As Sony focuses its first-party efforts on delivering a wide range of PlayStation 5 blockbusters, the company is starting to fail the independent developers that produce the vast majority of games available on the PS Store. Smaller teams are struggling to work out how to put their own titles on sale, navigating a mazy backend, and debating whether they should continue with ports to Sony consoles at all following disappointing sales figures. It's a story we've heard before in fits and starts, with various indie studios suggesting all is not well behind the scenes here and there. However, a new outcry from the development community has brought about another wave of legitimate criticism.
We've spoken to multiple indie developers to try and get to the bottom of what Sony isn't doing that competitors do, how it essentially ignores pleas to include titles in PS Store sales, and what can be done to improve the situation. Under the promise of anonymity for some and others who are happy to be named, members of the indie community describe an ordeal that leaves them at their wits' end.
By sharing their experiences, they hope to make indie games better for everyone. Most developers told us that direct and engaging communication is a problem for every platform and storefront going, and independent teams want it to improve. This is an effort to make that happen rather than dump on a specific company. Sony hasn't responded to our request for comment on the report.
As consumers, what we can all relate to most is PS Store sales. Hundreds of PS5 and PS4 games are discounted every few weeks, but the process to actually make that happen for an indie developer is anything but simple. Sources speak of having the front door shut on them, with requests from developers to have their own game receive a temporary price drop largely ignored. "For one title we had to pester them for months on end, with the game eventually being included in its first indie sale several years after launching." A separate studio then told us: "For our recent title, whenever we tried inquiring about participating in sales, we got a robot-like reply that stated we need to be invited, and the invitations never came. For our other game, it's a wonder if we get one to two sale opportunities per year, if we're lucky."
What's especially important to note here is that indie developers cannot discount their games as they please — they must be invited to do so by Sony. Invitations are handed out more frequently if you produce big games and are successful, and being allocated an Account Manager can help with the process. But what if you're never granted access to one in the first place? One project manager told us that despite asking, they're none the wiser about how to actually obtain one. "I think they deliberately keep their wording about it vague and are using the invite system excuse to not touch upon this. Based on the fact that we generally always got the same reply when we asked about sales, we never really saw the point of probing harder, since it felt like we were talking to a stone wall."
Sony Managers Considered Great But Tough to Contact
Matthew White, managing director and CEO of Whitethorn Digital, does have an Account Manager at Sony, but speaks of extremely poor communication when help is needed. "Our Account Manager and his bosses are excellent, but it feels like they are absolutely buried in work. Email responses are extremely slow, on the order of weeks to months. We have a specific CRM category for Playstation to remind us to bug them to make sure things happen. Even then, it's a stab in the dark. Usually it results in a 3AM frantic Twitter DM to a friend inside the company begging for something to happen." In terms of the teams we've spoken to, it appears you're either not allocated an Account Manager at all or they're so busy with other work that they don't have the time to fix your problem there in the moment.
There was one exception to that, however. "I have a monthly call set up with our Account Manager. These are incredibly beneficial conversations where they can clarify questions we have, but a lot is out of their hands such as getting our titles into more sales, getting our titles featured (past pushing it to the right marketing people), and getting us included in larger marketing initiatives such as events."
PS Store sales are incredibly important to indie developers, with a source considering them "one of the most important aspects" when it comes to simply being an independent studio. "Having a limited ability to discount our titles, and get featured through sales really hurts our revenue."
When sales on PlayStation platforms are compared to other consoles, developers note how much more support they receive on storefronts so their games can be marketed better. "With regard to PlayStation vs. Xbox, the entire difference comes down to the fact that Xbox allows us to control sales, analyze marketing, set promotions, run messaging, and more — PlayStation does not. Xbox invites us to things, puts us in promotions, surfaces our games, PlayStation does not. This isn't a big secret — just time yourself finding a given indie game on any platform — say Shovel Knight. Compare the time and number of button presses required to buy that game on all platforms and see for yourself," explains Matthew White.
Indie Devs Left Waiting Up to a Month After Game Release for Sales Figures
Another developer told us that if it releases a game on all platforms, Sony platforms generally make up just three to five per cent of sales. "I think this is just because Sony as a platform doesn’t sell indie games as well as some of the other platforms. Their emphasis is on AAA games, and large scale/high fidelity indie titles. If you have a small pixel art 2D game, it has a difficult time finding an audience with Sony and their playerbase."
Some developers don't even learn of their launch day sales until almost a month after the fact. Matthew White said: "Without exaggeration, our PlayStation launch strategy is 'launch the game on PlayStation, pay for PR to PlayStation focused outlets and streamers, and hope for the best.' We receive reports from all platforms and partners in one way or another, usually the day of or after sales to let us know how launch went/is going. PlayStation reports at fastest 30 days after a sales transaction, so we are sort of in blind limbo until we receive invoicing."
