Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

The PS4 Promises to be Indie-Friendly. Also, They Clobber the Xbox One.

Posted by Rampant Coyote on June 11, 2013

The Xbone pre-E3 presentation yesterday was, based on most media reports, something of a dud. Maybe it just got reported that way because that’s what many people were expecting, but… based upon what I saw / read, the response was likewarm at best. Many of the Xbone’s “features” were, IMO, not consumer-friendly. They have restrictive built-in DRM capabilities where they touted convoluted exceptions – and admitting no plan yet in place for handling things like game rentals. For indies, they had some token celebrity developers, but simply putting the mega-hit Minecraft on the machine doesn’t make it “indie” any more than putting Doom on the Nintendo 64 made it “indie.” And social media connectivity? I personally have too many ways to connect to Facebook that I just don’t want to use as it is. Most of what I heard was stuff that might appeal to big-name developers looking to enforce policy or push player behavior in a particular direction, but not very much that is of value to a consumer.

(Incidentally, when I hear “cloud-based” these days, I think, “DRM.” While it can mean a little bit more than that – a DRM with benefits – I think it’s another one of those things that’s almost exclusively in the interest of content providers, not their customers).

What made the presentation all the worse was Sony’s presentation. Delving through reports, I didn’t see anything that REALLY excited me about the upcoming PS4, except the significantly better attitude towards indies, with a confirmation that indies will be able to “self-publish” on the platform. What that means remains to be seen, but that’s a far cry from what Microsoft was offering – which seemed at odds against it’s previous approach with the Xbox 360.

Really, it sounds to me that all Sony did was not screw up. In response to convoluted schemes for used game handling for the Xbone, Sony offered this helpful instruction video:

What it came down to was summarized by John Teti in an excellent article called, “Who Do You Think You Are Talking To?” – Microsoft seemed to be addressing “a demographic caricature who was born in a marketeer’s binder,” whereas Sony (guilty of the same thing many times in the past), “changed the playbook. Its executives went ahead and talked about used games, assuring players that buying, trading, and lending software on the PS4 would be as simple as ever. They showcased a wide variety of games, refusing to pigeonhole their concept of the modern-day player (or the modern-day developer, for that matter). They promised not to make your console “phone home” to a nanny server. And they priced their new machine $100 lower than Microsoft’s.

But in the end, I’m not hearing much that’s “revolutionary.” Which is probably just as well. All Sony did, from what I can tell, was not make any bad mistakes. Which I guess was all it took.

Until I know more (much more), I’m not planning on making games for the PS4. Although having started my career doing Playstation games, it’d be kinda fun to go back there… 🙂 Maybe Microsoft will be vindicated in the end. Either way, both console makers have a few months to tweak their message and change direction in a few ways, and it’s still too early to count Nintendo out. Ultimately, it’ll be an interesting year for gamers.

Like most indies, I’ll be keeping my head down, stay out of the way while the titans are duking it out, and then try and do the best I can to thrive no matter which way things go, before and after the dust clears.

Filed Under: Biz, Mainstream Games - Comments: 6 Comments to Read

  • Xian said,

    I thought the press conference went well. They pretty much outgunned the Xbone in every respect – hardware, developer friendly, and price. I really liked the look of Dark Sorcerer and Elder Scrolls Online, but would probably play the latter on the PC, if at all. Watchdogs looked like it would be fun.

    The one thing I was disappointed was what was unsaid – they said that single player games would be free, implying that multiplayer would require a PS+ membership. That has always been a problem with the Xbox. There are 4 gamers in my family, and each one requires a separate Live account to play online – that adds up fast.

  • Robert Basler said,

    I was surprised that Sony showed up at the Indie Games Summit here in Vancouver a couple months ago, and the Sony guy came across as seriously interested in smaller developers.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    It’s kind of a weird relationship between indies and the big publishers / studios now. I guess it varies from studio to publisher. Two generations ago, we were ignored. Then you had the last gen, where – if we were acknowledged at all – it was often to mock us or to crush us (EA claiming that they’d put us out of business because the cost of producing games was now so high…) To… well, now, where they kinda like us, and want a piece of the action. That’s WEIRD, man. But I guess it suggests that we’re getting the beginnings of a healthy ecosystem.

  • Cuthalion said,

    Re: the video. I notice it still requires a subscription and account for online multiplayer, but that seems more fair to me, if it’s not per-game. But I still lol’d. 😛

  • Anon said,

    What you say is not really true: Sony not only did no mistakes at the E3 – they punctuated Microsofts shining armor with features that people wanted to hear and then nearly decapitated Microsoft with the launch price axe. While the lower price wasn’t to be expected (and nobody predicted it!) it isn’t too surprising, either!
    You see, the exact same thing happened in console history before!
    When Sony launched the PS1 in the US in 1995 (yes, it’s that long ago! ;-)) they announced a price of $100 less than their closest competitor – Sega Saturn – that got introduced a week earlier.
    This was an incredible blow for Sega and when they has to drop the price in the following months, they made lots of first adopters unhappy. It really was the beginning of the end for Sega as a string of management and marketing mistakes happened after that (one is always smarter after the fact, of course).

    Back to Microsoft:
    They had an immense success with the X360 but they’ve become cocky and arrogant (see their remark about backward compatibility) which made them vulnerable.
    Don’t expect Sony to not exploit this! – they have experience in dooming competing consoles. They not only buried the Saturn but killed the Dreamcast with overblown specs on the PS2: “75 million polygons” – a number that was both exaggerated for realistic situations and totally unimportant for the gamer (the Dreamcast was a great console and could fight the more modern but much more complex to program PS2). When EA announced that they will support the PS2 but not Dreamcast the latter was finished as a mainstream console.

    So it’s now important how Microsoft will react in the following months. They were once aggressive to please gamers with their Xbox1 and got more professional with the X360 but now they are aggressive against gamers. Sony on the other hand is more desperate to survive and will throw in features to turn the PS4 into a success.

    Take PSN+ for example: It’s a good package for the free games alone but Sony wouldn’t have done that if the PS3 was more successful from the beginning! In my opinion the moment they relaunched PSN+ they found their way back into form. Microsoft is now clearly trailing Sony and I say that as somebody who has consoles from both manufacturers at home.

    However, Sony wants to make money in the mainstream business and they will only cater for indies as long as they make money from it (perhaps simply by luring more people onto the platform). They had big successes with some indie games in the past like Flower, Journey etc. but make no mistake: Sony does *not* make indie consoles. They never will – it’s just a nice, cozy corner in the “department store” they opened up for platform customers.

  • poopypoo said,

    all that AND $100 cheaper!? it truly is armageddon. i call the hot tub