Developer Says Exclusivity Deals Can Help Indie Games

Developer Says Exclusivity Deals Can Help Indie Games

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Minority Media's Vander Cabarello says Sony helped to raise awareness for Papo & Yo

There's a reason why most Americans are never more than one hundred miles from a Starbucks. The more venues you have for your products, the more you're going to sell. Videogames might not be delicious Cinnamon Dolce Lattes, but they aren't much different in the sense that titles available on multiple platforms often have a built in advantage over their exclusive counterparts. There are exceptions, of course. If you're Super Mario, odds are you're going to sell millions of copies regardless of what console you're on. That said, there are reasons why Demon's Souls sold fewer copies than its spiritual successor Dark Souls, and it might be safe to place the former's PS3-exclusivity among them.

Some would argue, however, that exclusivity deals can be a good thing for developer. Vander Caballero, co-founder of Minority Media, the makers of Papo & Yo, recently espoused the value of exclusivity as a lifeline for cash-strapped developers. "If you are an independent you have zero marketing money," Caballero said. "You have nothing. Then you need someone to support your project. So, if someone asks you for exclusivity and it's going to help you to bring out your product into the market, I think that can be good. Sometime, I think it's the only way to get something out."

Even if Papo & Yo might never have been released without its PS3-exclusivity, it is in some ways an exemplar of the limitations of exclusive releases. Despite being a top selling game on the PlayStation Network, the game has failed to cover its development costs. Minority Media is now hoping its port to Windows PCs, via Steam and other digital retailers, will help cover the rest of the difference and push the game to profitability. Despite any shortfalls, Caballero is still grateful for the deal made with Sony. "Sony really helped us to push the game out and make people know about it, and then they really helped us in the development, too. It was an amazing relationship."

Source: Kotaku

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Amazing relationship? Marketing? I'd never even heard of the game until now and I own a PS3

There is also this thing called word of mouth marketing. Even if you dont buy ad space you can generate buzz, send a copy to Rock Paper Shotgun and ask them to do a small story on it ect.

Exclusivity is not a good thing, unless you cant think slightly outside the box I guess..

Yes, but exclusivity deals completely screw over the consumer, PC gamers won't get a pile of games because Microsoft and Sony have their pissing competetion and the console wars start again so people start arguing and being idiots because of marketing.

Weird to be singing the praises of exclusivity deals when you are porting a title to another platform in hopes of making enough to cover the cost of the title...

... it also sends the wrong message to the 'new' title, as in

' Hello PC we would of rather not had to port our game to this horrible platform but we need the cash because our preferred platform didnt make us enough cash '.

Or I am reading this wrong ?

LOL! Captcha : yada yada

Hmmm, this must be "Developers say stupid things" week. First the Saints Row guy, and now this. Yeah, let's limit our game sales to a subset of the gaming population, that sounds like a great idea. I'm sure that will help boost our profits.

... How the HELL did this guy get into any business position?

Amazing relationship? You lost money. You should be telling sony to go die in a ditch for wasting your money on its unprofitable platform.

When did developers lose their sense of business? You hate losing money, not love it.

What is it with Minority Media's affinity for abusive relationships?

Desert Punk:
There is also this thing called word of mouth marketing.

There is a little thing called Youtube, and a thing called the Escapist.

Ultratwinkie:
... How the HELL did this guy get into any business position?

Amazing relationship? You lost money. You should be telling sony to go die in a ditch for wasting your money on its unprofitable platform.

When did developers lose their sense of business? You hate losing money, not love it.

Apparently money wasn't the only thing he lost.

Let's wait to see how the recent port to Steam does & hear what he says then

Well, that depends. If platform holder puts effort into your game it can be a huge success. Look at Heavy Rain, Journey, Tokyo Jungle - exclusives that made big profits. Demon's Souls simply did not enjoy the proper treatment, which Sony probably regrets.
And since Demon's Souls director is not involved with Dark Souls 2 and Sony holds exclusive rights to Demon's Souls IP, I'd expect Demon's Souls 2 a PS4 exclusive and a profitable one.

You gotta put your Old Ones to slumber man.

