With the new console generation, indie games are likely to be even more responsible for determining console sales than they were for the current consoles. This is because as indie games become more and more popular, it is only a natural move that consoles have increased access to these games, as well. In this generation, indie titles have become a major game market on the PC, which has given birth to such titles as Hotline Miami and FTL. The titles were not only extremely popular on the PC platform, but were also inventive and greatly creative. These games showed what happens when the smaller teams get the chance to show their ideas to the world. It is such projects that have prompted Sony and Microsoft to have better indie support on their consoles for the next gen. This will effectively allow the Indie game market to extend forward and show what it has to offer to a broader audience.
However, make no mistake, indie games are already on current gen consoles, too. The Xbox 360 has shown good support for indies in general. In fact, some of the best indie games debuted on the 360. Examples of these games include the fantastic Limbo and the recently released State of Decay. Sony also has good indie support on the PS3, though the support for indies is not as good on the PS3 as the 360. Nonetheless, the PS3 as still brought about titles such as ThatGameCompany’s Flower and Journey. These two games were so good in fact that Journey won multiple awards, and game of the year for 2012 from several outlets. That being said, with the next generation for Sony and Microsoft approaching, which console has the best Indie support and what does the future hold for indie developers?
On Microsoft’s Xbox One, indie developers will be able to publish games for a fee. Indie developers working on the Xbox One must also find a publisher for their games to make it on the market, but there has been talk of other business models that could surface in the future, including self-publishing. As of now, this does not seem too different from indie support on the 360. I say this because indie developers must jump through hoops to publish their games, meaning they must either have an XNA license or go through Microsoft to become an Arcade game. What this means for indie titles on the Xbox One is that while it may be more possible to get better sales, it is more difficult to publish in comparison to the PC and the Sony consoles. If the developers are willing to deal with Microsoft and their stipulations, they could see better sales numbers then you might on the PS3/PS4, but the question is, “How much they would actually be making?”. This is because Microsoft gets a cut of the profit, with developers currently receiving as little as 35%, if the game is made into an Arcade title. Effectively, this prevents the developers from earning as much as they could independently, even though Xbox Live is a bigger platform in some areas then PSN. To be more specific, XBL has more sales in North America, while in Europe PSN tends to have more sales. It is for this financial reason that many indie developers have ceased their contract with Microsoft regarding publishing their games. Tricktale, the developer of a fun XBLIG indie game Diehard Dungeon, recently commented on the results of this business arrangement:
“Unfortunately, the XBLIG version of Diehard Dungeon will no longer be updated. Due, in most part, to the way that I have been treated by Microsoft regarding payments, I have made the tough decision to not renew my XBLIG developer subscription. The game is simply not making anywhere near enough money there for it to be worthwhile, and threatening Microsoft with legal action is not something I ever thought I would be doing. To those of you waiting patiently for v1.3 to appear on XBLIG, I apologize. I’ve made a lot of friends, from fellow developers and dedicated fans of my games during the last few years of developing games for the Xbox 360. I would like to thank each and every one you for your support.”
The future of indie publishing is very different on the PS4, however. This is largely due to the fact that there is already a self-publishing system in place on the PS4 for the indie developers. On Sony’s next-gen console, Indie developers can self-publish their content at no expense. This effectively allows them to add their content to the Playstation store and gain a larger player-base without any extra fees included. The idea of self-publishing at no cost is a huge plus for indie developers, and Sony reportedly offers higher royalty rates than Microsoft or Nintendo. At the same time though, it is hard to determine which will make the developers more money in the long run. Sure, Microsoft imposes many fees, but Xbox Live is a better platform because it has a bigger user base and it is more user friendly. On the other hand, there is no fee to publish on the PS4, but the PSN will need some changes because it is not always easy for indie developers’ games to be found and thus for them to make money.
Of course there is also a third option, the WiiU eShop, which has good indie support and allows for self-publishing. Unfortunately, the problem with this is that since the WiiU has been given a bit of the cold shoulder, it could be difficult to get sales on the console. On the surface, it may seem like Sony and Nintendo are going to be the better way to go for many indie developers, and in many ways it might be. However, only time will tell which platform is better for the success of indie games.
Looking at the whole picture, will indies even be a selling point for the next gen consoles? I would think they should because the indie game market is becoming larger and provides developers with the opportunity to express their creativity without restraints; however, whether they truly are a factor can only be determined by the community. With that being said, as a huge indie supporter myself, I hope to see the market for these games grow larger across all fronts in the future to come. Now that the information has been laid out, which platform do you believe is better for indie support? Do you have any problems or concerns with this feature? If so sound off in the comments below!