It’s becoming a story as old as time, but Sony is once again under heavy fire for its handling of indie games on the PlayStation Store. Hiding behind the veil of ‘Platform X’, Iain Garner, the co-founder of publishing label Neon Doctrine, said that he’s “mad enough to burn some bridges” – and said bridges will surely be burned as this story blows up in the media throughout the day.
Without ever explicitly referencing PlayStation, Garner rules out both Microsoft and Nintendo – and a lot of his complaints also corroborate various other stories we’ve heard about Sony both publicly and privately. Across a sprawl of irate Tweets, the Simulacra publisher blazes the Japanese giant for its poor promotion of smaller titles, and its reluctance to allow external organisations to manage their own products.
“Platform X gives developers no ability to manage their games,” Garner raged. “In order to get promotion you must jump through hoops, beg, and plead for any level of promotion. And a blog is not as good as they think it is. If Platform X doesn't like your game, no fanfare no feature no love. There is nothing you can do to fix this. Wishlists have no effect, so all your personal marketing means nothing to Platform X. All that matters is their evaluation.”
He goes on to complain about the red tape surrounding product launches, which require small developers to engage in copious busywork, forcing them to generate platform specific trailers and PlayStation Blog copy text. Garner claims that developers aren’t allowed to offer launch discounts “without [Platform X’s] approval” and goes on to suggest that the organisation charges $25,000 in order to secure a featured spot on the PS Store. We’ll ask Sony for comment.
Furthermore, he states that once a game is available on the PS Store, publishers have no control over when it can be discounted and need to be invited to be part of a promotion. This makes it difficult to sync up sales across multiple storefronts. PlayStation does seem to prefer curated weekly sales events, which has both advantages and disadvantages from our perspective – we can see both sides of the coin here.
“Platform X is super successful and awesome hardware but their backend and process is straight out of the early 2000s,” he concluded. “I have no idea how to succeed on this platform and they won’t tell me. Even if I do succeed, they may screw me anyway. Next time you're unhappy about your game never being discounted on Platform X or a game you want not launching on Platform X, please go and complain to Platform X!”
It’s certainly a strongly worded statement which we do think raises some legitimate questions about the platform holder’s policies towards indie developers. Perhaps most concerning of all is that we’ve heard many of these criticisms in dribs-and-drabs before, corroborating many of the complaints. We’ve reached out to Garner to try and get more insight.