As for this particular example, I'd say it was doomed from the start. None of people I know had any interest in Papo and whatever.

Ultratwinkie:
... How the HELL did this guy get into any business position?

Amazing relationship? You lost money. You should be telling sony to go die in a ditch for wasting your money on its unprofitable platform.

Unprofitable platform? What about Limbo that was the top selling indie game on PSN in 2011 and Castle Crashers right behind it? Or Journey?

http://blog.eu.playstation.com/2012/03/29/journey-breaks-psn-sales-records/

http://www.polygon.com/2013/2/27/4037042/retro-city-rampage-creator-says-indie-devs-should-jump-onto-vita

Honestly this game is the only one I have seen that actually didn't make a profit. Sure PSN games don't sell as well as Steam games but it's not an "unprofitable platform."

Exclusivity can be good for certain specific games, and bad for the gaming industry.

I wouldn't disagree with the concept on a surface level, though I'm not a huge fan of exclusivity in general.

A game with exclusivity for a certain amount of time is fine, because it can build up buzz, but NOT permanent exclusivity for most games. Having some exclusive system-sellers I can understand.

Imagine how much more money the developers would have if Journey was released on all platforms not long after Sony released it... I'm still avoiding watching the "let's play" videos of it in the hopes I can buy it for PC sometime and experience it fresh.

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"You have nothing. Then you need someone to support your project. So, if someone asks you for exclusivity and it's going to help you to bring out your product into the market, I think that can be good. Sometime, I think it's the only way to get something out."

"Nothing", Minority Media?

Chasm, a procedurally generated dungeon game with Metroidvania-inspired gameplay has a kickstarter page, a demo, a homepage, and a video.

Starbound, the successor to Terraria has a blog showcasing so much media of the game and a multi-tiered preorder page, including a free download of the OST upon any tiered preorder.

Guess what? I just gave them each $15 of my money.

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Korten12:

Ultratwinkie:
... How the HELL did this guy get into any business position?

Amazing relationship? You lost money. You should be telling sony to go die in a ditch for wasting your money on its unprofitable platform.

Unprofitable platform? What about Limbo that was the top selling indie game on PSN in 2011 and Castle Crashers right behind it? Or Journey?

http://blog.eu.playstation.com/2012/03/29/journey-breaks-psn-sales-records/

http://www.polygon.com/2013/2/27/4037042/retro-city-rampage-creator-says-indie-devs-should-jump-onto-vita

Honestly this game is the only one I have seen that actually didn't make a profit. Sure PSN games don't sell as well as Steam games but it's not an "unprofitable platform."

Exclusivity means you get support for making your job harder.

If your game failed, there a few people at fault including Sony.

If the game got all its money back from steam sales, like Limbo on Steam shattered the sales record for PSN, then PSN is at fault.

If a platform consistently fails to turn a profit for its "exclusive" games, then the platform is unprofitable. XBL and PSN have time and time again been called unprofitable by even the better indie developers.

Sony and Microsoft are not indie friendly, and any attempt to say that losing money from an agreement with Sony is a "winning relationship" is ludicrous.

From a business perspective, the PSN is not profitable. Why would anyone develop indie games for consoles? Especially exclusive games when exclusivity became a modern death sentence for a game?

There are so many ways to market your game without the help of publisher marketing or exclusivity agreements.

Both the Devs of Hotline Miami and Anodyne put their games on torrent sites, which earned them good will.
http://www.pcgamer.com/2012/10/25/hotline-miami-devs-endorse-pirate-bay-torrent-of-their-own-game-provide-helpful-suggestions/
http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/122054-Anodyne-Developer-Turns-Piracy-Into-PR

And most gamers make their purchasing decisions on word of mouth.

http://kotaku.com/5428141/word-of-mouth-sells-the-most-video-games

Then there's Steam, that does quite a lot for indie devs. Super meat boy Devs sold twice as many copies in two weeks than their total XBLA run

http://www.pcgamer.com/2011/03/01/super-meat-boy-pc-sold-more-in-two-weeks-than-xboxs-total-sales/

And the Breath of Death/C'thulu save the world devs sold more copies in less than a week than XBLA in a year

http://www.pcgamer.com/2011/07/20/cthulhu-saves-the-world-pc-sales-smash-xbox-live/

Exclusivity means jack shit, in my opinion. I think I've heard of Papa & Yo all of twice when it was released on the PSN.