Moving away from PS Store sales and one other problem many indie developers face is interacting with Sony's backend. It's here where studios can submit game patches, publish titles, and access development-related aspects and tools. Except it's such a maze of a backend that it can be tough to know where to start if you're new, with different portals that spin off into various uses. Documentation is provided by Sony, but it's pretty much a non-starter. "There are simply some actions that you probably can't do unless you find out about it from someone else or asking support about it, since a lot of the publishing process is not properly streamlined."
PS Store Submission Is So Complicated One Dev Wrote Its Own Set of Instructions
Another developer told us how it has actually produced its own internal instructions on how to navigate Sony's backend, circumventing the supposedly useless official documentation. "In time, you begin to understand where everything is, but that’s probably just from repetition — or in our case, internal documentation that we notate for ourselves to act as a reference for other members of our team. The difficult thing that comes up is just having to jump between all the different portals to achieve the common goal of what you might be working on. For example, you are looking to patch your game: you go to one portal to submit the patch, you open up a program on your computer to upload the patched build for Sony to check, you then need to go to a separate portal for the next steps to continue the process, you then jump back to that original portal for additional steps, back to the previous portal to then set your approved patch live."
The backend was changed last year, with the prior system actually allowing you to place some manual discounts on your games in certain regions. This feature was disabled entirely with the backend update, which was being rolled out along with the PS5. The update didn't take away any more features, but studios feel like they're stuck in-between two different pipelines. "Movement has been generally slow and documentation often lags behind updates. Parts of the process change on an almost weekly basis and it oftentimes needs to involve multiple reps, support tickets and parts of the backend (which is still split into two different pipelines) to make movement on specific issues — we’ve been blocked by Sony directly on things like updating ratings, terminology usage, trophy visibility and patch review all within the last few months. However, my team does recognize the active changes and streamlining Sony is heading towards. Though there are instances where we wish it was similar to the pipeline we had grown accustomed to over the past few years."
Meanwhile, these features are housed under a single portal on Xbox while Nintendo stretches to two for publishing patches. It's immediately clear how cumbersome Sony's approach can be as a result. "For Xbox, this is all done in one portal, which is extremely nice and reduces the opportunity for someone going through the process to get lost or miss a step. Nintendo also uses one portal largely, but then a second one for publishing patches — however, this is just a two-step process."
There seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel as Sony transitions to the new backend system previously mentioned, but for now, it's all still very much a hassle. "It feels like a platform that makes sense to them who've worked for years in it and are now familiar with it, but not for a new developer trying to publish their game for their first time, you don't know where you should go first, where should you upload your build, where to submit for QA, where you need to upload your storefront assets or where do you ask for marketing support (and for the most part, these are on separate portals). As an added extra, especially during the pandemic, they still require you to have a static IP address, which can certainly be a hassle to work around depending on your team and how spread out it was."
Developer's Own Promotion Garners Ten Times More Views Than Official Sony Spotlight
In the lead up to the launch of an indie game and the months afterwards, Sony has its own avenues of offering promotion. That includes the PlayStation Blog and YouTube channel trailer uploads, but it's disputed how much the former actually helps. Developers are not provided with any metrics or statistics after being featured on the PlayStation Blog, leaving them in the dark as to whether the coverage was a success. YouTube views are much easier to track since they're made public for everyone to see, and Matthew White believe the channel form is great as it generates a lot of views. However, he notes the results are no better than the promotion done by Whitethorn Digital itself.
For example, the launch trailer for Evan's Remains generated 114,000 views at the time of writing on the official PlayStation YouTube channel. Compare that to the 1.1 million views on the studio's own YouTube channel and it's easy to see why developers would question why they should bother with promotion through Sony in the first place. (It's worth noting, however, that the official upload likely ran as a pre-roll ad, thus boosting its overall views.)
But what if you are looking for direct promotion through PlayStation? One developer explains how they were effectively given the cold shoulder. "I don't think we even got our trailer featured on their YouTube channel, and besides that I remember the only other thing we were offered was a blog feature, where due to tight scheduling they weren't up for working with us, and posting the feature after launch wasn't something they seemed to be interested in. And... that's it."
Indie Devs Question Whether to Bother with PS5, PS4 Ports in the Future
Given this total lack of support, it leads some developers to question whether they should bother with ports to PS5 and PS4 in the future. Sony "were easily the worst performing in terms of sales and by far the most demanding and hardest to work with in terms of getting on to the platform. As an indie developer, you have limited resources. So you have to ask yourself if it's worth the time and energy committing to a port when they aren't going to promote you and sales are going to be significantly lower than all other competing platforms."
Every developer we spoke to wants to see Sony improve because, at the end of the day, they love the platforms offered and the sort of titles PlayStation Studios produce. What needs to get better is the hardware manufacturer's communication and more opportunities for indies to be featured, both on the PS Store and outside of it. "The titles earning the most revenue are already successful, and if we can work to divert a small portion of their revenue to the smaller titles, we can make game development sustainable for many more people."
