Sony is taking the indie scene very seriously as reiterated by Shuhei Yoshida, head of PlayStation Worldwide Studios. Many indie developers have already started to flock to the PS4 with the ultimate promise of self-publishing rights.
Over the years, indie developers have complained over Microsoft’s increasingly bureaucratic policies that are viewed as somewhat heavy handed. Hello Games once called Xbox Live a “slaughter house” for indie games citing the fact that Microsoft does not allow developers to self-publish. Instead they have to seek out a third party publisher such as EA or Activision at which point the money made back starts to dwindle on an already low profit margin.
Developers that can’t find a publisher may have the option to have Microsoft do the publishing (if the company is interested). The studio then has to make further sacrifices such as possibility of losing the IP and the right to publish on a competing platform such as the PS3.
Sony started changing some of this with the PS3 by allowing devs to self-publish. However, with the PS4, Sony is looking to take things even further by expanding this concept to its mobile platform. According to Yoshida, devs wanting to create indie titles on PlayStation Mobile can do so for free without having to purchase a dev kit and self-publish.
Just Add Water, best known for the Oddworld series recently announced that it was working on a PS4 game. Jonathan Blow, the brains behind Braid which was a timed exclusive on Xbox Live made a surprising announcement when he unveiled The Witness, a beautifully crafted vibrant open world puzzle game. According to Blow, his game will have no fillers and will be super condensed and will still manage to deliver over 25 hours of gameplay time.
In an interview with CVG, Blow revealed that The Witness will be a timed exclusive on the PS4. Back in 2011, Blow had this to say about PSN:
If you’re thinking about the impact of indie games on the whole forum of games then probably Sony has done more because of the way they curate the games they put on there – they’re actually looking for games that are artful or experimental.
Apparently the reason The Witness became a timed PS4 exclusive was due to Microsoft’s lack of communication.
There were people at Sony who really liked the game and were keeping in touch with us about it, and so we naturally started going to their PS4 developer events, got a dev kit, and started playing with it.
I don’t have good communication with anyone at Microsoft right now, and haven’t been disclosed on their next console, but all our technical people like the PS4 specs a lot more than the leaked Durango specs, and we like the positioning of the PS4 (it’s about games) a lot more than what we perceive Microsoft’s positioning is going to be.
This perception that Microsoft is pushing indie gaming is something that has been building over time. A major complaint from the XBLIG community is Microsoft attempt to burry the indie game section deeper and deeper within the dashboard menus with every update.
This is what one angry indie developer said about Microsoft’s dashboard updates:
I think Indie Games was originally conceived to goose the major publishers in to supporting digital distribution – since they were slow to adopt. "Mission accomplished, now Indie Games go away."
Journey was voted Game of the Year by many gaming outlets overtaking even full retail packaged games. Self-publishing is going to be a big deal going into the next generation for a lot of these indie studios and it seems that Sony is looking to embrace this model.