportunity when it comes to indie games. Although indie developers who are reluctant to work with major publishers may also be reluctant to work with big brands to fund their projects, there are certainly opportunities out there for the right brands to partner with the right games, in the right way.
So, what's the right way for brands to partner with indie games? Well, it's not necessarily with game integration or in-game advertising. Successful indie games often have a very specific aesthetic that shoehorning in a brand can compromise unless it's a really spot-on integration (think "Angry Birds: Rio"). But a simple "Brought to you by..." in the splash screen and a well-executed PR campaign could demonstrate to gamers that the brand is delivering value in the form of novel entertainment.
All this is to say: Why isn't a brand Ben & Jerry's in on the ground floor of this game? "Robots Love Ice Cream" already sounds like a Ben & Jerry's flavor, and the fun, quirky aesthetic of the game fits very neatly with B&J's overall brand feel. The iPad/iPhone platform has offered indie developers an unprecedented opportunity to reach the same audiences as mainstream publishers, and any small indie game could become a huge hit if it catches hold in the public imagination.
Imagine for a second that, in December 2009, your brand had an opportunity to sponsor, for a tiny fraction of what it costs to produce a TV commercial, the game that would become the huge entertainment phenomenon that is "Angry Birds." That opportunity is already out there, right now -- the next huge indie games phenomenon is already in development. Is it "Robots Love Ice Cream?" Could be worth the risk to find out.