There was a shock last night at the BAFTA Game Awards as favourite God of War Ragnarök lost out to indie hit Vampire Survivors, which crept from the shadows to grab BAFTA's two most coveted awards, winning in the game design and best game categories. But what does it mean and why should all indies be celebrating?
Earlier this month when the BAFTA Game Awards nominations were revealed God of War Ragnarök was the clear front runner, and had been nominated in a record-breaking 15 categories. Read God of War Ragnarök review to find out why everyone thought it would clean-up at the BAFTA Game Awards.
While Sony Santa Monica's big-budget game won in categories such as for animation and performer in a leading role with Christopher Judge, it was indie game Vampire Survivors that took home the biggest BAFTA awards. A shoot-’em-up with a low-key painterly art style, Vampire Survivors was largely developed by solo coder Luca Galante and is the kind of win that rarely happens.
BAFTA Game Award winners shock
Vampire Survivors pits players against an ever-growing army of surging monsters and an ever-shifting landscape; the singular goal is to survive for as long as possible. Winning a BAFTA Game Award for best game and game design, Vampire Survivors earned the two most prized awards and took many by surprise.
This was a theme at this year's BAFTA Game Awards, and will be remembered for celebrating the achievements of indies and lesser-known or eccentric games. For example, the elegantly designed Tunic won two BAFTAs for artistic achievement and debut game – like Vampire Survivors this was a solo project by designer Andrew Shouldice. Champion of originality, Sam Barlow scooped a BAFTA for best narrative for his complex FMV game Immortality and offbeat indie Rollerdrome won for best British Game.
What does the success of small, independent games mean? Well, if you're a small game studio or indie developer right now, the world looks like a more accepting place. As developer tools such as Unreal Engine 5 and Unity's next-gen tech become easier and more accessible, it seems good ideas and originality can be rewarded. Game developers, even working solo for years, can win big at events like the BAFTA Game Awards that were once the preserve of AAA blockbuster games.
Of course, there was some love for Kratos, as Sony's game still managed to win more BAFTAs than any other title released in 2022, including taking home the EE game of the year award, the only gong to be voted for by the general public, but the fact the biggest awards went to a small indie is cause for celebration.
Other notable wins at this year's BAFTA Game Awards for AAA releases were in areas you would expect these developers to excel, including From Software’s outstanding fantasy role-playing adventure Elden Ring, which won in the multiplayer and original property categories. There was a second win for Sony when Horizon Forbidden West took away the BAFTA for technical achievement.
But there was a theme at the BAFTA Game Awards, and it was a celebration of indies. It was fitting then, that Sony's Shuhei Yoshida, a champion of indie game development inside Sony, earned the BAFTA Fellowship award for his 'outstanding and exceptional contribution to film, games or television'.
As he accepted his award Yoshida said: "Indie developers, dream on, because your next game could change the face of the industry forever".
A fitting speech given the number of indie winners at this year's BAFTA Game Awards, and perhaps a signal that the innovations brought to life by small teams and solo developers are now finally being seen as the lifeblood of the games industry, and not just important but also, now, successful on the biggest stage. If you're an indie game developer the world just got a lot friendlier.
You can find the full winners list at the BAFTA Game Awards website.