Will Xbox One Or PS4 Offer Superior Indie Discoverability?

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Things are looking up for the indie development crowd. We’ve known for some time that Sony is pushing hard for indie content on PlayStation 4. Microsoft followed suit shortly after with the announcement of the ID@Xbox program. The result is indie studios having a much larger opportunity to sell games outside of the PC platform. The platforms being open is one thing, but what happens if gamers never even see your product?

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The issue of discoverability isn’t anything new for indies. Sure, there’s mainstream success from studios like Telltale Games (The Walking Dead), thatgamecompany (Journey), Dennaton Games (Hotline Miami), and countless other small studios; but how many other great devs have yet to break obscurity? I’d argue that providing discoverability is paramount even over the submission TCR (technical certification requirements) process. Sure, it’s great to offer a streamlined application, certification, and self-publishing process, but all that doesn’t mean shit if consumers can’t find your product.

Historically the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 have gone about things differently when it comes to promoting indie titles. Arguably the PS3 and PS Vita platforms have dedicated a larger slice of their real estate to helping gamers find indie titles. On the other hand, Xbox 360 pulls its fair share of the load and has even doled out premium live tile space to successes like Undead Labs’ State of Decay. But one could easily argue that Microsoft Studios published the title, so it was more symbiotic than some perceived.

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On the topic of traditional Xbox Live promotion, post live tile update, which is much more relevant to the way things will be portrayed on Xbox One, there’s one main indie showcase per year; Summer of Arcade. Over the years some of the best XBLA titles have been selected as part of the SOA, which typically launches anywhere from August-July. The sale has been running annually for six years now. Indies have enjoyed success outside of the yearly lineup, but not to the extent of those that have been featured (Besides State of Decay).

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On the other side of the coin we have the PlayStation Store. I’ve personally bought into several indie sales this year alone. I can account for three major 2013 sales that featured indie titles. The PlayStation PLAY list included games like Cloudberry Kingdom and Stealth Inc. while the PS Vita Summer Select Sale offered titles like DiveKick and Spelunky, and the PAX 2013 Sale heavily slashed prices on Tokyo Jungle, Limbo, Dyad, and others. Also, the format of the PlayStation Store has been taken over several times by the likes of Guacamelee! and Journey.

We can’t forget that PlayStation made indies a large part of their PS4 launch, offering Resogun and Contrast as free titles through the PS+ Instant Game Collection. This act almost guaranteed indie adoption right form the beginning on the PlayStation 4 platform, and it reinforced the belief PlayStation’s Adam Boyes has in his stable of indie talent he’s worked very hard to secure.

With both Sony and Microsoft courting indies like they were Medieval princesses, it’ll be interesting to see which one actually supports them post-launch. If we look at the historical evidence, it seems like PS4 may be more accompanying. Although I very much doubt Microsoft would be putting so much effort into the ID@Xbox program if they weren’t planning on diverting a good amount of eyes onto self-published titles. What do you think? First off, are indies relevant to you?

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Dylan Zellmer

Dylan splits time between games journalism, designing video games, and playing them. Outside of his deep involvement in the games industry, he enjoys It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Shameless, A Song of Ice and Fire, fitness, and family.
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