This Week in Business is our weekly recap column, a collection of stats and quotes from recent stories presented with a dash of opinion and intended to shed light on various trends. Check back every Friday for a new entry.
This should have been a week of good news for Sony. And depending on who is also trapped in your particular Twitter echo chamber, it was.
Within the space of just three days, the platform holder announced it has acquired Finnish studio Housemarque and then Dutch developer Nixxes Software, further bolstering what was already a strong portfolio of first-party studios.
Housemarque has been producing solid hits for PlayStation since 2013’s Resogun, most recently releasing PS5 exclusive Returnal, and Nixxes has developed ports of Sony’s titles to PC, further indicating the platform holder isn’t about to stop updating its Steam page.
There’s also reason to believe Sony bought Bluepoint, the studio behind various PS4 and PS5 remasters, including last year’s Demon’s Souls.
So that’s two (potentially three) notable acquisitions that strengthen the PlayStation Studios line-up in the space of a week. But that’s not the Sony conversation that stood out most from the past seven days.
Iain Garner, co-founder of indie publisher Neon Doctrine — which handles games such as The Legend of Tian Ding and Project Altheia — caused quite the storm in a Twitter thread about a platform holder that was failing to support indies.
QUOTE | “I will not be defining Platform X but it’s the operator of a very successful console and does not have Games Pass!”
Okay, that does sound like Sony, although it’s worth remembering the Switch is also a “very successful console.”
QUOTE | “Yeah, PlayStation sucks for indie devs. We’ve sold like trash on there compared [to] the other big consoles. Also we make more sales on Itch alone than we do on [PlayStation] I’m pretty sure” — Hypnospace Outlaw developer Jay Tholen making sure it’s absolutely clear just which platform was being discussed.
Garner complained about the lack of communication (especially in how to connect with an account manager), the ineffectiveness of wishlists, the inability for developers to control discounts on their own titles, PlayStation’s invite-only policy on who is and isn’t part of sales events, and a hefty charge for any amount of visibility.
STAT | $25,000 — The minimum amount you reportedly need to pay Sony to get your game featured on the PlayStation Store storefront
And Garner wasn’t alone. Several indie developers of varying sizes echoed his sentiments, including some who have produced more prominent indie games.
QUOTE | “We’re a pretty established developer with a proven track record, but I honestly have no idea who to even contact to make console sales happen. It’s like trying to be heard in the vacuum of space” — Ragnar Tørnquist, founder of Dreamfall Chapters and Draugen dev Red Thread Games, commenting on Garner’s posts.
Tørnquist said Garner’s comments “mirrors our experience exactly,” adding that it was “disheartening” how much effort had gone into trying to get his studio’s game Draugen discounted or featured in a sale, but to no avail.
There still appears to have been no comment from PlayStation — no doubt because that would confirm that it is indeed Platform X, which would be the equivalent of an unmasking on The Masked Singer being immediately followed by a barrage of rotten tomatoes.
If even half of these complaints are true, it’s disappointing but, at the risk of cutting Sony some slack, it must also be difficult to handle who does and doesn’t get prominence on a storefront that, while digital, still has a finite amount of promotional space. Consider just how many bajillion indie studios there are in the world, and imagine all of them knocking on your door, demanding the same marketing support.
Granted, EuroJournal and Xbox manage this more than well enough on their own platforms, and there’s debate as to how much of a priority indies are for Sony. But with the combination of PS4 and PS5, Sony still has the larger userbase and so in theory more demand for attention from indies.
That doesn’t make things any less frustrating, of course, and the $25,000 entry fee certainly seems steep when you’re talking about a category of developer which, more often than not, doesn’t exactly have a ton of money behind it.
This wasn’t the only furore around Sony circling on social media this week.
STAT | 0 — Number of PS Plus subscribers who can receive the PS5 upgrade for Greedfall if they claimed the game as part of their subscription.
