Which Console Is The Best For Indie Developers?
There is no questioning that 2012 was the best year for the PSN. We got the likes of Journey, The Unfinished Swan, Dyad and more. Xbox Live had a great year as well with Trials: Evolution, Fez and the Xbox version of Minecraft.
What I want to discuss is which console platform is currently easiest to put games out on. Not which is easiest to develop for and yes before the master race comes knocking, we know that the PC is the best for indie developers but I’m here to talk about consoles.
Xbox Live has always had certain restriction on games added to Xbox Live, such as games can’t come to it if they have been exclusive elsewhere. PSN has no such restriction which lets games like Braid, Castle Crashers and Limbo make its way across the console borders.
One of the more public cases of a game not being able to be released on the Xbox Live Arcade is Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath. First the game didn’t meet the size limitation on Xbox Live, and then they said it didn’t meet the sales they required. Unfortunately Xbox owners will never be able to play Stranger’s Wrath but at least they will be able to play Abe’s Oddysee New ‘n’ Tasty.
Retro City Rampage’s creator, Brian Provinciano said that dealing with Microsoft was like dealing with a corporation rather than a person. He mentioned that his has very little control over things like release dates, until when he was dealing with Sony.
One feather in Sony’s cap is they also have the PlayStation Vita tied into the same network. With a lot of indie games coming out this year, they will be arriving for both systems. Brian Provinciano has previously stated that the two easiest systems to develop for were PC and Vita. This is a huge step for Sony as the PS3 was generally considered to be the harder system of the two to develop for. The mobile market is flooded with games and having a good game isn’t always enough to succeed in that place. The Vita welcomes more titles, while it has more titles then people really care to realize, it can always do with more games.
PlayStation Plus is also a way for an indie game to get recognized by people that may have missed a game, whether that be as a free download or at a discount. It gives people the opportunity to try games that they might not have ever tried. Also if the game has DLC, customers may feel more inclined to buy it, to support the developer.
Summer of Arcade is a great avenue for developers to have their game showcased. This will, no doubt, improve sales for these games. One disadvantage is that the games generally are exclusive to XBL so that could reduce sales, but the advertising that Microsoft does for Summer of Arcade does in turn, counteract that; and the games are free to release on other platforms after a set period of time, that is undisclosed. Restrictions on sales for only Gold subscribers which limits who might pick it up.
It would seem like most multi-platform developers generally seem to ignore the Wii, Wii U and 3DS. Lately more games have been coming to the Wii U as it is similar in hardware to the PS3 and Xbox 360. Nintendo systems are notorious for mostly having only first party titles and little else in third party titles. It is hard to judge the Wii U at this point because it has been out for less than a year.
It is really hard to get a fair representation of how games sell on all platforms, as there is no way of knowing until a developer releases the information which rarely happens. Xbox Live for quite a while was the place to be for indie titles but now it looks like the PlayStation Network is really the best place for indie developers, at least on consoles. We are also starting to see more indie developers jumping on board to the PSN with games like: Hotline Miami, Thomas Was Alone and Frozen Synapse. Sony had Jonathan Blow at the PS4 press conference which shows they really want to back indie developers. Maybe the next Xbox conference will have someone equally big in the indie scene but I feel that they might be changing focus away from games and more to being an entertainment hub.