The PS4 will be a marginally more open platform for developers, but it’s clear Sony have always seen their role as curative – picking exceptional (and sometimes exceptionally weird) indie games from above, commissioning one of their internal teams to help out, and anointing them with exclusivity agreements. They’ve stepped up that process for their new console, and thechineseroom will likely be the first of many PC indies to be turned to the other side.
Third party relations teams in the company’s American and European divisions have been visiting indie events to talk to developers and reach out to teams already making promising games on the PC. Then comes the choloroform, you’d presume, but it seems many of the twenty-odd indies who displayed their wares at the PlayStation booth at E3 and Gamescom went willingly.
Speaking at length to GamesIndustry, Sony Worldwide Studios boss Shuhei Yoshida explained that Sony had been particularly successful in poaching indies who “used to make console games” under large studios.
“Because of the accessibility of the platform, they start out on PC or mobile, but they might find their games are not necessarily best played on these devices,” he explained. “In such cases, moving to console is a perfect match. In a lot of cases, people who brought their games to PS Vita, for example, say that this is the best version of their game.”
More alarming, however, is the trend for redirecting in-development games toward the PS4 even before they can hit the PC. They key, says Yoshida, has been Sony’s newly personal approach to indie dealings.
“Rather than ‘gatekeeping’, [we’re] trying to reach out to these great guys,” he said. “Because these guys, indie people, do not necessarily have business relations people or PR people – they’re just so focused on making games – they like the personal connection.
“If a Sony guy comes and says that we love your games, what can we do to help you to move your games to PlayStation – they’re like, ‘okay, I feel very comfortable working with you’. Very personal level relations can be developed. I think that’s really important.”
But ultimately it’s not snake oil that tempts PC developers over to PS4. Nobody is tricked. It’s the promise of funding and technical reinforcement they couldn’t possibly get on the PC – the games platform whose omniscient corporation long since stopped watching over it. thechineseroom’s Dear Esther follow-up is now PS4-only because it simply wouldn’t have been made any other way.
It’s a little frightening to know that Sony are eyeing up the most exciting new indie games just as we are. But what can be done?