"Ultimately, all we want is for PlayStation to listen and make their platform a more welcoming place for indies. I think Xbox and Nintendo are proving how well they can do in that space in recent years. We love the PlayStation hardware, we like the exclusive games, we just wish there'd be more of a place for all of us out there that are putting in the work to have our games available on their platform."
Firstly, this is an outstanding report @LiamCroft. An awesome effort, thank you for putting this together.
There's some really eye-opening and concerning stuff in here, but I think the important thing is that everyone wants to work together to exercise change.
Let's hope that Sony can turn the ship around.
Damn, this an impressive piece… still going through it but this is one I am likely going to bookmark and keep referencing for a long time…
I’m not surprised it’s this bad. I have bought so many indie games on switch and Xbox but never on PS4, not because I don’t care for the platform but because it’s not easy to bump into any impress Im actively looking for one by name.
The Sony Playstation leadership team seem like a bowling league team that won the lottery (ps4 gen) and will blow it in a few years.
This is an interesting pivot from last gen, where, at launch, the PS4 was ridiculed as the "IndieStation". I believe a lot of the strength of the PS4 was its embrace of Indie developers, so hopefully these deficiencies are recognized and addressed.
For years you’ve heard of Sony being arrogant and I’ve never agreed. Even with the initial handling of the PS3 they’ve never really bothered me.
Now, they are constantly annoying the hell out of me.
"just time yourself finding a given indie game on any platform — say Shovel Knight."
Took me under 10 seconds. 🤷♂️
Yet another thing on top of the ever-increasing pile of problems with PlayStation's business structure and decisions.
Sony I get the impression want to stream line and be extremely profitable and that includes keeping workforce numbers low, running a service that provides interactive services that millions use on a daily basis with only a skeleton staff doesn't work
Fantastic journalism here and I hope this creates better change for developers and players now and in the future. Keep this up PushSquare
Like I keep saying, Sony are now run by businessmen not gamers
@Bad-MuthaAdebisi Does seem that this is one of the key issues, yes.
What a brilliant report...bravo on a really important and informative piece!
Your move Sony...the Indie offering seemed so strong at the start of the PS4 era...things seem to have fallen away over the course of the last gen and into this one.
quality article push square more of these in-depth articles
This is interesting and probably worth showing to Greg Rice on twitter, i think he takes care of the indies for Sony. Good work!
A really great in-depth report into what’s going wrong behind the scenes. Now that I think about it, I really only buy indies on Switch or PC, or just play them through Game Pass. I don’t often buy them on PS because I absolutely hate the search function and they’re rarely near the top of the sale pages.
Each platform is different and the way sony do things keeps shovelware away or atleast out of view
Literally i waste a lot of my time going through the switch sales as there's just so much shovelware until I find an actual decent game. Nintendo also have the most lenient store in terms of what games it allows on hence why it's indie heaven at the moment.
Xbox on the other hand really only promote indies that are coming to gamepass and they promote them really well hence why those indie developers love them as they get more gamepass owners playing their games than they actually get by selling the game.
Then theres playstation who really only care about the big indie games such as Kena, no man's sky, bugsnax, fall guys, worms rumble, Oddworld, disco elysium etc. Basically the bigger budget indies that are close to being A/AA. And Sony also keep the shovelware away so atleast I know when there's a sale its going to be mostly good games.
Maybe sony should host a dedicated shovelware sale that rotates Fortnightly....
Ignoring a lot of the issues in this post.
Does Sony not employee Analysts ?
It should be so easy to set up automatic reporting which will collect the sales numbers and email it to the relevant people. Strictly for the Digital stuff anyway..
I can’t understand why this would take over a month to report. The size of studio shouldn’t effect time required to fetch the data either. It could be done in one big go for all studios.
This just baffles me
They should get some inspiration on how Nintendo is showcasing indies. It's not just about finding games, but putting them side by side with AAAs.
Personally, when I browse Nintendo eShop, I don't feel like there is a difference in quality between an indie or AAA from major publisher, they're mixed up. On PS Store, however, AAAs and games from major publishers often come first, which gives me a feeling that they are "better" than less wanted titles at the bottom of the list.
PlayStation really needs to improve. I mean, Silkroad - the sequel to Shovel Knight - will not release on PS4/PS5 at launch, for example, which says a lot about the poor management of indies on PS.
Dont have an issue with this, if I want indie crap ( I dont) I'll look on the switch site. Fine with sony being the place to go for aa - aaa titles 👍
Such a shame. Back when PS4 launched it was the place for indies, to the point it got dubbed the IndieStation 4. As someone who plays far more smaller titles than AAA I hate to see it go down like this.
