The state of indies and consoles
Wasteland Kings announcement at the Playstation press conference should say enough: Sony has been great for Vlambeer. It’s important to note that that doesn’t mean that we’re not talking to the other parties – in fact, we definitely are. A lot of people have been asking me about what we think about the shifts in the console industry and I decided I’d write them down.
An interesting note is that all console platforms at have relatively visible or increasingly visible evangelists. Sony put Shahid Ahmed on stage for the indie announcement at gamescom, and if you’ve haven’t been paying attention to him on Twitter, Shahid knows the indie scene and the indie scene knows Shahid. Sony has a team full of enthusiastic and genuinely interested people pushing their indie lineup, including Nick Suttner, Brian Silva and Adam Boyes.
Obviously, five years ago this conversation would’ve been reversed, with Sony being inaccessible and Microsoft being accessible and indie-friendly. It’ll be important for Sony to keep putting the developers front and center while the others try to vie for indie support.
Microsoft is championing their indie contact Chris Charla as their spearhead in their ID@Xbox push – and if you talk to any indie that has worked with Microsoft that isn’t negative about their experience, chances are Chris is part of that deal. Nintendo has Dan Adelman running their indie strategy and you’d be hard pressed to find somebody that doesn’t like Dan and his enthusiasm for games.
These are all good people, making themselves intentionally visible and accessible, trying to bring interesting and diverse content to their respective platforms. That in itself is an exciting development.
ID@Xbox, Microsoft’s somewhat surprising indie initiative, is an exciting development. It’s something we’ve been talking about with Microsoft for a while now and something I feel is a huge leap in the right direction. I still have reservations about some details that we hadn’t heard of before: launch parity for being allowed to release a game is still a bit of a strange notion: simply being allowed to launch on a platform does not mean that developers will accept such demands if the competition does not have them. If anything, launch parity excludes developers that are more comfortable with releasing on PlayStation platforms first.
Only allowing console-published developers to release a game on Xbox means that indies are basically forced to go through either Microsoft Game Studios or – ironically – PlayStation to be able to launch on the platform. I caught up with Chris Charla today at gamescom and he reassured me some of these limitations are temporary or guided by hardware constraints, which is reassuring.
Another reservation might be that Microsoft doesn’t exactly have a great history in following up on their promises, and before we fully back the initiative we want to go through the gauntlet for a project. Making Chris as visible as he is makes someone responsible for what happens, and that feeling of knowing who to turn to makes Microsoft a much more agreeable entity to do business with.
As a little side-note, I’m not sure about OUYA at this point. I still like their goals, but I’m not sure they’re going about them the right way. Not even considering their almost offensive advertisement strategy lately, the little ‘console that could’ has been signing on a lot of deals in exchange for exclusivity & their aggressive Kickstarter fund was unintentionally limiting to developers. It’s hard enough to earn $50,000 in a normal Kickstarter, let alone if you’re limiting your audience to OUYA-owners.
If OUYA wants to be truly indie-friendly it needs to allow indie developers to spread their wings if they find success on the platform. Exclusivity should not be part of that, especially not for a console that is unlikely to be able to support a developer on its own. OUYA should be the console you also release your games on.
In other words, Sony is doing great, we’ve signed up for ID@Xbox and we’ll continue talking to Nintendo.