Oddworld Soulstorm PS5 PlayStation 5 1

As platform holders intensify the importance of subscription services, Oddworld Inhabitants bigwig Lorne Lanning has described his company’s PS Plus deal as “devastating”. The industry veteran – whose company launched Oddworld: Soulstorm into Sony’s sub on the PS5 – was speaking candidly as part of an Xbox podcast, and while he clarified that PlayStation was not to blame, he’s clearly dissatisfied with the way things unfolded for his team’s game.

In the meandering interview, he explains that the developer was in need of financial support in order to get its Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus remake wrapped up, and so it signed a deal with Sony to release the game into PS Plus day one. He doesn’t disclose the financial details of the arrangement, but reading between the lines it sounds like the team was paid a flat fee, which ultimately gave it a monetary safety blanket in order to conclude production.

However, when it penned the deal it was banking on the PS5 still being relatively new when it achieved its intended January 2021 release window; as it turns out a global pandemic dramatically impacted global workflows, and the game was pushed back to April 2021. This gave Sony an additional three months to sell PS5 consoles, which meant that in the end there were more consoles – and, thus, PS Plus subscribers – on the market than Oddworld Inhabitants had anticipated. It’s worth noting that subscribers who didn’t own a PS5 could still add the game to their library through the web store if they wanted to.

The outcome is that a whopping four million people downloaded the game as part of Sony’s subscription, but full-price sales were significantly less than predicted. As such, the developer was devastated, because while it still got a satisfactory lump payment from PlayStation, it feels like the PS Plus period directly impacted on the release’s sales. Of course, it’s worth remembering that the Japanese giant marketed the hell out of this title as well – perhaps more so than some first-party releases.

The original interview is a little all over the place, and we think Lanning struggles a little to communicate his point. Four million downloads sounds like a positive thing, but it’s worth remembering that Oddworld: Soulstorm’s critical reception was weak, and there probably wasn’t much positive word of mouth following the giveaway. Furthermore, it’d be naïve to assume four million people would have paid full-price for the game, even if they did download it with PS Plus.

But it’s interesting to hear someone speak somewhat negatively about subscription services. While Sony has been quieter on this front, Microsoft’s PR has only ever painted Game Pass as a positive for developers, promising that it pretty much guarantees increased sales and engagement. This optimistic outlook is predictable given the importance of the business model to Xbox, and obviously it’d be unfair to compare PS Plus directly with what the Team in Green is doing – but here’s a developer who’s perhaps a little more sceptical of subscriptions, with first-hand experience of it all.

[source youtube.com]