Sony on Shutting Down Mid-Sized Studios, Embracing Indies

Sony on Shutting Down Mid-Sized Studios, Embracing Indies

Everybody Gone to the Rapture screen

Shuhei Yoshida says Sony wants to support indie titles but will not dictate the creative aspects of games it funds.

Mid-sized studios, usually of about 40 to 50 people, are struggling in the age of big game after big game, sprinkled with tons of independent games starting to gain recognition. President of Sony Worldwide Studios Shuhei Yoshida says both big and small studios can do "something very special" in their own ways, and mid-sized studios are stuck in the middle.

Yoshida acknowledges $60 is a lot of money to spend. To convince people to spend that much money on a game means the game needs "something very special," and Yoshida has had a harder time finding that special thing in games made by mid-sized studios.

"I think that's the reason the bigger titles are getting even bigger, because people supported them, and the publishers can afford it, and the level of quality of these games is way beyond these mid-sized games," Yoshida said. "On the other hand, the smaller digital games are amazing, great - because they try to do something that big teams won't do. Because they are smart, and they won't try to compete with Call of Duty."

Sony is trying to ramp up support for indies because it sees the potential success in many independent developers, such as thatgamecompany (Journey, Flower, Flow). Yoshida pointed to Sony's support for Everybody's Gone to the Rapture from developer thechineseroom (Dear Esther, Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs). When funding a game completely, Sony is the publisher. It is a Worldwide Studios title as opposed to ports of third-party games.

"That doesn't mean that we're going to dictate the creative development of thechineseroom team. We don't think that's good for the project. We just support the team and probably help them. We have lots of resources, in terms of tech, or services, or testing - whatever it fits with the needs of the team, a small team like thechineseroom, we want to provide support so they can realize their ambitions or vision. They might become even more ambitious with our support."

Source: Gamasutra

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Erm...Sony...are you ok? All this talk about supporting indies and not just churning out bigger and bigger AAAs...it's common sense but not many high profile people talk about it...you ok?

It's cool that Sony is willing to help out smaller indie devs like that, but I don't see it necessary to shut down midsize studios just like that because they are "stuck in the middle." If Sony gave them the same opportunity as they are offering indie devs, I'm sure they could produce games that match the quality of triple A titles.

Good Guy Sony strikes again. Damn it, you make it really hard to be a pessimist. Stop it!

I agree with the above.
It's refreshing to have a big player in the games industry (that is not Valve) talk in such a manner.
Sony, I start liking you more and more, the more you talk lately.

Ugh. He sounds like he expects small "indie" games to sell for $60.

Bad idea in any case. Garage studios don't need publisher support. They just need a good digital distribution platform. Observe the growth of indie gaming since Steam.

Good mid-sized studios are the endangered animal here that could actually use the big publisher support.

There is a demand for niche genres made with decent soundtracks and visuals and sometimes even voice-overs. Kickstater has shown this, but Kickstarter is only for the fanatics. Ordinary pre-orders lead to enough butthurt already and that's with previews.
Medium studios with publisher backing would fill the gap. Think XCOM, Tropico, HoMM, Tactics Ogre, BOUT. Tiny studios cannot deliver such games and big studios cannot risk their massive budgets on anything other than the most mainstream of genres (FPS, TPS, AAG, ARPG).

While I'm glad to hear that Sony is embracing indies and keeping a hands-off approach, I totally disagree that the middle-market is stuck and that AAA and indie studios should be the focus. The industry definitely needs the middle market, but I think this guy really has it right on the money. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KquAz3iMjWo

veloper:
Ugh. He sounds like he expects small "indie" games to sell for $60.

Given their support of companies like Thatgamecompany in the past and that they didn't charge that much for those smaller indie titles, I don't think that's what he actually meant. Something may have gotten muddled in the translation.

Bad idea in any case. Garage studios don't need publisher support. They just need a good digital distribution platform. Observe the growth of indie gaming since Steam.

Not really true. Sure, some people and companies go it alone or raise their own funding and put things out, but even small studios need money to develop games, and partnering up with the right publisher can be the thing that keeps them from either working a full time job to pay the bills while they develop part time, or having to spend more time hunting down funding than they do actually developing. I've seen it happen with some small developers where their biggest problem with not having a publisher was that the guys trying to make the game were also the ones trying to figure out where they're getting the money to keep going, and that is a much bigger distraction than anyone ever realizes. If you can get support from a publisher that's willing to stay out of your way creatively while funding the games development and providing technical assistance in releasing it on a given platform, that can be a god send that will save you months or even years of headaches.