These indie devs sound like entitled whiners. If they want access to Sony’s profitable player base, then they have to adapt to Sony’s policies and standards. Frankly, I almost exclusively go to PlayStation for exclusives—not indie games that I can play on other platforms.
Sony’s strategy of prioritizing high production value exclusives is perfectly sound. A curated high quality library is preferable to a bloated one. Exclusives sell consoles; multi-platform indies don’t.
They need a ‘new games out this week’ tab on the store front. They don’t currently (when viewing the store from a PS4).
To see new games you have to select ‘Games’, then ‘Must see’ and scroll all the way to the right to see ‘New games’, then use the filter to choose ‘last 7 days’. It could be much simpler.
It’s also annoying that when you sort games by price, it sorts them by their original price, not the sale price.
Also, whilst I’m having a moan 😁 the ability to hide/delete bonus features in the ‘My videos’ folder. Currently each bonus feature has its own individual tile in the list which makes it quite cluttered and unsightly.
I don’t expect them to fix this last issue seen as though they’re abandoning Movies in the near future 🤷 but it feels good to get it off my chest 🤣
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@Royalblues have you tried carrion? So much fun!
Isn't Shuhei Yoshida the head of Indies for PlayStation? Has he gotten maybe in over his head for this role?
I remember during the early PS4 days when Shahid Kamal Ahmad and Adam Boyes were in charge, indie devs like Jonathan Blow and Supergiant Games were flocking to PlayStation and had nothing but praise for the way there were being treated.
It’s obviously a convoluted mess, and I’ve heard they are looking to streamline a lot (hence wanting to remove all of the old stores too). The worst thing for me is how devs can’t just put their games on sale. This has killed the VITA for me as a viable system apart from cross system games that are also on PS4 as they are the only ones at a reasonable price.
am i reading right xbox does indies better ?
Anyone who has been actually paying attention to Sony's rhetoric, and the rhetoric subsequently adopted by much of its base, won't be surprised at all by the lack of promotion for independent developers or the low sales. Sony's messaging has 100% been about the importance of big blockbuster titles and exclusives to their brand. Smaller developers (other than the very few highlighted by Sony themselves, I guess) are just along for the ride, and are lucky to be on the platform at all.
Frankly, even if Sony addresses the concerns of these developers (and they really should), I think the toxic attitudes they're helping to engender in much of their current playerbase is going to cause longer-lasting damage to Playstation's viability as a profitable platform for independent developers.
Well, kudos to PushSquare this year for reporting on hard truths and keeping Sony's feet to the fire on this and other issues.
It would also help if the PlayStation Blog started doing The Drop again to highlight the games coming out each week. That is where I learned about a lot of smaller games coming to PS, but then they stopped posting it.
What happened to the days where indie developers getting the spotlight, standing shoulder to shoulder on stage showcasing their titles alongside a new console launch?
What's going on at PlayStation? Every week there's a new controversy surrounding them. They really need a wake up call, PS3 style.
An alternative view...
Martijn van der Meulen on Twitter:
Can't say much but our games ship on all major platforms and PlayStation represents over 50%(!) of our sales.
And "PS Store submission is so complicated one dev wrote its own set of instructions" is the norm on all platforms. Shipping games is hard.
So the questions are: how many indies were asked, were there any different responses, and are we only seeing quotes in the article from the ones who fit the narrative?
I'm not looking to blindly defend Sony. Clearly there is room for improvement, but just as clearly, the issues mentioned here are not common to all.
Which is why I prefer the Switch when it comes to indies. There's a lot of indie games that goes on sale. Hope Sony addresses the issue and not just Jim Ryan speaking nonsense again.
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Good bit of gaming journalism, without the unecessary vitriol and agenda being pushed by the author.
@Royalblues I’m playing Cyber Shadow myself at the moment. I absolutely loved carrion so I think I’m going to purchase the DLC for it.
@snowfreak2574 lol, agreed, the Eshop is still a mess and something that Nintendo needs to work on. Once you find the game that you wanted though, you're all set and just enjoy the games in handheld mode (Though I play mine in dock most of the time)
The majority of games I play are Indies (ignorantly dismissed as 'indie crap' by another commenter). There really is something for everybody with indie games, they have a level of individuality that AAA can't achieve, and for this to be hidden away is so sad.
These are small teams of people creating a real vision often with really innovative mechanics, striking art style or unique story telling. It's not fair that they should have all these barriers in their way. It's always frustrating to invariably wait for longer for an indie release when it's on other platforms a lot sooner.
Thanks for the article, I hope this gains some traction.
@Deljo same. Go buy a Switch if you want indie games.
Great piece. Like others have said it’s a stark contrast to the beginning of the PS4 era were Sony did really seem to care about indies. It’s a big deal to me as I find some indies more enjoyable these days compared to the big triple A garbage the bigger industry leaders pump out.
