December 30th, 2011 | By Chris Priestman
Indie game developers are reporting that they are not happy with Microsoft’s inaction towards them while Sony is making a very positive outward effort to help indie developers, especially those working with their new PS Vita.
Recently, Microsoft have discouraged indie developers from creating games for their Xbox console with a very distancing Dashboard update. The update made finding the indie games marketplace on the console even more difficult, and it is argued that it even hides it under an obscure sub-menu title – ‘Game Type’, which has since become victim to a satirical backlash. Indie developers have made quite a ruckus about the whole ordeal and the only thing that we hear from Microsoft is silence followed by a “Best of 2011″ feature which listed the 10 biggest indie game hits of the year on the Xbox, amongst other lists.
When we asked some of the most well-known XBLIG developers what they thought about the move by Microsoft, it was clear that they were grateful for the exposure but they all agreed that the selection was a bit shameful as it seemed to list the highest grossing indie games, rather than meriting talent or originality. Consequently, the list contained four Minecraft clones amongst other rip-offs – not to imply that these are bad games, but the developers make a good point about the lack of variation it presents for their platform. Microsoft even made a mistake with the list as it included an Arcade title from 2009, which was promptly switched once they realised the mistake was made. This was just another clear sign to add to the pile that proved Microsoft either do not really care about indie developers who use their platform, or just plain do not worry about trying to improve it for them despite constant complaints and pleads.
It’s a completely different story when looking how Sony treat indie developers, particularly with the release of their new platform – the PS Vita. Just yesterday, Icon Games posted a very positive blog that outlines the forward progress of their latest game development for the new PlayStation Vita.
Icon Games have been working on an upcoming PSVita game for the last few months, in between finishing off some other PSP Mini games in order to sustain an income. They say the progress is going very well and they remain determined and cheery despite some large bills and such an amount of work spread between a small team. In the post, Icon look upon the Vita as a more lucrative platform to develop games on than their past ventures.
“One thing I have found ever more apparent over the last couple of years is that WiiWare or Minis don’t really provide enough revenue alone to support a full-time team, even a small one like ours… Vita is different in many ways as I believe we have a more realistic prospect of earning a decent level of income from our titles than in the past.”
Not only do they see Sony’s new handheld device as a better chance to make money, they also seem very impressed with how Sony have continually supported them, even to the point of saying “no other platform holder comes close” to how Sony have treated them.
“I’ve also got to say how good SCEE have been to work with; they are very supportive and deal with any concerns in a very positive way. No other platform holder comes close to this and it makes it a completely different (in a very good way) experience. They listen, help where they can and treat you with professional respect – certainly from our dealings with platform holders in the past this has been unique and very welcome.”
While we have Microsoft seemingly pushing indie developers away with their distancing Xbox Dashboard update, and more recent list of the best indies on their console that upset a lot of developers; it’s good to see that Sony are handling indie development in the opposite way. You could argue that the “Best of 2011″ list that Microsoft posted is no different to Sony’s very own “Top Selling Indie Games of 2011″, but there has clearly been a lot more effort put into Sony’s and at least they state these are not the “best” indie games on their platform as Microsoft do, but are in fact the “top selling”.
Many arguments could be made in favor of both the opposing companies and their support in the past for indie developers. What matters right now though is that Sony are taking a more positive approach to indie game development than what Microsoft seem to be. While we get no word from Microsoft either good or bad regarding indie games, Sonyhuhei Yoshida, the boss of Sony Computer Entertainment is ensuring his company keeps running with the same vision he shared earlier this year:
“As an industry, we have to support those smaller teams, and let them try out their ideas. Without doing so, the whole industry will stall, in terms of innovation.”
Of course both of them have their ulterior motives, but from the outside looking in it looks like Microsoft are not painting a positive image for themselves in front of indie developers.