This news, as you can imagine, was not welcomed by consumers via social media. And while, as our contributing editor Rob Fahey observed, Twitter is never truly representative of the broader consumer base’s views, it does colour the conversation for certain circles — particularly among core players.
Greedfall isn’t the first game to suffer this problem, as Final Fantasy 7 Remake’s Integrate update for PS5 was also unavailable to PS Plus subscribers. Both titles are third-party offerings, but Sony is inarguably in the line of fire here.
The debate as to whether players are entitled to free upgrades of next-gen versions, especially since such a thing was unheard of in previous generations, is a complex one — even that mention of previous generations can prompt a well-argued “Ah, but…” What isn’t up for debate is whether Sony would have wanted two scathing conversations about the way it handles its platforms to rise up at a time it was announcing expansion to its studios business.
These are difficult times to be a platform holder. The long established social media channels give any disgruntled party — whether justified or not — an opportunity to air their grievances. Grievances that can turn into headlines, which can turn into weekly recaps.
Speaking of which…
QUOTE | “HR is responsible for educating people in management positions about what neurodiversity is” — If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our in-depth guide to understanding and supporting neurodiversity in the workplace.
STAT | 33+ — Number of articles and podcasts we have planned for our Get A Job In Games Month, which kicked off yesterday. You’ll be able to find them all here.
QUOTE | “We went from a world where consoles supporting independent developers was unimaginable to one where it’s unthinkable that they wouldn’t” — Agostino Simonetta reflects on his time at PlayStation and ID@Xbox as he takes over Thunderful Games.
QUOTE | “We wanted to make a real strategy game rather than one where who can click the fastest is the best player” — Uncapped Games’ lead game designer and former Blizzard developer David Kim on his new studio’s plans.
QUOTE | “There’s a real gap in the Roblox market where older players are leaving for more sophisticated experiences like Fortnite and Minecraft” — New UK studio Talewind tells us about its plan to make games solely for Roblox.
STAT | $? — Amount Take-Two spent on acquiring Dynamixyz, the French facial animation specialist who worked on Red Dead Redemption 2, NBA 2K21 and movies like Avengers: Endgame.
STAT | 469 — Days between Dan Houser leaving Rockstar Games and incorporating new studio Absurd Ventures In Games.
QUOTE | “We conduct our business under the policy that if there is any actual or serious risk of forced labour, not only for Uyghurs, we will stop doing business with them” – EuroJournal president Shuntaro Furukawa response to shareholders when questioned about a report on thousands of Muslims working under coercive conditions at various factories in China.
QUOTE | “Thin as tissue paper” — Kusk Law’s Dylan Schmeyer on the counts included in Chris Avellone’s libel lawsuit against the women accusing him of sexual misconduct.
QUOTE | “I’ve been working with some colleagues on something awesome, and I wish I could tell you all about it” — About as much as former BioWare boss Casey Hudson was willing to share about his new company, Humanoid Studios.
STAT | $1 trillion — Market cap of Facebook, owner of Oculus and (obviously) Facebook Gaming, after antitrust claims against the company were dismissed.
STAT | 1.5 million — Number of players using Facebook Gaming’s cloud service on a monthly basis.
QUOTE | “Plaintiff does not own the idea of an angry man with a scowling look” — One of Activision’s arguments against WWE wrestler Booker T. Huffman, who claims Call of Duty character David ‘Prophet’ Wilkes copies his own character G.I. Bro. Evidently, the judge agreed.
STAT | $44.7 billion — Global spending on mobile games in the first half of 2021.
STAT | 61 — Days until the UK’s Age Appropriate Design Code becomes enforced (yes, even for companies outside the UK). Here’s what you need to know.
STAT | 2,849 — Number of articles mentioning Elden Ring in either the headline or main body during E3 week, making it the most covered game of this week’s show(s). Likely also the number of articles expressing surprise and/or relief that the game still exists.
STAT | 118 — Days until we can play Age of Empires 4, now that Microsoft has enabled Xbox Cloud Gaming on PC and iOS.