It's not for everyone, and it's certainly not required to get a game made or start up your indie development company, but it does take a lot of the hassle's on the business side and the financial uncertainty out of the picture so people can just get to work.

The middle market is in a difficult situation because they don't have the blowout budget of AAA games to focus entirely on graphics (but attempt to use complex 3d graphics and textures anyway) and, for whatever reason, they don't want to/ can't use the innovation you see in indie developers but despite both these factors they still want to charge 40 for a new release. These are generalisations but my basic point is that there is a market for mid sized game devs - the niche games market. For example horror games just aren't done well by AAA devs and it's incredibly difficult to get scared by something using 16 bit graphics these days. Mid-sized companies on the other hand don't have the pressure of needing millions of sales to pay for their development costs (allowing them to aim at a smaller market) and have the capabilities to make a good horror game because they won't be too hung up on the graphics and can instead on focus on more important aspects like atmosphere and storytelling.

The jury's still out on whether or not I'm going to be upgrading to the next gen. However, I will say, if I had to make the decision now, I would get a PS4. Not because I think it's more advanced or because I think the resolutions better or that they have better multimedia or that they have teh best games, bro. I would get it because I dig what they're laying down. Only time will tell if their focus on gaming and polarizing their studios to either be really big or really small will pay off, but I totally agree with the idea.

Focusing attention down seems to be taking some cues from one of the great things about current PC gaming. I know, PC already does it better, but I'm a couch jockey until the day I die. I find it weird to associate a desk (which, since I was born, has been associated with work and general not-fun) with my gaming time. Personal hang-up.

So why are you selling those mid-level games at $60? Why not $20, $30, or $40?

No! That's the problem, Sony! It's nice that you're helping indie studios, but the death of the mid-tier studios is a problem for the console market. Making it so that the only two types of games that exist are big-budget AAA games and garage-studio indies isn't going to help anything.

Yes, you should help indies. That's a good thing. But help mid-sized studios as well!

The mid sized companys don't make enough money because publishers stifle them into pumping out something that don't take any chances or brings up any new ideas, so they will shut them down for indie company's that thrive because they can produce something totally unique and fresh that isn't requires to pander to a "wider audience"

The mid sized companies are what brings us the best games we play for hundreds of hours though. so basically you are killing best games Sony. somone said its sonys turn to make us laugh next week, but i think he just meant tomorrow.

Vivi22:

veloper:
Ugh. He sounds like he expects small "indie" games to sell for $60.

Given their support of companies like Thatgamecompany in the past and that they didn't charge that much for those smaller indie titles, I don't think that's what he actually meant. Something may have gotten muddled in the translation.

Probably. And even if he did, it wouldn't work anyway. They must be hoping to strike it big with new hits of the magnitude of minecraft, minimal investment, massive profit, but that's okay. Probably won't work though.

Bad idea in any case. Garage studios don't need publisher support. They just need a good digital distribution platform. Observe the growth of indie gaming since Steam.

Not really true. Sure, some people and companies go it alone or raise their own funding and put things out, but even small studios need money to develop games, and partnering up with the right publisher can be the thing that keeps them from either working a full time job to pay the bills while they develop part time, or having to spend more time hunting down funding than they do actually developing. I've seen it happen with some small developers where their biggest problem with not having a publisher was that the guys trying to make the game were also the ones trying to figure out where they're getting the money to keep going, and that is a much bigger distraction than anyone ever realizes. If you can get support from a publisher that's willing to stay out of your way creatively while funding the games development and providing technical assistance in releasing it on a given platform, that can be a god send that will save you months or even years of headaches.

It's not for everyone, and it's certainly not required to get a game made or start up your indie development company, but it does take a lot of the hassle's on the business side and the financial uncertainty out of the picture so people can just get to work.

We're already happily drowning in cheap indie games in PC-land nowadays. Indies will come if you make digital distribution easy. Nothing more is needed.
Sure many small guys would love funding, but many other indies who are determined and confident in the quality of their own game, may want invest their own time and to hold on to their IP, hoping to strike it big like Notch.

Sony, mid sized studios are the lifeblood of the industry. It is the mid sized studios that create new genres that push the whole industry forward. AAA games homogenize and indie games are too limited in scale. A mid sized studio can make something fresh and new that can last for days rather than just a few hours. Closing down mid sized studios will not help, having technical aspects like graphics take up a far less significant part of their budgets will help tremendously though.

 

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