This is an area Sony need to improve on again, and love or hate Gamepass it’s so good for playing and supporting indies with.
How bout an Indie Game pass?
Liam, serious props for putting together this report. Investigative journalism in gaming is a rarity, but these investigative articles are significantly more engaging to me than any other type of article here or on other sites.
When I think of journalism, this is exactly the kind of thing I think of - someone reaching out and getting the scoop. Great work!
Sony need to improve, how the heck their backend get as bad as this, and the lack of communication is especially can be seen as arrogant, a stark contrast to earlier ps4 sony.
No wonder some indie games that I really want to play already launch on other console but hasn't launch on ps5 yet, like ender lillies.
Also, good report
Part of me thinks "as a customer, I WANT a curated experience. Because honestly most games - including indies - aren't very good."
On the other hand the PS Store doesn't feel curated at all. It seems to feature obviously big titles like Call of Duty and Apex Legends, with other titles being hard to find even if you explicitly search for them. I don't know the perfect store setup but PlayStation doesn't have it.
I remember the first half of the PS4 era when many called it the "indiestation" and whenever a Plus lineup was headlined by an indie, there was loads of hate and discourse (some of it on these comment sections) it's little that Sony now and then gets the impression that their player base just isn't interested in smaller games.
Thank you for all the positive messages and comments everyone! I'm glad you enjoyed reading the report.
Perhaps one of the problems here is that there are too many indie games on the PS store, with many, many more in the pipeline.
You go and look at all the recent releases and there are tons of indies on there, most of which I've never heard of at all.
Maybe the Indie team at Sony are overwhelmed, the idea of taking weeks or months to reply to an email kind of implies that thought.
If this is the case then of course Sony must improve at their end (especially with bad process management happening), but they might be a victim of their own success with everyone trying to get a game out on a large customer base platform.
I can actually see why Sony doesn't allow devs to set and change prices, though perhaps they are currently too rigid about this.
We note that other stores have a problem with this, but in the past even the PS Store was riddled with content that was obviously priced highly so that it could appear to have a deep sale. Stuff like an avatar being priced at $5 and then being featured heavily (by default) with a 90% off sale - which put it at the price of the other avatars. These "sales" would last for years.
When people see that kind of stuff they don't take the store seriously. It looks like a scam or something.
And honestly it makes sense for a store to set their own prices - most physical stores are the exact same way. But this report seems to reveal that simply having better communication and action (instead of being ignored) would probably be a good enough middle ground.
Great piece of journalism. Communication is key.
Just add an Indies section to the store then anyone that wants Indies can just browse them there
That's a shame Sony is forcing these developers to release on PlayStation.
Gets tapped on shoulder
What's that you say? These developers are choosing to put their games on PlayStation? It seems to me they should stop if they don't like the process.
I recall that in the early days of the Vita and PS4 that PlayStation was pushing Indies pretty hard. They had a guy that, by all accounts, was great to work with, seemed passionate about games, and went the extra mile to get good Indies published on PlayStation.
His name is Shahid Ahmad, and I can't help but notice his departure from PlayStation a few years ago lines up almost exactly with the time that PlayStation seemed to be a bit less focused on smaller devs.
I don't know his reasons for leaving but I assume it was to focus more on passion projects. If PlayStation could get him back I think it would actually make a big difference.
@trev666 - To be fair to Xbox it always had a strong library of indies, especially back in the 360 days with their XBLA and XBLIG support. It sort of dropped off at the start of last gen and PS4 had a good run but MS picked up again with their Id(at)Xbox programme.
Been following the discourse the last few days both on twitter & reports here & the likes of kotaku,& IGN....but overall a a great read & goes into the issues currently being experienced.
Regarding indie accessibility to sales,(or lack thereof),I've noticed this issue for quite sometime.
Had a number of games wishlisted (or wrote down),& regularly see them on sale on PC/Switch/XB,&/or get a mention for sales everywhere bar psn. Contacting the devs or publishers on twitter,I found this to be a recurring issue. Just as an example WayForward's River City Girls only had its first psn discount this year, & similarly most of their Shantae series of platformers hadn't had a sale since 2018,.but had numerous sales last year elsewhere....Blazing Chrome a great Contra blaster has had one sale since its 2019 launch, on psn, after a lot of effort Abylight only recently managed to get Cursed Castilla & Super Hydorah,lovely retro games have their first sale since 2018...there's other games I know of which have still to get their first sale!😔
Everyone has their own game preferences &/or say "never heard of them,don't care,meh!". But just ask yourself,how many psn sales eg the flash weekend one,you go look,& you find the same old AAA COD,Assassin Creed,RDR 2,GTA V mtx etc. Or indeed some indies manage to keep getting "reinvited",& show up every other month? Rather easy to dismiss some games if they never get the same exposure others do!
Likewise,dismiss the importance of indies in the ecosystem & you'll end up with a WiiU situation with too few games.
