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E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo)

PlayStation 4 proved its allegiance to indies at E3 2013

by William Schwartz

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Depending on who you ask, Sony’s PlayStation booth didn’t have much to offer in terms of PS4 games.  It’s true.  There were only a couple of AAA PS4 games that attendees could get their hands on.  Instead, Sony opted to devote a large portion of their booth to both independent and free to play games on the PS4.

With their introduction of the self-publishing model on the new console, independent developers have a huge reason to hit the PlayStation 4 in droves when the console arrives this fall.   In a change of pace, some of the best games being shown at E3 were from teams of developers that could be counted on both hands, and sometimes one.  If one thing is clear, it’s that Sony isn’t going to have any problem stacking the PS Store with new content on a regular basis when the PS4 arrvies.  Especially considering just how enthusiastic these developers were to have the opportunity to hit such a wide audience, without the high costs and publisher constraints seen on other platforms.

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One such game that we got a chance to get hands on with, and speak with the development team briefly, was Transistor.  It’s a beautiful title from SuperGiant Games that was revealed earlier this year at PAX East.  If you recognize the name, it’s likely because you’ve played Bastion, a fantastic title from 2011 that arrived on Xbox Live during the summer of arcade.  We got few details from our gameplay session that we didn’t already know.  Transistor is a beautiful, artistic title that has all the charm and warmth of Bastion, with an added layer of strategy.  It was however the echoing sentiment from each independent developer about just how important being able to self publish is, in getting experiences like these to market.

In the case of Transistor, speaking with Greg Kasavin, he explained to me why it was so important, and why it was a no-brainer for SuperGiant Games to release on the PS4.  See what many people don’t really understand is that despite games like Transistor having the fantastic art, audio, and gameplay that can be found in a AAA title, they’re being made by extremely small teams of developers, with very limited resources.  Self-publishing is vital to not only retaining creative freedom, but can be the difference between the game being a rewarding financial success or not.

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It wasn’t just SuperGiant who expressed these sentiments.  It seemed like every developer I spoke with had nothing but praise for this new initiative from Sony.  Shawn Halwes of Ragtag Studio, devlopers of an upcoming title called Ray’s The Dead, said he thought there would be an incredible influx of indie titles on the PS4, and was pretty excited about the potential for a wealth of content on the new system.   He was also was excited that his game, a Pikmin-esque title developed by a three man team, could arrive on the PlayStation 4 near launch.    The game is an action-stealth-puzzler that can currently be found in Steam’s Greenlight section.

While Sony made it loud and clear that the PS4 would be the go-to choice for these smaller independent developed experiences at GDC ’13, their commitment to this strategy was evident at E3.  Titles like Transisitor and Ray’s The Dead were just two examples of many games that’ll be padding your library when the fun of third party AAA games and first party exclusives die down.  It’s a strategy that’s looking like it’ll benefit developers, and because of that, one that’s ultimately going to provide gamers with a lot more games that might not have arrived on PS4, otherwise.

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