Despite some recent media coverage, Itch.io is one of those places that it seems like everyone knows about until you step outside of your indie gaming bubble. Most of my non-gamer friends messaged me this week to ask what the hell “itch” is, and what exactly they sell there. And while my answer of “its a beloved independent video game marketplace” probably wasn’t the revelation they were hoping for, it’s nonetheless an extremely exciting place. It’s really a special thing, not only because of the wide range of self-made content people are able to sell there, but because of the level of control sellers have over their own products.
On Steam and GOG, developers have to hand over a whopping 30% of their sales. Even the more dev-friendly storefronts, Epic and Microsoft, take 12%. Itch has a different proposition: a “pay what you want” model basically across the board. Developers can set a minimum price for their game, but people can choose to pay more if they want to further support them. The same idea applies to Itch’s fees - developers are in control of what percentage goes to their team, with the default set at a modest 10%. This method meshes perfectly with their overall stance as a games marketplace that actually puts the games first.
In a further effort to support developers, today (May 14), itch.io is having its very first “Creator Day”. That means that for one day, itch takes nothing and developers get the full proceeds of your support. It’s a great day to go ahead and make some of those purchases you’ve been putting off, or find some future favorites. The number of games on itch can be overwhelming, so I’ve rounded up a few of my favorites you might want to check out:
Hot Seagulls in Your Area
Listen, sometimes you see a game and know that it’s basically been made for you. I have this unending desire to scoop up birds I see - they’re all just perfectly shaped for it. The seagulls I see around Seattle are no exception. So when I came across this game I truly just about lost my mind. You play as a gorg beach bodybuilder who needs to make all the birds on the boardwalk smooch. Don’t look at me like that - birds deserve love too! Slap some lipstick on ‘em, match them up, and watch those sparks fly. It’s goofy, inventive, and I was thoroughly obsessed. Go check it out!
The Haunted Island, A Frog Detective Game
Many people know I’m a sucker for a round character with a friendly little face, so it’s really no surprise that Frog Detective caught my eye. I actually found out about it through Twitter, where the developer’s sense of humor instantly won me over. You play as a detective, as the name implies, and you’ll need to find clues and talk to people to solve the case. It’s really enjoyable, filled with sweet light humor, and definitely worth your time. If you like this one, there’s a sequel and a planned third installment!
A Short Hike
There is honestly nothing better for recharging than a fun little hike. Wandering around, breathing in some fresh air, and getting to explore all culminate in something invigorating that shakes the cobwebs out of my brain. Those feelings are recreated perfectly in A Short Hike, a sweet little exploration game. The game moves at your own pace, so you can stop to swim or fish or climb as you like - it’s your hike! There’s platforming, which I found really fun, and quests to complete for other hikers, who had so much personality squeezed into them I couldn’t help but talk to everyone I saw. Overall it’s an incredibly lovely game that I think will surprise a lot of people with just how much they accomplish with this simple premise.
A Mortician’s Tale
Link to itch.io store page In North America, people are pretty weird about death. I know I always have been, but recent work in the “Death Positive” space has been a really interesting eye-opener for me. It’s still a tough subject, and one’s that’s ultimately used as a mechanic (aka killing people) or as plot devices (the hero’s beloved being killed) in games. A Mortician’s Tale is a truly unique subversion of that expectation, where you play as a mortician who must prepare bodies and run funerals. It’s a story-driven experience where you’ll interact with the funeral attendees and complete simple puzzles to performs all aspects of Charlie’s job. The game handles its delicate premise with care and creates an interesting window into the western death industry.
Okay so technically this game is free, BUT, if there was ever a day to pay them for it, it’s today. Townseek originally came out of a game jam and has since gone through some improvements, but the amazing core game remains just as it was imagined. You play as a traveling merchant exploring the world. Buy and sell from the villages you find, fish around the world, and customize your airship! I really love games that make me want to explore, and Townseek had surprises around every bend that had me searching high and low to see what the next wave would bring. You can check it out right in your browser, then scroll down to support the development of their next games!