Owned every PS gen prior to ps5....I'm not a fan of gamepass rentals & it's push against buying/ owning games digital/physical. I've enjoyed most Sony 1st party single player games esp. the ones in recent gens...but I've increasingly avoided the hard drive guzzling,mtx live service AAA online games,& far happier to turn to indies either for something different or a bit of retro fun.
Not all indies will be perfect/great games...but I would hate to see the PS platform get skipped altogether or get belated ports as has been increasingly happening due to certain Sony executives obsessions solely with big budget AAA games & ignore the innovative legacy that marked previous PS gens.
Let's hope the likes of Shuhei Yoshida & others like Greg Rice can turn the situation around.
Excellent games journalism, @LiamCroft. Thanks for the in-depth reporting and analysis. Sounds like a nightmare for indie developers, who can't afford to ignore such a massive platform and who also can't afford to devote their scarce resources to such a poorly managed system. I hope the light being shone here will lead to change. I would say I'm equally invested in AAA experiences and indie experiences on my PS5. And I'm MUCH more likely to purchase an indie game on sale than a AAA game on sale.
Makes you wonder if Shu's hands are being tied. As head of indies I cant see this happening on his watch if he had weight.
If true this has an easy fix: aknowledge the situation and make a statement about your support in improving this reality.
Supporting indie studios is not only important for devs and players, but indie studios have a history or being the ones bringing to the front characters from under presented communities (black, Latinos, gay characters...)
> The backend was changed last year, with the prior system actually allowing you to place some manual discounts on your games
So my suspicion that these indie devs have been wrong about not being able to put their games in sale is true. They've been complaining about this for years but here's one saying there was a way to do it.
So I wonder if there is still a way but the PS Store Tools is just so garbage they haven't figured it out yet. The store used to have a section specifically for discounted games not part of a specific promotion, but I don't see it anymore, this is a huge oversight from Sony if they really dropped this functionality.
Excellent article. Mad respect for all the research done, Liam.
@truerbluer I might be wrong,but I think Shahid might’ve even been one of the PS managers to actually interact & respond to EU Blog posts back in the day when one asked about if/when some games were coming out too!
Goodluck getting any Playstation social team to do the same,even on twitter much less the blog! 😕
@Shigurui Oh how I miss the Xbox summer of arcade
Excellent article and a fascinating view into how the business side works. I have sympathy for the back end issues that hopefully will change but lack of time and attention for smaller games is purely a question of resources and interest. How much worse will the PS ecosystem be without varied indie games?
Whilst I feel for indies, as a consumer im not bothered in the slightest. When I look back on game experiences I covet and have thoroughly enjoyed in the last few years, indie games barely feature.
Painful to admit it, but I dont want all them titles clogging up the lists in the store, im just not interested. If i want a few quirky low budget offerings Ill look on steam, but I barely do that either.
What might help would be if the store was given the drastic overhaul it so clearly needs. An indies tab would help exposure and discoverability without clogging up other tabs and making them like google playstore.
Its a sad truth, but I suspect indies need sony more than sony needs indies, but if sony are looking for universal appeal, then surely it wouldnt hurt for them to make a few adjustments. I watch with interest.
And we’re supposed to believe Abandoned is some indie developer who’s getting its own app?
couldnt care less about mobile-phone-apps not getting enough love on consoles. i like AAA console games , or AA .
or games that look like they should be on a console .
@Ralizah Yep and it shows every time Sony does an event in the comment section. Sony has inadvertently fostered it through their own rhetoric in their obsession of promoting AAA blockbusters along with rolling out the red carpet for other AAA publishers promoting games like COD etc and what happens is that a lot of the base don't even consider indies as games at all.
@LiamCroft one of your best pieces yet!
@Kidfried Thanks very much!
@Floki - Yeah the Summer of Arcade promotion was always a highlight. XBLA and XBLIG in general were brilliant back in the day. I still fire up my 360 to play stuff like The Dishwasher 1 & 2, Weapon of Choice, Serious Sam: Double D XXL and One Finger Death Punch. Good times!
It's a Sony of two halves, separated by the 2 brilliant consoles designed by Mark Cerny.
PS4 era and the management used to support all-comers to the PS ecosystem, be it PS4 or Vita.
Now we have Sony in the PS5 era and Jim Ryan really couldn't care less as long as people keep buying their white wardrobe.
I don't care for the new Sony - they don't seem to have any Playstation enthusiasts in the company any more. Probably one of the reasons I can't be bothered to look for a PS5.
@Shigurui Yeah. While they did replace Summer of Arcade with Summer Spotlight. I don't think it has had the same affect the OG Summer of Arcade back in the day.
As long as PS keeps getting stuff like Disco Elysium, Kena and A Plague Tale I am ok.