Ultratwinkie:

Sony...are not indie friendly

Uh... I don't know where you have been lately, but Sony has been REALLY indie friendly lately and has gained fame in the indie community for it.

http://www.wired.com/gamelife/2013/04/sony-indies/
http://www.engadget.com/2013/03/25/sony-announces-more-indie-partnerships-blacklight-retribution/
http://www.edge-online.com/news/sonys-indie-pitch-is-it-working/
http://venturebeat.com/2013/03/26/sony-steps-up-for-indies-with-funding-for-digital-games-on-playstation-platforms/

In fact as of this moment, it's easier to get your game on PSN than attempting to go through Steam Greenlight, more so with the removal of PSN's Concept Approval Process and even waving patch fee's for some developers.

http://www.cinemablend.com/games/Primal-Carnage-Coming-PS4-Sony-Waives-Patch-Fees-Removes-Concept-Approval-Process-54045.html

Korten12:

Ultratwinkie:

Sony...are not indie friendly

Uh... I don't know where you have been lately, but Sony has been REALLY indie friendly lately and has gained fame in the indie community for it.

http://www.wired.com/gamelife/2013/04/sony-indies/
http://www.engadget.com/2013/03/25/sony-announces-more-indie-partnerships-blacklight-retribution/
http://www.edge-online.com/news/sonys-indie-pitch-is-it-working/
http://venturebeat.com/2013/03/26/sony-steps-up-for-indies-with-funding-for-digital-games-on-playstation-platforms/

In fact as of this moment, it's easier to get your game on PSN than attempting to go through Steam Greenlight, more so with the removal of PSN's Concept Approval Process and even waving patch fee's for some developers.

http://www.cinemablend.com/games/Primal-Carnage-Coming-PS4-Sony-Waives-Patch-Fees-Removes-Concept-Approval-Process-54045.html

Greenlight =/= How they get games on steam. Its for games that steam are unsure about, and democracy settles it.

Its mostly garage games that have one man developers or close to it. Or games that are incredibly niche even by steam standards or don't fit into a regular retail system. Actual developers get their game on steam by actually contacting steam.

Greenlight is also going to get changes, to remove the spam of advertisements instead of actual game developers. Its basically for early access games now.

Steam has even given unfinished games like project Zomboid a chance. Which is what Greenlight was for. Games that don't normally get space on actual digital distribution.

Steam doesn't charge you for patches, so PSN isn't "better" for doing what steam has been doing for years.

Its like shooting yourself in the foot with a gun and bullet you are given. Its not worth it. The death throws of the consoles are coming....the sooner the better..... all hail universal hardware!

Nurb:
A game with exclusivity for a certain amount of time is fine, because it can build up buzz, but NOT permanent exclusivity for most games. Having some exclusive system-sellers I can understand.

Imagine how much more money the developers would have if Journey was released on all platforms not long after Sony released it... I'm still avoiding watching the "let's play" videos of it in the hopes I can buy it for PC sometime and experience it fresh.

image

On the other hand if Sony hadn't picked up flOw and signed a 3 game contract with thatgamecompany, then they would hever have had the money to make Flower and Journey.

So yes, the devs could have made more money releasing on all platforms, however without the Sony money, it would never have been produced.

Exclusivity is almost always a poisoned apple offered to developers, especially indie developers, to take advantage of their current cash-strapped nature in return for getting them to do something that will likely blight their earning potential greatly in the future.

In this day and age, when the barrier to game creation and publishing is lower than ever (Kickstarter, Ouya, Android, Steam Greenlight, Desura, "Alpha Funding" strategies, investors more willing to back indie projects etc..) there are many ways for developers to raise money than "selling their soul" and being forced to say... not patch the PC version of your game because the Xbox version hasn't been patched yet, release certain content on Xbox first, use DirectX/XNA instead of open technologies that are easier to port etc..

