Self publishing. We’ve seen what it has done for store fronts like the iOS app store and Steam. There’s been recent announcements that the PS4 is going to allow self publishing. Microsoft has opted to stay with their old strategy of an indie game needing to be published by Microsoft Studios or a third-party. That is the only way a game can make it onto XBLA. I can see the plus and minuses for both sides, really.
We’ve all gone to the app store on an iOS device only to be lost in what is a sea of millions of games. Some that can be quite amazing and others that just weren’t even worth the time to download. Hell, sometimes a game that came out quite recently can be hard to find a midst the flood of new games that keep coming out. That’s when it becomes a problem, for the gamers and developers. Great games are lost in a sea of doo doo games. And in a time where its crucial for a game to almost go viral when it’s first released, being drowned in a sea of doo doo games when your game launches sucks. Gamers who may love it will never see it and the developer, is just plain out of luck.
This brings me to the point of this post. Xbox One vs Sony on self publishing pro’s and con’s. For the Xbox One, a creator needs to seek out a publisher in order for a game to make it onto XBLA. A publisher is not just going to do this for free are they? Depending on the publisher, they can, and will, can ask for any number of things before publishing the game. These can undoubtedly include a cut of the profits, to having the developer make changes to their game that the publisher could now own. For the gamer this can turn a game from $10 into $20 or even prolong the launch date.
Those are just a couple of examples of the negatives of this approach to self publishing that Microsoft is taking. What can some of the positives be? You know when you purchase a XBLA game that there are certain benchmarks the game had to hit in order to make it to XBLA. It will have a certain number of achievements, you can bet that it won’t be totally broken and that it’s of a certain quality. While these strict requirements may hold back some good games from making it to XBLA, it keeps many others that are terrible from making it onto the service.
Anyone that keeps up with what games are on XBLA knows that it’s one of the best places to find cheap, high quality games. Personally, I have friends that don’t really follow gaming news and aren’t big into triple A games. What they do though, is check out XBLA once a week to pick up a new game. Another friend, who is a casual PS3 gamer, asked what PSN was, when I was telling him about Journey. For years now, games on XBLA did better than their PSN versions. Only just recently have the PSN versions of certain games sold better then their XBLA counter-parts. While many developers undoubtedly hate Microsoft’s stance on self publishing, hasn’t it been good overall for XBLA and gamers everywhere?
Now for Sony, let’s say Sony does this right. Well, what could “right” look like? Obviously you don’t sit back and let your store be flooded with awful games. Let’s say they do what Microsoft has been so bull-headed about. Why couldn’t you still have certain certifications that a game needs to pass in order to make it onto your store, without having a publisher? In my ignorant view (because I write about games, what do I know about development?) it seems this approach would work wonders for everyone. The developer now has the burden of kissing up to a publisher taken off their shoulders. The gamer is going to get a high quality game that developer originally intended. And Sony has a store front full of games that are raking in the cash. Seriously if Sony does self publishing on PSN right, the premiere downloadable gaming service could easily switch to PSN.
Sony is even being flexible (a word Microsoft may not fully understand) with indie studios by allowing them the option of having a dev-kit or not. In an interview with EuroGamer, Shuhei Yoshida said that whether or not a developer needs a PS4 dev-kit depends on how far the developer wanted to go.
“There are many things we can do better to make it much more developer-friendly, instead of publishing on PlayStation Network, so it’s more our focus – how we can make it easier for small developers to work with us to bring the content to PlayStation 4.
So we are doing something like that with PlayStation Mobile and it’s purely software development.
The way we are approaching PS4 now is allowing developers to go really deep onto the metal, so Richard [Leadbetter of Digital Foundry] will know how that availability to the deeper hardware makes the console games way better than some PC or mobile approach. But if we do that, it will definitely require hardware to develop games.”
Sony, while appearing almost deaf sometimes, has apparently had their ears to the ground this whole time. While I have reservations since you can say whatever you want (PS Vita streams games! Yeah, two and like crap.) but putting the ideas into practice, is much different. While the fight between store fronts is not over, Sony wins this one by split decision.