I have not finished most of the more Indies - "Indies" - on GamePass (the ones that look like out of the 80s)
And seeing how they barely sell at a dirt cheap price. Most people care about them as much as Sony does.
That does seem to be a psychological problem amongst consumers. They respond better to a series of time-limited sales each with slightly greater pricing reductions. Rather than permanent price cuts.
Like a broken record, here I go, fanboys are fine with sony's tactics, gamers aren't. Also, I'll always take the side of the little guys over the corpos. It also doesn't help that you can't get digital games, elsewhere.
Not being able to see your sales for a month is INSANE. Find that in another industry and you are sinking.
I do wonder how difficult it would be to sort out all these backend problems.
That said, I wouldn't be surprised if the decision to not have Indies create their own sales and the labyrinthine methods to submit patches are a cultural artifact of the 2011 hack.
Personally I just don't look at playstation as indie platform. All indie games that I own were given away as ps plus back when Sony were still giving out them on monthly basis.
Honestly, while there are some good ones out there, I genuinely rather play indie games on Steam via PC, than my playstation.
I have always seen Playstation as triple and double A.
Not to take anything away from the amount of work that was obviously put into this, but there was already a huge discussion about this, so I didn't read any of the hard work. Moving on to something new....
Article needs some specific popular indie games that have suffered on playstation to have any real meat..
@LiamCroft it's massively off topic but have you changed your avatar due to the Sammy E3 bet thing?!
Either way an absolutely fantastic article. The best I've read on the site this year. Very good one!
@pip_muzz Yes, I need to use it for a month. 😔 Glad you found my report interesting though!
I'd argue that the only way to get any attention on the eShop as an indie is to put your game on sale constantly. Developers kept abusing this by putting rubbish games up for like $1 or even a few cents that Nintendo had to put a cap on it setting the limit to $2. Even still, the sheer amount of games that are thrown up on sale makes it a real headache to look through and if you don't have a game wishlisted you can expect to forget about it as it becomes buried under all the deals. I don't have enough experience with Microsoft so I won't bother to comment about their storefront but this doesn't seem like an easy issue to solve. Sony seems to be trying to run an exclusive little club here but Nintendo's approach doesn't seem that much better...
I'd prefer to not have the PS Store flooded with cheap indie games. The process they describe appears to be quite complicated but to put the blame on that for the game not succeeding is stretching it tbh. Want success? Then make interesting games and don't think you are entitled to succeed just because you are a "lil' brave" indy.
Good article. It gives weight to the issues that indie devs face. It’s nice to hear their voices.
@Balosi Cyberpunk 2077 is the title you’re looking for. Self published by a Polish studio that rarely puts out games. It was pulled from the PlayStation store after less for the month. It was gone for on the PlayStation store for over 6 months. They patched it multiple times with no clear idea from Sony what they needed to do to get it back.
It was available on the Xbox throughout.
Sony should focus on AAA games over indie game, PS5 is setting sales records and its not because of mobile games.
Many of the problems outlined in the article are not exclusive to indie developers. Promotion through Sony's YouTube channel, developer portals, documentation — that's for everyone.
The rest of grievances doesn't strike me as platform specific; but rather indie specific. You don't get a lot of face to face with managers if you are small. Yow will be featured way less on the most lucrative storefront pages. You will miss out on many of grand sales, which are promotions too.
Honestly, I don't get why it is framed as Sony's problem with Indies. Seems more like Sony's problem with devs in general.
Sony could learn a lot from Humble Bundle (what they did in the early days, rather than more recently). There used to be a bundle of indie games every month with a theme. There would be two tiers to the bundle, with the cheaper tier featuring smaller or older games that might have passed you by, and the more expensive tier featuring larger, newer games.
A lot of the time you'd end up with a second copy of a game of two you already owned, like with PS+, but you'd also get a few games you'd never intended to try while picking up one or two games you were interested in at an attractive price. Often one of the games I never would have given a chance would turn out to do something really interesting and enjoyable, and because it was getting exposure, it might get a sequel, of another dev might take that kernel of an idea and expand it into a bigger game. Those were some exciting times back on PC in the early '10s.
Don't a lot of indies continue to sell exponentially better on Switch? Devs seem to prioritize Switch as a platform in a lot of cases. People think it's a great platform for indies like the Vita used to be. Maybe it's as simple as the portability of the Switch. I'm not sure, but it seems like something more to me than the sales tactic you are suggesting.
This article has great constructive criticism. Indie game quality is the best it's ever been. Sony needs to uplift these developers, it will only make their platform stronger.
Looking at this comment section…boy there’s a lot of elitism over AAA games. Maybe these devs should save themselves the trouble and just focus on PC, Switch and Xbox.
It would be interesting if there would be a right to reply from Sony. Give them an opportunity to provide a response / defend themselves / state how they intend to improve
Sony are becoming quite arrogant in recent years, relying on the sales of the console. Microsoft are picking up the pieces
And yet we get seemingly bi-monthly sales on that same Games like AC:Valhalla and Immortals: Fenyx Rising.
