Why Annapurna Games Are So Important - VRGyani News and Media

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Monday, August 30, 2021

Why Annapurna Games Are So Important

If you were a fan of independent cinema in the early 2010s, chances are you’d know the name Annapurna Pictures. Founded in 2011, the studio burst onto the scene with Oscar-nominated and winning films like The Master, Her, and Zero Dark Thirty, among many others. Working with a wide variety of some of the best creators out there, the studio quickly made a name for itself. Nearly five years after its founding, they would look to expand their catalog to games. In 2016 they would go on to open Annapurna Interactive. In the game industry, Annapurna would act as a publisher for other creator’s work.

Early on in the company’s life, it was clear that the same sensibilities that made them one of the best filmmaking studios had carried over to its video game division. In the same way that they made a big entrance with those aforementioned films, they would do the same in the gaming space. Making their debut with What Remains of Edith Finch, a game that was once to be published by Sony Santa Monica, it was clear from the outset that they knew what they were doing when backing projects.

For the short amount of time that they’ve been in the gaming industry they’ve already made a lasting impression. While they continue to release acclaimed titles like The Outer Wilds, If Found…, and Sayonara Wild Hearts, it’s becoming easier to recognize Annapurna published games at first glance. Whether it’s true or not, it definitely seems that behind the scenes there’s a greater understanding of the type of creators Annapurna wants to work with. In collaborating with these talented game developers, and allowing them creative freedom that you wouldn’t necessarily find at a major publisher, more uncompromised visions are able to be fulfilled.

In a similar way, Devolver Digital, another independent publisher putting out games on a similar scale to Annapurna, also occupies a specific space in the industry. Watch any of the past E3 Devolver press conferences and compare them to Annapurna’s Interactive Showcase and you can see the different approaches that the two have when it comes to marketing. There’s also the difference in the games they’re putting out, though each fills a specific void that many AAA publishers too often gloss over. More than any other publisher, Annapurna appears to be the group to go to for more “auteur” like developers.

Now that they’ve had a number of successful years under their belt from a critical standpoint, they’ve taken an even bigger step by showcasing their games in a more “direct” style presentation. In what has been arguably the best presentation of all the publishers this summer, Annapurna’s was the most concise, interesting, and personal. So often developer presentations will feature unannounced games or titles so early in development that they rely solely on developer diaries. When watching Annapurna’s past presentation, it was vividly clear that their sensibilities from the film production side have also carried over to their gaming side in this regard. While there were what you’d consider developer diaries, they were presented to the audience in a way that was much more digestible. It’s an aspect that so many other studios could, and should, pick up on and implement into their future presentations.

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Through their showcase, Annapurna also found a way to almost entirely eliminate the Zoom-type of presentation that many publishers have had to utilize for the last year. Instead, they would undertake a more film-like production. Being a publisher that takes on games from all over the world, in their showcase, they used a graphic that would highlight every city that the games came from. This touch allowed for a more personal experience, as you got a better sense of where the title was being created, and where its creators were working. Through its editing and the way the interviews were conducted, it made for an overall better viewing experience. Coupled with that were also truly interesting developer interviews, and not all were just talking heads with concept art floating in the background on a computer screen.

Their presentation also showcased exactly why their presence is one that’s both welcome and so important in the gaming space. Highlighting new partnerships with developers doesn’t seem like something that would entertain, but when that new venture is presented in a fun video from Davey Wreden (The Stanley Parable), Karla Zimonja (Gone Home), and C418 (Minecraft), you’re bound to grab attention. Allowing developers the time to speak about their work in a more unfiltered and personal fashion goes a long way in connecting the audience to these projects.

Annapurna’s output only continues to ramp up, as evidenced by their presentation this summer. This year alone they are set to release eight games, the most of any year since they’ve been founded. This includes sophomore efforts like Solar Ash from Heart Machine, the team behind the acclaimed Hyper Light Drifter. Another game called Open Roads is coming from Fullbright and will star Keri Russell and Kaitlyn Dever. They’re also putting out games from newly formed studios, like Maquette, as well The Artful Escape.

Another great attribute that Annapurna possesses is their continued effort to bring more of their titles to a larger audience. In a time where PC gamers look longingly at PS4 and PS5 exclusives, hoping one day to see them released on their platform, Annapurna continues to bring past titles to more people. A number of the games that they would end up publishing were titles that had been released in years past.

These later releases would be on systems that had otherwise missed out on many acclaimed games. Because of them, titles like Gone Home and Kentucky Route Zero were given console releases for the first time. For PC gamers, they would end up bringing titles that were once only available on PS3 and PS4, like Flower, The Unfinished Swan, and Journey. Even mobile gamers have largely benefited from their releases, as many of the previously mentioned titles would also see iOS versions. It truly feels like Annapurna is a publisher that’s open to releasing its titles on as many platforms as possible.

Although AAA games oftentimes dominate the news, a thriving indie scene is one that all gamers should be championing. With a handful of great indie publishers now out there, it’s becoming easier to find great, small games. Annapurna is one of the leaders in this regard, and their continued output only highlights this further. As they now position themselves into a more public-facing role, their sensibilities as a publisher are becoming even more clear as time goes on.

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