As Sony focuses its first-party efforts on delivering a wide range of PlayStation 5 blockbusters, the company is starting to fail the independent developers that produce the vast majority of games available on the PS Store. Smaller teams are struggling to work out how to put their own titles on sale, navigating a mazy backend, and debating whether they should continue with ports to Sony consoles at all following disappointing sales figures. It’s a story we’ve heard before in fits and starts, with various indie studios suggesting all is not well behind the scenes here and there. However, a new outcry from the development community has brought about another wave of legitimate criticism.
We’ve spoken to multiple indie developers to try and get to the bottom of what Sony isn’t doing that competitors do, how it essentially ignores pleas to include titles in PS Store sales, and what can be done to improve the situation. Under the promise of anonymity for some and others who are happy to be named, members of the indie community describe an ordeal that leaves them at their wits’ end.
By sharing their experiences, they hope to make indie games better for everyone. Most developers told us that direct and engaging communication is a problem for every platform and storefront going, and independent teams want it to improve. This is an effort to make that happen rather than dump on a specific company. Sony hasn’t responded to our request for comment on the report.
As consumers, what we can all relate to most is PS Store sales. Hundreds of PS5 and PS4 games are discounted every few weeks, but the process to actually make that happen for an indie developer is anything but simple. Sources speak of having the front door shut on them, with requests from developers to have their own game receive a temporary price drop largely ignored. “For one title we had to pester them for months on end, with the game eventually being included in its first indie sale several years after launching.” A separate studio then told us: “For our recent title, whenever we tried inquiring about participating in sales, we got a robot-like reply that stated we need to be invited, and the invitations never came. For our other game, it’s a wonder if we get one to two sale opportunities per year, if we’re lucky.”
What’s especially important to note here is that indie developers cannot discount their games as they please — they must be invited to do so by Sony. Invitations are handed out more frequently if you produce big games and are successful, and being allocated an Account Manager can help with the process. But what if you’re never granted access to one in the first place? One project manager told us that despite asking, they’re none the wiser about how to actually obtain one. “I think they deliberately keep their wording about it vague and are using the invite system excuse to not touch upon this. Based on the fact that we generally always got the same reply when we asked about sales, we never really saw the point of probing harder, since it felt like we were talking to a stone wall.”
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