7 years. That’s how long the current console cycle has lasted. It ended with the release of the Wii U by Nintendo on 18th November, 2012. As far as current console releases go, November seems to be the month that will be locked down by Sony and Microsoft. Even Nintendo, with the Wii and the Wii U, have targeted and achieved a November release. This is great news for everyone, as we all get to experience the latest and greatest Game Developers such as ourselves have to offer the gamers of the world.
As an Indie Developer, we here at dojit haven’t just been discussing the games that we know are releasing and the features that come with them. We have also been discussing what console would be a top of the list if we ever decided to develop games for a console as an Indie Developer. We’ve been looking at the hardware, and the processes that we would have to tackle in order to push a game on either device and we have come across some great news not only for us, but for all Indie developers. We have discovered that Sony have been reaching out to many Indie developers, and offering them aid in developing for the PS3 and the PS4. Sony have been concentrating massively on making sure they have a great and simple process for you to get your game on to their store.
We did discover something a bit saddening about Microsofts stance on Indie developers. A lot of developers are reporting that Microsoft are not reaching out to them, and are actively declining places on the Xbox Live Arcade simply because they will not allow an Indie developer to have a game published on the Xbox Live Arcade without a Publisher (such as EA, Activision being the most recognisable examples of Publishers in the games industry.) I personally wanted to find out more and decided to dig further to see what Microsoft are doing within the Indie Dev scene, and what Sony are doing within the scene.
Sony have been praised, as far as I have dug at least, for their efforts in courting Indie Developers in the hopes of seeing those developers release games on devices like the PSP, PSVita, PS3 and in the near future, the PS4. Multiple Indie Devs have let the media know that Sony have treated them well, and made it easy for them to get the games they develop on the Playstation Store. It has even been likened to “a chat in a coffee shop” which shows that Sony have been nothing but friendly to Indie Developers. With such hits as Minecraft and Journey, we can see why Sony are looking to help Indie Developers grow. If they are able to get an incredible Indie title on their devices, and make it exclusive and see it rake in millions, we could see Sony become a shining beacon in the land of Indie Development. Just take a look at this bit of information from Brian Provinciano who is the creator of the old-school parody game Retro City Rampage.
“Sony’s been incredibly supportive and promoted the game very well,” said Provinciano. “It’s received a generous amount of promotion at no cost to me, from advertisements on the PS Store to events such as E3 and even having it playable on kiosks at every Walmart, Best Buy, GameStop, Target and Future Shop across North America.” You would agree that this is fantastic news for Indie Developers.
Brian Provinciano also said, “Never in my wildest dreams would I have expected this to happen,” .
Now we travel into darker waters. Here the inhabitants aren’t all that friendly and are looking to make your Indie release a nightmare. Welcome to the Microsoft Publishing Process. It wasn’t always this way though. In fact it was Microsoft that brought Indie Developers to the front. They decided to create a playground for them, where they could publish games to us Xbox users and reap the rewards of a large user base Microsoft helped by constantly advertising these great, fun, little games that cost a quarter or and eighth of the price of your average game sold at retail. It became so popular that Microsoft ran sales and even dedicated a season to the Xbox Live Arcade titles called Summer of Arcade.
Fast forward to the current day Microsoft. The Microsoft that, as told by Brian Provinciano, is a nightmare for Indie Devs to work with. He says that Microsoft cut his game off at the last hurdle after he voiced his opinion about the process and how inefficient it was. He was then forced to resubmit his game which involved going through a long approvals process and go through an extra six months of talks and negotiations which required him to have to submit the game through an outside publisher, or he wouldn’t see his game released. To top it all off, Microsoft then accidentally priced the game at $10 instead of the $15 Brian Provinciano had asked for. He lost out on 1/3rd of the money from the mistake, which we do not know if Microsoft reimbursed him.
You will notice that I have included two talks from Brian. Look at his opinion on Sony and its process, then look at his opinion on Microsofts process. We can see the clear winner here. As a small developer ourselves, we would be looking to see which console could provide us with the ease of development and the ability to publish a game without jumping through numerous hoops. Not only do Sony allow us both of these things, but they go the extra mile to bag themselves an Indie Developer.
There’s also Nintendo with the Wii U. We know that they have been struggling with sales, and to try and counter this they have been courting Indies in the same way Sony have. Nintendo, who were once very hard to work with, are now lessening the strictness of the rules they usually place down when working with Indie Developers. A well known one is that the Indie Developer had to have an office space, but now garage developers who work from the living room are finding their footing when developing for the Wii U. They also offer Indie developers freedom over pricing, release dates and content approval, just like Sony is. We may not see a hit like Minecraft or Journey, but we might definitely see a wave of Indie titles hit the shores of the Wii U very soon.
It would appear that Microsoft have yet to realise that they are no longer the easiest route, or the most illustrious place for Indies to publish. Sony have capitalised on Microsofts failure to keeps Indies happy and now look to be a dominant force when it comes to smaller titles in the next generation. It seems to be a role reversal between Sony and Microsoft, with Nintendo now showing that the doors are open for Indies as well.
I think I can safely say that if we at dojit were ever looking to break into the console market and release games like Home Bear or Soccer Zillionaire, we would chose Sony as the console we would publish on. Nintendo still have some cover more ground to catch up to Sony. Microsoft need to step up their game, and try to recapture what they had only a few years ago. I leave you with a question.
Which console would you publish your game on and why?