Whenever I hear "exclusive" in terms of any sort of content, platform, or sales deal, it usually means that I, as a player am going to get a worse experience. Its going to mean that the game is going to be more expensive (Remember that the increase in gaming prices to $60 from $50 came from X360/PS3 licensing fees, and then greedy Bobby Kotick and friends saying "Hey, they're used to paying $60 for console titles, so charge $60 for all new games! They won't know any better!"), I'm not going to get all the in-game content unless I pre-order from Gamestop, I'm not going to be able to play the game on my preferred platform of PC, etc... which is going to make me less likely to purchase a given title.

There are many success stories that illustrate how when the blinders of the "exclusivity" are removed, developers prosper, especially indie studios. I can think of those like the devs behind "Cthulhu Saves The World and Breath of Dead VII" reporting that in all the time (months to year etc..) they were on Xbox Live exclusively, they made less money than in one weekend (or was it week?) when they launched on Steam! Other devs have similar experiences and many of those that have managed to create a thriving game on open platforms (ie selling on PC via Steam, Desura, direct from the developer etc..) find that the frustration and cost of attempting a console release is a huge drain...and honestly, good riddance. I didn't even know that Papo Y Yo existed until I saw news of its coming PC release, but now I've purchased the title to support what seems to be thoughtful and engaging storytelling. I can guess that its Steam release will definitely be financially beneficial on a massive scale in comparison. I can guarantee there are many games that are handicapped by their platform exclusivity just like this - for instance, Valkyria Chronicles is renowned amongst JRPG fans, yet the first one being exclusive to PS3 and the latter 2 being PSP only (which was really a crime) led to much lower sales figures - I can guarantee that much like many of the games from XSEED etc... if the Valkyria series was quality-ported to PC, it would thrive.

To be perfectly frank, I think it is time to end the entire industry's reliance on exclusive deals and consoles as a whole. I think there are many developers and players like myself who are tired of feeling held hostage and squeezed for every bloody penny by console manufacturers and publishers. Today's consoles are little more than locked down, proprietary PCs that are designed to remove control and choice from the player, getting them to give all that up to play the games they wish. Do you want to play Metal Gear Solid 4 or Valkyria Chronicles? Well then, you HAVE to shell out money for a PS3 and accept the way that PSN works etc. Want to play Halo? You have to subscribe to Xbox Live and continue to watch their ad-laden dashboard and adhere to their rules lest you be banned - you can't simply decide you want to rent your own Halo 4 server that you access without Xbox Live. It goes on and on.

Its time for the idea of the "console" as a piece of hardware you buy, but others control, to come to an end. Its time for developers to make games to be accessible and available with the best experiences for the user at lower prices and fewer middlemen clawing to take from both developer and player. "Consoles" should continue to evolve into true small form factor PCs, that put the user in control. I'd love to see a day when I can be assured that any game I want to play will be available for the PC, and built on open technologies (like OpenGL, OpenCL etc..) that make it easier to run on or port to any operating system (see: Linux!). I'll support those that move in this direction financially (ie Humble Bundle, Desura, and Steam are all selling Linux native titles now), but I'd love to see the day when Metal Gear Solid, Valkyria Chronicles, Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Castlevania, etc.. are not being "held hostage" and requiring me to "rent" proprietary locked down hardware and obey what the manufacturers of that hardware and online service decree, in order to enjoy the games I want to play. There's a better way for both developers/publishers and gamers, and that is to put an end to these exclusivity demands created by money-sucking middlemen simply to keep themselves relevant to an industry that has the capability to thrive without their heavy-handed tactics any longer.

Exclusivity can be a great thing for a game... if it's done for the right reasons. Games developed for a specific platform can really take advantage of said platform's capabilities without having to compromise for portability's sake. It can have its UI custom tailored to the platform as well. There are some pretty awesome games for the various platforms that did just this.

On the other hand, if you aren't doing that, then exclusivity pretty much hamstrings your sales to no one's benefit(except of course that of the company that conned you into an exclusivity deal).

The 'help' lies in the 'deal' part. It's not like people go into exclusivity for a single platform just because the makers ask them. It's a business transaction, and I'd wager what they get in exchange is advertisement they couldn't possibly afford otherwise.

 

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