Jonathan Blow believes porting indie games to XBLA and PSN might be more trouble than it’s worth.
If only game designer Jonathan Blow had the same abilities as Tim, the protagonist of his critical darling Braid. Then he could travel back in time and take back comments about his upcoming game The Witness appearing on the Xbox 360 and PS3. A year after Blow’s initial interest in embracing Microsoft and Sony’s systems, he has decided that the consoles are looking a little long in the tooth, and would rather focus his efforts on iOS and Steam.
“We like 360 and PS3, but their specifications are over five years old now, and that’s a lot in computer years,” said Blow. Blow’s primary motivation behind the platform shift was compatibility: it’s much easier to port a game between iOS and Steam than to bring it over to XBLA or PSN. “The kind of tricks we’d have to perform to get this game working on those platforms are such a lot of work that to port it over at this point is just not worth it for us … [Breaking even] allows me to keep making games, and I can do that without consoles.”
Blow hasn’t ruled out the possibility of changing his mind. “Maybe this time next year I’ll be singing a different tune,” he admits, but points out that The Witness is primarily an iPad game, and he will likely have his hands full just keeping up with Apple’s changing tech.
Blow, as an acclaimed indie developer, could be representative of where the market is headed. If developers can make enough money on portables and PCs, is it wise for them to risk investing in the difficult plunge to console ports? Assuming The Witness does not hit consoles, its sales figures may prove instructive.