PlayStation Doesn’t Care About Indie Game Developers

A recent report from Kotaku suggests that indie game developers are becoming increasingly frustrated with PlayStation policies and what they are proposing is seen as a general lack of support for the indie gaming industry.

The report comes on the heels of the latest indie game publisher Iain Garner on Twitter when he spoke about working with the PlayStation (identified in his tweets as “Platform X” or “the most successful and non-Games Pass operator”) and methods say they ignore many indie games and indie developers.

Indie Game Developers Tweet

Garner then went into detail about the process of having your indie game recorded on the PlayStation Store. While the said process incorporates many conflicting technical and promotional policies, the part that really caught people’s attention was Garner’s claim that the PlayStation team made it very difficult for people to get your game at all, even if it was invented. In fact, he says there is only one way to ensure that your game will be readily available on the PlayStation Store:

Garner’s thread has left many fans with unanswered questions about the effectiveness of not only his claims but also their magnitude. While Garner noted that he had spoken with “the most popular devs” who had gone through similar experiences, some felt that Garner was simply with an ax to grind or in some way biased towards the PlayStation.

While the latest Kotaku article states that they received similar comments from those who were unhappy with their report on Garner’s allegations, they also received very few messages from indie developers and publishers who wholeheartedly support Garner’s claims. In fact, some of their statements suggest that Garner may have been undermining the seriousness of the issue.

“Sony doesn’t understand what indie means,” said an anonymous indie publisher. “No. For them, indie is something of a low budget.”

Various indie representatives who contributed to the report say that one of the biggest problems with publishing your game on the PlayStation Store is actually the lack of exposure or basic features of the discovery. While paying for extra exposure is rare when it comes to digital stores, developers and publishers say the PlayStation does not offer a consistent way for people to easily find your game unless you are willing to pay for it. It probably sounds like an indie version of the “pay-to-win” DLC.

It’s important to stop here and make it really clear that these developers don’t claim that the PlayStation is the only platform that offers additional exposure at a higher cost. That’s a good habit in general. The most unusual, at least according to the engineers who contributed to the report, is how the PlayStation constantly struggles with contacting indie developers with seemingly minor issues and how that lack of communication makes it all unnecessarily difficult.

We’re a well-established engineer with a proven track record, but I really don’t know who to turn to for console sales,” said Ragnar Tørnquist of Red Thread Games. “It’s like trying to be heard in space.”

That’s the part no one seems to understand. Yes, it makes sense that Sony wants to try to charge engineers more exposure, and yes it makes sense that they won’t give indie developers as much support as they offer Triple-A studios and their first-team teams. However, it is unclear why The PlayStation Store does not offer developers some of the basic features offered by Nintendo and Microsoft, and it is unclear why Sony seems reluctant to answer basic questions in a timely manner or simply invites other indie industry developers to show up.

Say what you will do with the financial performance of these small games compared to the big titles, but it still sounds like PlayStation policies can cost you at least some money. Many indie developers and publishers have shared sales that show that the PlayStation is the lowest sales platform for their games. In one of the worst cases of that error, one anonymous publisher claims that their game sold about 20,000 copies on the Xbox and about 7,000 copies on the PlayStation. When they released the DLC for that game, it sold about 2,000 units on the Xbox compared to only 7 units sold on the PlayStation platforms.

Although you take a lot of criticism on this issue by suggesting that Sony has the right to use the popularity of their platform as a negotiation benefit, that doesn’t explain why they seem to be denying developers access to basic tools such as the ability to easily start their marketing or why the PlayStation Store is not organized without thinking of their exact name.

While all of this may be due to both the common evils of greed and malice, it should be noted that some of these problems could be the result of an outdated PlayStation Store architecture and UI. And we can’t ignore the fact that Sony has made some… weird decisions over the years that seem to have been made as part of an effort to diversify the PlayStation platform across the gaming industry. Their slow support for basic crossplay features is probably the best example of that “strategy,” and even when they decided to sponsor a merger, reports indicate they have found a way to charge engineers “right” to use that feature.

So while it may not be possible for the PlayStation team to suddenly become the largest indie sponsor in the world due to this suspicion, it would at least be nice to see them offer a competitive level of support (or even just a few working to improve features) at a time when Microsoft and Nintendo are finding ways to close the hardware market which seems to make it much easier for Sony to justify some of these policies in the first place.

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