This Week In Indie: Self-publishing On PS4 Is Vague
Recently, at a Develop Conference session, Sony Senior Account Manager of Developer Relations in Europe, Agostino Simonetta, outlined the PS4’s self-publishing policy. Simonetta outlined the PS4’s policy with “four pillars” for the service. The first pillar follows that:
Every single developer is a publisher, as far as we’re concerned. We don’t separate, we don’t segregate indies from traditional publishers.
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In other words, there is no true separation of developer from publisher, and a developer takes on all the attributes of a publisher within Sony’s self-publishing policy as it stands. Which means that essentially developers can control release dates of their games, and work with Sony directly to facilitate the promotion of their respective games.
The second pillar is “Equality of Opportunity”, in which conducting business with Sony is a level playing field among developers wanting to self-publish, and business support from Sony is available to all partners. In turn, business support is not tied into the number of games a developer has published, or profits earned from previous projects.
In the third pillar, Simonetta offers a “Personal Relationship” when self-publishing on the PS4. Meaning that when a self-publishing developer chooses the PS4 as their platform of choice, they are entitled to an open door policy with Sony, and don’t have to deal with impersonal and “faceless” measures when seeking help from Sony. As such, developers have direct access to the individuals within Sony’s corporate structure that are involved in game promotions and marketing decisions. Simonetta promises that all of this will be available to prospective developers without extra cost, with no limit to the number of requests, and communication will be facilitated through studio visits, remote checking and phone conferences.
The final and fourth pillar outlined by Simonetta is “No Hurdles, Just Games”. In regards to this Simonetta said:
We are working very hard to make sure PlayStation is as perfect as it can be for all independent developers that want to come and work for us.
He further stated:
Our promise and commitment to the development community at PlayStation, from the very top of the organisation, is committed to this journey together.
At the Develop Conference session, Sony outlined the submission and approval process, wherein a single stage process for application is required, with a template and list of criteria. Simonetta added that the PS4’s self-publishing policy is not fully complete with certain aspects, such as the publishing process and business model to quality assurance for titles, still lacking.
Much of this proposed policy on Sony’s part is positive. However, it is also quite idealised and will need to be tested in real world practice. Without any proper information released to the public, how the PS4’s approval process will actually operate in real world practice, and what the criteria may be, is still quite vague. But if there is some form of quality assurance in place, this may become a more viable model than what Steam Greenlight offers, as quality assurance is the issue with the voting process Greenlight follows. Yet how will the PS4’s business model promote quality assurance? Sony’s ideology with self-publishing on the PS4 maintains equality, equal opportunity for all indie developers to apply and an “open door” policy to developers from a world wide spectrum. As of yet, there is no tangible proof that self-publishing will operate as stipulated.
Another issue with this policy may be that all this proposed freedom is great, but isn’t Sony still in control of publishing and distributing games. In retrospect, one could say that all Sony is doing is removing the middle man, the third party publisher, from the equation and taking on that role. As mentioned above, this will all come down to how Sony initiates and implements the practice of their self-publishing policy.
It will be interesting to see how many indie developers head to Sony or Microsoft for next-gen, and what policy changes may be be up Microsoft’s sleeve (if at all). The times are changing for self-publishing indie developers, and the console landscape is adapting. We can only wait and see what happens next.