Expect Sony’s Big Indie Push to Poach from PC
So it makes sense that many indie developers might see exclusivity deals, even timed ones, with Sony as a great thing for their games, and they’re not wrong. But we’re already seeing the effect: when Sony asks for exclusivity, that’s going to mean that games that normally would have been released on PC will be delayed, or worse, not make it at all.
Take the case of The Chinese Room, developer of Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs and Dear Esther, which announced its next game Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture at Gamescom. It also later announced that the game, originally planned for PC, will be Playstation 4-exclusive instead.
This isn’t a remote case, but the beginning of a trend, in my opinion. Sony has every incentive to bring notable, exciting indie titles to its platform and keep them there. The company has already proven repeatedly that it’s willing to throw a lot of money and attention at indie developers to attract them. As Triple-A continues to be lackluster even in going into the next generation, with lots of games coming out that continue to look like More of the Same, this focus on indies is a long-term strategy, not a short-term fad.
The result: Indies poached from PC to fill the catalogs of the Playstation Network as Sony angles itself to be the new “home” of indie. Self-publishing encouraging creators to bring their games to the bigger platform, with financial incentives that help the process. And, really, no one standing to oppose Sony’s push in the fragmented world of PC games distribution.
At this point, it certainly doesn’t appear as though we’re going to see a counter-move by anyone with clout to wrest any indie titles back to the PC platform. There’s almost no incentive at all for Valve, the biggest thing going on PC, to encourage indies to its platform — developers are literally throwing themselves at the company’s feet in hopes of getting on Steam, because that’s where the money is. Valve doesn’t need to court indies (or anyone else) with financial incentives, and any games that are poached to Playstation will quickly be replaced by the next unknown title in line.
If there are to be challengers to Sony drawing indie titles from the PC platform, one likely suspect is Electronic Arts. The company is clearly proud of its Origin platform and pushing it harder and harder every day, and hasn’t shied from courting games it hasn’t published for sale on the portal. EA has the means and the desire to build up Origin by attracting indie exclusives, and it’s possible for it to offer enticing counter-offers against Sony. Like Valve, however, it might not see the need given the number of unknown indie games out there, slowly filtering into public consciousness — why compete with Sony when you can just grab something else, likely for less money?
Regardless, the nature of the PC platform means it’s open and available for Sony (as well as Microsoft) to cherry-pick big, popular titles and turn them into exclusives. And while that’s great for indie developers, and overall likely a net-positive for video games as a whole, I can’t help but be a little dismayed. Those of us who opt for PC will likely be playing fewer Journeys, Bastions and Fezes in the future. Hopefully there will continue to be other exciting titles that crop up to take their places.