PlayStation 4: A Treasure Trove for Indie Developers

During Sony’s press conference on June 10, 2013, an entire section was dedicated to indie games in development for the PlayStation 4 with the promise that the eighth generation console will support the exploding interest in fresh concepts. While the PlayStation 3 did have independently developed titles in their PlayStation Store, there were quite a few hurdles that had to be met before a game showed up there.

For example, game companies had to pay for access to development kits on the PlayStation 3. This was a few thousand dollars or more depending on whether they were buying a full dev kit or renting a partial dev kit to test game code. Although it doesn’t sound like much, money to an indie developer means surviving... and eating and keeping electricity running.

Good luck getting your game promoted or even noticed without partnering with a known publisher in the industry. A lot of indie titles on the PSN got props simply because they had a major name alongside theirs like Fat Princess (SCEA) and Flower (SCEA). While some did find success without the publishing juggernauts, it was at great financial risk to their companies. The PlayStation 4 wants to change all that jazzy-jazz.

Welcome to the New Age
Independent game developers will have an easier time gaining access to a full dev kit that includes everything they need to start writing and executing game code. Sony only asks eager companies to go through a four-step application process that includes an online registration form, an NDA, and a developer application form. In return for the incredible amount of paperwork, Sony provides access to software SDKs, technical support, and full dev kits.

While this sounds ridiculously easy to have a PS3 or PS4 dev kit shipped to your home for tinkering, there are other requirements that would eliminate some interested parties. Game companies must form a corporate entity, must have a static IP address, and must be physically located in the United States, Mexico, Canada, Central America, or South America. It’s also recommended developers obtain an Employer Tax ID Number.

Did you notice there was no money mentioned in those requirements? Sony is really pushing the PlayStation 4 as the platform for developing indie games and their stance on opening the door to everyone certainly looks impressive on paper. They’ve even unified the process so that it doesn’t matter what platform you want to develop on whether it’s the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, or PlayStation Mobile.

PlayStation 4's relationship with indie gamesApply, Develop, Sell
Sony also wants to bring the sexy back to indie developers who viewed their previous model as super annoying and not worth the effort. Similarly, the Xbox 360 had a pretty horrible reputation too when it came to bug fixes and new content for indie games. However, with the PlayStation 4’s press conference dedicating time and many, many screens to new indie games, there was a certain hint of optimism in the air.

For starters, game companies can set their own wholesale price on games and even determine when they’re released onto the new PSN. Although there is technically a window from when you submit the game to when it’s released, there is enough of a gap to plan accordingly. Good guy Sony also wants to take care of your ESRB fees and get your digital games rated for free. It could definitely have been a bitch to submit the same game content multiple times to the ESRB so they can reject you every single time.

As mentioned earlier, there aren’t any set-up fees to gain access to the PS4 dev kit and marketing gets taken care of thanks to access to the PlayStation Blog. When it’s almost time to release a new title, indie developers can hop on the blog and market their game their way and reach millions of readers at a time. This definitely sounds better than marketing material on your own or with a publisher that takes a cut for doing it.

Breaking Barriers
In addition to the development incentives for going with the PlayStation 4, Sony is also offering guaranteed returns on titles provided they are given some exclusivity in return. This does not mean Sony owns the IP to games. This means indie developers get to keep their IP while making money simply by putting their titles on the PS4 for a while before expanding outwards. Assuming they achieve success and publicity on the PS4, this opens up an eager buyer’s market when such games are ported to other consoles and the PC.

If developers are still not satisfied that they’re getting the best deal possible, Sony also plans on expanding their social media marketing skills with indie titles. They offer online social media outreach, promotional materials during live events, and in-market advertisements on the PSN to guarantee exposure.

Your New Best Friend
The PlayStation 4’s current love affair with indie games is already producing an impressive set of launch titles that you can see here. As more and more game companies use the indie development program, there will be a golden age of new content and fresh ideas. It also wouldn’t be a bad thing to see a system similar to Steam’s Greenlight, which promotes community involvement in what gets on the front page.

True, even the mighty Steam is not perfect when it comes to indie games, but there should be a greater sense of control as to what gets out there. Open the floodgates and you get weird copycat games. Just ask the Ouya about that. For what it’s worth, Sony seems to be making the effort to bring indie developers back onto consoles and that’s a surprisingly good thing.

Article by - Collin Mak
Insert Date: 07/23/2013

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