This has been going on for a while and devs have (very quietly) been complaining about it all. Glad to see it is getting some noise!
I think these developers should be able to put there games on sale whenever they want, just like switch. The last time i looked on the sale bit on switch there was over 800 games on sale. Its a game in itself getting to the bottom.
Crimson clover is about 300 games in, which by any measure is a top tier indie game.
Really great article. Thank you.
A biased article imo. I found Sony's strategy useful to ban low-quality games to seat in psn. I remember that around 2 weeks ago there was a massive psn sales on games that almost nobody ever heard of for the price of max 2$ each. I regret spending my time to check them as many of them were garbage. I was thinking why Sony lets these things to enter the psn? You can go to steam and get lost in the huge library of high and low-quality titles.
The only games that l really miss in psn are the 2 Ori titles. Apart from that, nothing desirable is missing on psn, imo.
Not sure what to do about visibility, but I hope Sony does better with this. The next Minecraft is brewing somewhere in these independent studios.
I wouldn't know since I don't follow sales figures per platform. Though whenever you check "best selling" lists on the switch e shop, a majority of the indie games on that list are the $2 games that I always see going on discount or the bigger indie releases. Though again, I don't know much more about sales numbers besides lists like that. I don't disagree that PlayStation treats indies poorly...but I'd argue that other platforms are almost as bad.
you said" fanboys are fine with sony's tactics, gamers aren't. Also, I'll always take the side of the little guys over the corpos"
maybe the problem is that you dont see the side of the evil corpos. Just because they are big, doesnt mean they can waste resources. i like that sony is not handing out price strategy directly to the suppliers. i hate how on Nintendo's eshop is always full of games i dont care about. i dont care if a game is off99%. in general i harldy care about the price of a game, my most precious resource is time. i rather spend time on a great experience than an average experience that cost me less. but i guess people are different.
Sony still promotes Indie games that are critically acclaimed. for me this acts as a filter of quality. knowing that i probably won't find those indie gems, it is a trade-ff i am willing to sacrifice.
Sony: I started this indie *****. Is this the ***** thanks I get?
Also...it's funny how this is posted on the eve of a mostly indie showcase tomorrow. It might be the same indie teams that Sony donated $10 million to for covid relief last year....or it could be the Japanese indie Devs that Sony have donated to recently? Who knows.... anyway, Sony hates Indies.
@OmegaStriver I was turned on from buying any of Sony's consoles for the longest time because of their arrogant attitude, Kaz Hirai's "oh if you can't afford a PS3 get a second job" malarkey was the final straw for me in choosing a 360 over a PS3, I didn't get a PS3 until after the PS4 was out, that was how badly Sony turned me off.
@2here2there biased LOL, get lost Sony Pony.
@sanderson72 Not to mention the PS5 design is ugly as *****, seriously it looks like if Apple and Alienware had a mutated offspring.
@viktorcode Because they've never had these problems with Microsoft.
@arsmolinarc LOL no its not, Sony is being way too draconian, and that line of reasoning makes zero when you consider that Sony has allowed absolute dreck like Life of Black Tiger and all of those crappy Gilson B Pontes games onto it's storefront(which it's happily promoted on it's official channel).
@figboot you sound like an entitled Sony fanboy
@vexer6 Grow up kid, instead of laughing and labelling others as pony
This was an amazing article last year @LiamCroft, I'm pretty sure that, at some degree, it influenced Sony to do some changes. I think there was more dedication show to indies lately, at least marketing wise with Indie Spotlights and other initiatives. I think also the new PS+ sub will also help discoverability
I think it would be interesting to do a sorf of second part to see if anything changed at all 'behind the scenes', Do devs have more control/info now? Process got easier? some barries got taken down?
Personally, I think a interesting is discusion is the usage of regional pricing at least for indies. Coming from Argentina I always wondered why, for example. Cuphead costs 20USD in Argentinean PS Store whereas Steam's, Xbox Arg, Nintendo Arg are MUCH lower, in the 2-5 USD range (depending how you convert our troublesome currency).
Hades is another example. 25 USD in ARG PSN, 2 USD in Steam Arg, 3 USD Xbox ARG, 12 USD in Nintendo ARG.
I am pretty sure these games would sold much more in LATAM PSN if their price 'follows' their counterparts in other stores.
Is this a limitation by Sony Backend? are prices 'mandatory' to be the same in each region or at least by Sony Entitiy? (Americas, Europe, Asia). Cant indies put different prices between USA and Latam?
I think it would be an interest read if you guys can get the word from devs.
In any case, again congratulations for this piece.
Had to comment here as I couldn't find any way to contact you through social media Liam,!
Saludos Push Square Team!
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