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The State of Indie and Consoles
by Rami Ismail on 08/23/13 03:50:00 am   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutraís community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


Wasteland Kings being announced at gamescom

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.

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Kevin Clough
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Thanks for sharing your insights. I'm glad to hear all three of the big console makers are getting onboard with indies. I've noticed that most of the indie games announced for Sony's platforms are just launching there and it seems like there are no real restrictions on them also going to other platforms. I think that shows Sony's pro-indie approach because why not let indies bring their hard work to every platform that they can get on.

Jarod Smiley
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yeah...some of the titles's trailers started with Sony Computer Entertainment Presents, so I do believe Sony's WWS is helping with development or partnering on some of the games they debuted at Gamescon. Why there wasn't a clearer distinction is beyond me, but yeah, I would also like to see games release on as many platforms as possible, but as a consumer, I think a console parity policy is unfair. A good example (from what little knowledge I have at least) is Final Fantasy 13. The PS3 version was rumored to be done before 360's, could have supported both languages, and higher resolution on cut-scenes, yet console parity had features cut so 360's owners would have the same experience? BS

I like developers to pull out everything they can on each particular hardware and not be held-back by some parity policy nonsense. MS stuff still seems to be shaky at this point.

Vu Nguyen
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you do understand what launch parity is? it's launching on both platforms at the same time. that is all.

nowhere was it mentioned "console parity" and that console parity thing about FF13 sounds like complete BS invented by Sony fanboys to explain the problems with the PS3 version.

I know Playstation fanboys complain when games come out first on 360 and so I'd think you'd appreciate launch parity.

E Zachary Knight
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"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. "

Everything you suggest here is still 100% doable on the Ouya. You don't have to participate in the "Free the Games Fund" if you don't want to. You can still release simultaneously to PC, Android, iPhone etc if you want to.

As for the Free The Games Fund, You can participate in the Free the Games Fund, release the Ouya exclusive and then use the extra funds to make the inevitable release on other platforms bigger and better. I don't know of any gamer that would think poorly of you releasing on the Ouya first and then releasing an even better game 6 months later.

Dane MacMahon
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I think the extremely positive sales reception a lot of "old games" have gotten on Steam proves that consumers just want great games on their platform, they don't care what happened before that too much.

Thomas Happ
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Thanks for the article. I'm definitely interested to see how this turns out. Particularly with Microsoft - I've been wondering if they'll have something to compete with Sony's Pub Fund.

Matt Ployhar
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If Indies really want to bust loose they should *always* target those platforms with the largest scales of market, and localize for at least the top 6 languages first. Any Console right now should be tier two or three in level of priority. To back that up - we have to ask ourselves some questions. Would Minecraft, Angry Birds, Clash of Clans, Candy Crush, League of Legends, or a World of Tanks happened - had they signed an exclusive on a proprietary Console platform? I for one lean towards no. They *might* have still enjoyed success but not likely to the same degree they do today. The common ingredients to their success have been: 1) Large Scales of economy and install base. (via PC, Android Tablets, or SmartPhones, etc), 2) Very low cost & or Free to Play to reduce or outright eliminate Piracy. 3) Smart Game design and fun.

Thomas Happ
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I think there has to be a caveat where if the audience or the type of game you want to make fits better with a console - e.g. relies heavily on gamepad button combos or some peripheral like a wiimote or kinect - then a timed console exclusive could make sense.

Steven Stadnicki
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"I caught up with Chris Charla today at gamescom and he reassured me some of these limitations are temporary or guided by hardware constraints"

This is a particularly strange statement to me - in what way, shape or form could a console-maker's policies on launch policy be guided by *hardware constraints*? It's hard for me to parse this statement in any fashion that doesn't lead to one worrisome conclusion or another...

Thomas Happ
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I couldn't find any information about the "console published" requirement on the ID@XBOX site. Maybe he's talking about with regards to launch parity - as in, you are only allowed to have launch parity with other consoles, and if you want to release on PC, it has to come after? So maybe they don't want you releasing games originally designed around mouse and keyboard?

Robert Green
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"Itís hard enough to earn $50,000 in a normal Kickstarter, let alone if youíre limiting your audience to OUYA-owners."

And it's even harder to earn $50,000 in a kickstarter for a system where every owner knows they'll be able to try your game for free before paying. F2P games in general haven't made an impact on kickstarter for exactly that reason.

E Zachary Knight
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What? You mean those demos, alphas and prototypes that just about every indie game has these days is actually driving away potential backers? I did not know that. I guess I should just change my plans right now.

Robert Green
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No need to get snarky. All I am saying is the (hopefully quite obvious) suggestion that if I were to offer the average individual the opportunity to pre-order a game blind or wait for a free trial of some kind, which they know will be available, then any rational person will prefer the latter. And that's basically what's happening here, isn't it?
Or, rephrased, that it's odd of Ouya to promote this new system where every game is free to try, then ask the people who bought it to fund game development.

E Zachary Knight
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I still don't see why that is a problem. If the Dev wants to, they can provide a demo/prototype with their Kickstarter. That way people aren't backing blind. Developers can also rely on their track record if they have created games in the past. So the Kickstarter is not fully blind.

Robert Green
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I'm not suggesting that any of this is an insurmountable problem, but I would think that if a developer had a good track record and was able to provide a demo, then they might be reluctant to offer exclusivity to such a niche platform. Especially if they'd already made a demo for another platform, which they might have to do if Ouya didn't want early prototypes on their storefront.

Greg Quinn
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What does this article mean by 'launch parity' ?