I’ve seen the term “indie” used a lot in the pen-and-paper RPG scene, so when I use the word for miniature wargames I’m pretty much porting over the word from there, although to be honest I’m not entirely certain what qualifies and disqualifies as an indie RPG.
At any rate, to me, miniature wargaming companies that definitely don’t qualify as indie are Games Workshop, Privateer Press, Battlefront and Fantasy Flight Games. A handful of other companies are in the grey zone, such as Corvus Belli, Wyrd, Warlord, Mantic, Hawk Wargames, Dream Pod 9, the now-defunct Spartan Games and possibly (as of late) the North Star-Osprey partnership, but I don’t go so far as saying they’re definitely, absolutely, categorically non-indie. Well, maybe Warlord is by this point… I’m not entirely sure about that one, given how fast it’s grown. Everything else I can think of is definitely indie by my classification, including a lot of the “boutique game” companies (the ones that make similar games to Infinity and Malifaux, but aren’t anywhere near as popular and established).
Often, the way I use the term, “indie” is synonymous with “garage business” (which shouldn’t be taken to mean it technically needs to be run out of an actual garage) or “vanity business”. Then again, there are companies such as Brigade Models that are a step or two above the actual “garage” level (having, to the best of my understanding, proper business premises of their own, and employees and whatnot) but which I still classify as “indie”.
So to me, it’s more to do with the degree of popularity and “establishedness” (as opposed to “grass-rootsiness”) in the market than with the structure of ownership and financing or similar considerations. The degree of chrome/gloss/hardsell is also a factor. It’s very, very much a sliding scale.
I guess one way to put it would be that a company needs to score high in both popularity/establishedness and chrome/gloss/hardsell to possibly count as non-indie. So for instance: Brigade Models is moderately well-established in a certain sector of the market, but it isn’t chrome, so it’s indie; the game Alkemy is chrome but nowhere near as established as Infinity or Malifaux (similarly-styled chrome games), so it’s indie; Angel Barracks is neither well-established (you know what I mean – I’m speaking in relative terms that take into account GW and suchlike) nor chrome, so it’s indie; Privateer Press is both very well-established and very chrome, so it’s not indie.
As for indie games in relation to TWW, I’ll save that for a later post as I’ve been writing this one for a while now and need a break.