Indies Will Tip the Scale in PS4's Favor

Sony truly does care about indies and is going out of its way to help them find the people, tools, and facilities they need to realize their visions.

In the battle for next-gen supremacy, indie developers are proving to be just as valuable as mainstream AAA juggernauts, and Sony, unlike Microsoft, appears to get it. I say this not because its Gamescom press conference was chock-full of amazing games from teams with meager rosters, but because the company is going above and beyond to give these teams a chance to thrive in the expensive world of game development. During a presentation by a select group of studios, including Ovosonico, Tequila Works, Hoursemarque, and Shadow of the Beast revivalist Heavy Spectrum, the takeaway is abundantly clear: Sony means business.

When you consider what Sony and Microsoft are willing to do to support the proliferation of games that deviate from the realm of "proven" franchises and giant blockbusters, it's a lot like comparing a childhood allowance to a college scholarship. Microsoft may give you a pair of Xbox One consoles to get you started, but Sony could provide you with much-needed capital, high-end production facilities, and even localization services. The company may even enable you to hire additional staff, which is exactly what happened in the case of Dynamighty. In fact, it picked up so many people that when its crew grew too big for its humble office, Sony found them a bigger space to call home.

Some of the games showcased during Sony's press conference are ports from other platforms, such as Rogue Legacy, Spelunky, and Fez, but then there are those games that exist in their current state because of Sony's generous assistance and input; input that devs may choose to adopt or ignore at their discretion. Even if you suspect that Sony is only chasing dollar signs, the consumer benefits in the end by gaining the chance to experience imaginative and surprising games.

***

Rime
Tequila Works' Raul Rubio describes Rime as an emotional tale of a lost boy stranded on an island, which, as unlikely as it sounds, becomes a character along your journey of self-discovery.

Murasaki Baby
Murasaki Baby's intuitive touchscreen controls on the Vita allow you to manipulate her motions in order to solve increasingly complex environmental puzzles in a sinister, unloving world.

Hohokum
This delightful little game from Honeyslug sheds the emphasis of traditional game objectives--failure and pressure--instead allowing you to treat the game's whimsical world as a playground with an emphasis on exploration and discovery.

Shadow of the Beast
The reimagining of the classic Amiga game Shadow of the Beast comes from an unlikely developer: Heavy Spectrum. It approached Sony with its interest in developing a modern take on the game that wowed its developers as kids with its brutal, fantastical, and altogether mysterious world.

***


When the next-generation consoles ship in the fall, we'll see big franchises hitting both systems, with more sequels inevitably coming down the road, and assuredly, Sony and Microsoft will follow their third-party publishers with big-budget first-party titles of their own. However, apart from a few exceptions, the gameplay experiences and worlds won't veer too far off the beaten path. With so much money at stake, risk is inherently scary and perhaps dangerous for some companies, but this is where small studios have a grand opportunity to flex their creative muscle and introduce worlds, characters, and gameplay that we would have never thought to expect. For a lot of players who feel jaded by the constant cycle of repetition, indies provide a much-needed respite. In some ways, it's like recharging a battery, which in this case, is a passion for gaming. Though there are no doubt countless developers working for the likes of EA and Activision--to name two big publishers--who have a passion for what amounts to the fastest-growing medium for creative expression, it's unlikely we'll see them be able to buck successful trends in the name of experimentation anytime soon.

The one rare example in recent memory is Ubisoft's recently announced Child of Light, a whimsical role-playing game from a small team under the helm of Far Cry 3 director Patrick Plourde. Even Plourde noted in his discussion during GDC last week that he's taking an indie-like approach with a small and fluid team. He even noted that the project has become somewhat of a legend around the office as the "little game that could." With so many other little games out there without a properly funded, fed, and housed team to develop them, it's refreshing and pleasing to see Sony break the mold and give them a chance. Microsoft may be making attempts to woo indies to the Xbox One, but they pale in comparison to Sony's efforts. Sony's not saying "Sure, you can publish your game on our system if you have a proven track record and are self-sufficient enough to make it happen" like Microsoft is. No. Sony is effectively saying, "You have amazing ideas that can inspire new forms of imagination and excitement from our audience, bring mutual success, and we're going to do whatever it takes to make it happen."

