This post is in response to a forum discussion on 'The Escapist' article regarding Minecraft creator Markus "Notch" Persson comments on Electronic Art's indie bundle as well as a article on RedLynx (creators of Trials Evolution) being acquired and there thoughts on indie / independence dilemma.
I thought I'd address what seems to be a constant re-occurrence of the misunderstanding of what exactly is and makes an entity indie & / or independent. So, I'll risk giving a definitive, full-stop, once and for all definition below (plus it's handy for an excuse to update the long-neglected blog as well! :)
So, an Independent entity is someone that creates the product / content they want to create regardless of how they obtain the required finance, distribution and advertising / marketing for that product.
In other words, there is no outside entity having a majority influence over what they make and how it turns out from the original core-organic vision.
Of course, if it's a commercial product the current market and other factors will come into play somewhat when it comes to how much compromise & partnering (publisher, third-party tools etc) is required to get the game to the level of success desired but in this context, it depends on how much of these compromises change the control and outcome of the resulting creation which will also dictate whether it is still been independently made or not.
For example, being published by EA or having a billion dollars to spend on your game does not all of a sudden render the creation non-independent.
Indie / Indiependent Creator:
An indie developer is an entity that is not affiliated, published or reasonably financed by an established / major player be it a partner or themselves.
Indie more describes what promotion / distribution & financial assets are at your disposal rather than how or why you create the product's you create. This also means that if you become an entity that is consider major / established you can no longer call yourself indie.
For instance, Thatgamecompany and it's games have been described as indie and indie-hits. While this was probably true around the time they released Flow 'indiependently' as an online flash game, the moment they signed a contract with an established major player like Sony for promotion, distribution and / or support, in addition to becoming an established major player themselves, they graduated from being 'independent indie' to 'independent' only.
This is also the case for Minecraft creator Mojang (as somewhat alluded by "Notch" himself), no longer indie but still independent and making the content they want to make / play.
Point being indie and independent are not co-dependent on each other. You can be indie or non-indie and still be independent or otherwise, but (especially in the context of growth & commercial endeavours) independent creators should aim to graduate from being indie while still striving to keep their independence on the 'creative' and 'choice' front.
In saying this, I think there's also room for at least some other context's of the meaning a little. For instance, the 'garage-developer' / 'homebrew-indie' for the zero budget creator or something, however regardless of this, the base definition still stands.