Also, strategy games are not approachable. Even Starcraft is mired in not obvious necessities.
If someone could make a strategy game that ruled, and learning to play it was natural - it didn't require inherent proclivities and patience - then indies would do it. It is the age of consumerism in design. People don't want to play your game if it takes more than 3 seconds to understand it.
I play Starcraft. Try and teach me how to play and enjoy it in writing (assuming I don't know). Go ahead. Want to learn Mario? Pick up the controller.
That's actually stupid, you can say both things about practically every game and genre.
Try and teach me how to play and enjoy Mario in writng (assumig I don't know). Go ahead. Want to learn Starcraft? Grab the mouse.
Starcraft is a game about controlling characters with mouse in a same sense that Mario is a game about controlling a little moustache guy with controller. Enjoying Starcraft doesn't only mean playing at GrandMaster level. There is a campaign with Casual difficulty mode. What's more, people that doesn't play games, but are able to use computer, will be more familiar with 'click-to-move' mechanic than with playing using arrow-keys or controller, cause that's what they did in the past.
Right-clicking on a screen is actually much easier than controlling a player in a platformer game for many reasons.
Starcraft has a much higher barrier to entry.... Mario is obviously the larger franchise.
What I'm saying is, the depth of the game (Starcraft) is non-approachable. Take Chess for example. Chess is respected everywhere. No one will ostracize you for being a Chess expert. You may be seen as nerdy, but you'll likely receive a good deal of at least grudging respect.
Chess is a hard game. You won't appreciate its depth without learning to play. The game takes discipline. If you make a mistake when playing it's not immediately clear what your mistake was, or how to improve. That can make it very difficult to learn. It's frustrating to feel like you're working hard but you're not getting anywhere. You don't want to play a game that will make you feel stupid and not give you the hope that you can improve. You want to be able to see how you might become a very good player.
Chess requires a society around it to support it. The game wasn't "designed." It evolved over centuries or whatever. It was played and played. People played it because they liked it. They learned to play it by playing with others. The knew to respect it because it was respected. So Chess has been around forever.
But now people prefer video games. Think about Guitar Hero. That game is like 1 thousandth the experience of actually playing music. But people fucking love it. They love it because the game is clear. You don't need an instructor to play, or some natural talent, or a "musical family." You just turn on the system and smash the buttons. People like that.
Starcraft is a deep game. But to access that depth you need to study it. You don't need to break out a pen and paper. You can just play and pay attention. But you still have to churn your mind to become very good. That's effort. There is this hidden skill you need to become good at Starcraft. The same thing is true with learning to play Chess, or learning to play an instrument. The argument goes that these kinds of activities, that require more thinking from you, are more rewarding in the end. I believe that. It's kind of obvious. But it definitely makes them less accessible.
If you take just some random person and sit them in front of Starcraft, they will have no fucking clue what they are doing. When I was 16 I sat my girlfriend down in front of my PC while I took a shower, and got her to play the "Bootcamp" in the first game. She made it 2 minutes and gave up, because she was intimidated. She was a soft soul. She was intimidated easily. But she would not have been that way with Mario. A 5 year old wouldn't be that way with Mario; no fucking way.
Maybe my gf at the time was intimidated by the violence. I know my sister likes "building stuff" but has a harder time "attacking" because it's like this personal conflict. She has no problem with shooters, not really, but with RTS she gets that way. I think a lot of girls are like that.
Take Chess again. That is a game that is very hard to understand. There's kind of a "thing" to make games like Chess. Designers say that some times. They want to make a game the has the simplicity of Chess - like the small number of pieces, very few rules - and its endless difficulty and variety. Sometimes I hear "Go" and "Poker" as well. Those are simple, approachable games, but have this depth that just goes and goes.
If you modulate a single variable in chess, if you change just a little thing, the whole game changes. It's very hard to predict how a change relates to a result. That's why the game took centuries to evolve. That's why the game is so hard to learn. There isn't a simple system that you understand then just apply to every situation. That's why it takes a community to produce strong chess players.
Designing a "strategy" game is like designing a new chess. It's really easy to fuck up a strategy game because the fundamentals in the design are so finicky. If you sneeze on them the whole game falls apart. Platformers aren't like that.
When making a platformer it is a lot easier to visualize the relationship between a design decision and a change in play-experience, because one directly relates to the other. If I visualize a new move or enemy in a platformer I can "see" the effect in my mind. I can't do this with strategy. With strategy I have think another step. I have to think a few more steps. The depth of the game is a mile away from the basics. That's sort of like the definition of a good strategy game. It's not impossible to see this relationship, I just need a particular kind of theory/experience to help me do it.
So it's hard to balance a strategy game, and its hard to easily see how a personal experience you had in your life can be turned into a strategy game. Strategy games are this big up-front commitment. You have to be prepared to test and test and refine and test. Indies don't like that because they/we want to "express." We want to make games based on what we feel. So we pick genres that we believe can deliver on what we feel.
Think of it this way. When you design a platformer you are designing situations. Say you have your Mario. You take some time coming up with his move set. That process is non-trivial. Then you come to the levels. You come up with enemies and colored platforms and power-ups and layouts. You're thinking, "what would be interesting for my player to do?" Then you create/place items that will help create that experience. You ship the game and the player plays through each level, dealing with the unique properties of each, thinking through it, reacting to it, and so on.
Strategy games aren't like that. In a strategy game you are "designing" a system to produce
situations. It's like you're building a platforming level generator. You're thinking, "ok, given these primitives and these rules, what type of situations will be produced, and, in what way are those interesting to the player?" See the extra step? There is a whole extra step. Seeing the experience produced by a strategy game design is like looking through a kaleidoscope. Every turn you make has this huge impact on what you see. Understanding the relationship between the two is complicated. We don't have design theory to make the process easy yet.
Indies don't make strategies for good reasons. It's not a fluke. Big things usually aren't flukes. We can make them. Doing so just seems like a bigger risk. Or it's a commitment to systems instead of "experience" or something like that. I think as design theory becomes more established indies will produce more strategy games, because then they'll see them as one more vehicle for expressing themselves. Right now it's only sort of like that. ... other stuff I said.