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Peter Brown

Peter is an Editor at GameSpot who's passionate about gaming hardware and game preservation.
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551 comments
ZeroFallout1
ZeroFallout1

Indie is a way for Sony to come up with new ideas for cheap. A lot of publishers are not willing to move away from the rehashing cause it's safe and easy money for them. I'm not worried, PS AAA titles will be coming and they will keep coming given least gen trend. Give Indies a chance, some are really fun with great replay value. You can't beat the price either for under $10 you can have a game just as good as AAA titles.

armedvigilante
armedvigilante

wtf was up with that counterspy video it looked so glitchy 

HiddenSanctum
HiddenSanctum

Personally, although I have to admit I have not played many indie games, I feel the indie community is about talent and creativity. Whether it will actually tip the scale between the battle of the PS4 and Xbox One remains to be seen. But the indie development is extremely important to gaming. Most AAA games these days are a rehash of the same thing (same gameplay, same old story). There are only really a handful of big budget studios that really have the guts to try something totally new and unique. Sony's support not only gives them a good indie linup, it also bring a lot of a lot of talented developers and ideas that the AAA developers can learn from and even hire to create big budget games.

KelboDelta
KelboDelta

Will people really going to buy a ps4/xbox one based on indie development, or indie games, that could just run on pc or current gen?

I mean, it's great that indie will be there, but I think there is much more hype to it than what it really is. I have seen a few great Indies (I think dead nation in ps3 is an indie, and it's one of my favorite games, even more than some of big titles), but mostly they are not.

I believe for next gen, what should rule is First party developer, and third party support for multiplattform games. Consoles are similar, and most games will run on both, with a few exceptions.

whattheproblem
whattheproblem

Supporting indie devs creates benefits in the long-term: it fosters good business relationships with those very indie studios, who could one day expand into profitable first-party studios.

Tiger_Ali
Tiger_Ali

There is no surprise, its mere jealousy that they aren't getting the same attention on X1

ColdstoneX3
ColdstoneX3

Been doing some thinking on this, and im surprised at some of the resentment coming from people in regard to sony and indie games, Alot of indie games made today, are not as many might think *lesser games* and often they beat other games in quality which had better funding and a big studio behind it. Just because indie games will be backed by sony, doesnt mean they will neglect their big studios and not publish any AAA titles, it just adds to  the variety of what you can actually play, and alot of the indie titles offer tons of fun, for very little cash, in an age where games can cost up to 70$ or more, this is a welcome change.

myjota
myjota

i must pay 400 for ps4 to play indie ?????? where are real games??? why xbox have titanfall ??? where games for ps eye??? console without games just ....

Tiger_Ali
Tiger_Ali

@myjota Fool who ants to use the eye?  That just sum xbot rant in retaliation for that wretched kinnect that's being forced down your throats.  Real games that's just ludicrous every game is a real game.  Thankfully Sony made it so that your main concern isnt Tv...Tv, TV TV TV TV...and oh titanballs.

chaosbrigade
chaosbrigade

@myjota What are defined as "real" games?

 Is Call of Duty more of a "real" game than an indie game like Braid?

Is Madden more of a "real" game than a relatively small budget game like Ico?

You sir, are officially an idiot. 

Rheinmetal
Rheinmetal

One can find indies on the pc games market. Big variety and good prices. So far judging from the PS3 indies and their price tag, one must be crazy to choose those instead of the pc ones.

chaosbrigade
chaosbrigade

@Rheinmetal By funding the development of these games, thus essentially publishing it, Sony can retain all these indie games as PS4 exclusives. They won't show up on the PC. 

XBOunity
XBOunity

Best Indies will be with the Xbox One with the availability of the cloud and dat Kinect 2.0.    The most innovative uses of both these technologies will spur the most creative games and uses of them.

ColdstoneX3
ColdstoneX3

doubt many indies will bother using the cloud, i dont see any particular reason for them to bother, alas kinect might offer some interesting possibilities if used correctly, we shall see

chaosbrigade
chaosbrigade

@XBOunity Indie games almost never go above 1GB in size, why would they ever use the Cloud for? 

Snakepond1
Snakepond1

As an Xbox fan I am impressed with what Sony is doing to help indies. The only thing is I do not care for indie games. Yes, I said it. I'd rather play yearly iterations of the same game with better graphics then an indie title. Sue me.

chaosbrigade
chaosbrigade

@Snakepond1 That's ok. I understand. Some people honestly prefer Michael Bay's Transformers over, say, Coppola's Godfather. So I see where you are comign from. But then again, I think those people are utter retards. 

toyo75
toyo75

Just by basing it on its trailer, Rime is quite reminiscent of the classic game "ICO" with a little touch of "Journey." 

Very interesting. 

Benny_Blakk
Benny_Blakk

I think people underestimate Indie games. They tend to be fun with solid gameplay and sometimes good for a few laughs. This is an excellent area and alternative because they are less expensive and tend to be more kid friendly.  This way, we don't have tons of AAA studios pressed to fill the gap and releasing substandard material and wasting millions of dollars due to a failed project. Quality in terms of a gaming experience is what should matter most and this is a good way to address what happened earlier this gen where so many studios were closing due to blowing their budget on graphics with poor gameplay.

UnifiedGamer
UnifiedGamer

Indie games are fantastic! Glad to see them being fleshed out, I loved Journey, flower, anything from Pop Cap, Braid and super meat boy were also fantastic. Something everyone can enjoy.

mav_destroyer
mav_destroyer

Nintendo and Microsoft are idiots for not realizing how important indie developers are. Platforms like iOS, Android and Steam have jump started a lot of indies and provided them with tools for a low cost.

PantherLR
PantherLR

I'm all for indie games but you do realize that these games will probably run on a toaster these days. Why do we need a powerhouse Ps4 for them or even a Ps3 just to play these kind of games? Sony needs big budget AAA titles in order to make you believe that you need this new hardware upgrade. So far they are on the "look guys we have indie games" train and i'm baffled that most of you are willing to spend $$$ on a PS4 just to play games that would run on toaster tech :)) . So far there isn't a system seller game on the PS4 unfortunately, so until they start releasing the "big games" indie games won't tip any scale in my opinion.

GymFox
GymFox

@PantherLR you clearly aren't very up on the indie scene. All these titles running on "toaster tech"??? I suggest a reevaluation of what is going on amigo. ;)  

Talavaj
Talavaj

@PantherLR System seller of PS4 is the system itself and it's 100$ lower price. They don't need anything to "tip the scale" the scale has fallen over months ago and the only ones still interested in Xbox are those who would buy it regardless of everything anyway.

voljin1987
voljin1987

BTW there was a game called rain.. about an invisible boy stuck in a rainy place.. it was schedueld to be released for the ps3.. any idea/news on that?

voljin1987
voljin1987

wow... anybody else get an Ico vibe from Rime? Sadly not getting the PS4 now atleast.. hoping it comes out on the vita..

Tielo1
Tielo1

It's kind of funny the press is picking up on this now but Sony is doing this already on the PS3 for some time now. Take for instance Thatgamecompany that made Flow, Flower and Journey. Thru Sony's PUB fund they got to make these games and make a name for themselves. Now they go on to new things multi platform and Sony is ok with that. Games like Guacamelee, Papo & Yo, Joe Danger and Tales from Space: About a Blob are all results of that fund.
What is even better is that studios like Naughty Dog, Guerrilla games and Santa Monica Studios can expend and have second teams who can, after working for years on the same francize, go and work on new and creative games like The Last of Us while new fresh ambitious creators can fill their shoes and keep the brand fresh. I think Sony understands developers and consumers very well.

voljin1987
voljin1987

@Tielo1 very true.. but i think a better example than naughty dog would be japan studio.. 

Tielo1
Tielo1

@voljin1987 @Tielo1 Yes there are many examples like Sanzaru Games that made HD version of Sly Cooper and got the change to make a completely (and awesome) new Sly Cooper game. I think Japan Studio can make whatever it want's and isn't a single ip studio and that is great to. But I feel studio's that have that are kind of forced to repeat their success over and over again. Like the Halo developer Bungie who eventually left MS. Imagine MS nurtured their creative urge to do something new, invest in expansion and they would have Destiny as a exclusive. Instead they are now multi platform and pretty much in bed with Sony and PlayStation 4 with exclusive content.

voljin1987
voljin1987

@Tielo1 yeah.. i especially hate what microsoft did to rare.. glad to see bugie managed to go multiplat..