Although gamers are being kept waiting for the first truly original titles of the "next-gen" console age, we can be sure that indie games will have a vital role to play.
At an event in San Francisco on Wednesday, Sony's VP of developer and publisher relations Adam Boyes, revealed that more than 1,000 independent studios are now licensed to self-publish on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and the PS Vita. He also said that over one hundred indie games are currently in development for the three platforms.
According to Destructoid, Boyes said that 21 self-published titles have already been released on PS4, with horror adventure, Outlast, getting over 1.8m downloads and mini-Rouguelike, Don't Starve, more than 1 million. Both titles have been made available for free via the PlayStation Plus subscription service.
At least 12 forthcoming indie titles were also confirmed for PS4. Some of them are familiar PC and "last-gen" console favourites: cult roguelike platformer Spelunky is coming to the machine, complete with 1080p visuals, new daily challenges and, of course, the ability to post videos online; puzzle platformer Escape Goat 2 and local multiplayer hit, Starwhal are also coming over from PC. New titles include the ambitious sandbox space-trading game Drifter from Celsius Game Studios, Ancient Greece-set platform adventure, Apotheon, and procedurally generated side-scrolling RPG, Chasm.
From the announcement of PS4 last February, Sony has been keen to push the indie credentials of its machine. Several indie titles were shown during the company's E3 press conference and The Witness, a surreal adventure title from Braid creator Jonathan Blow, has been named as one of the most anticipated titles on the platform.
It is not alone however. Microsoft has been similarly evangalising Xbox One as an indie-friendly device. In March the company announced that 25 titles would be coming to the console, courtesy of the "ID@Xbox" programme, which provides development resources to smaller studios. These include Super Time Force from indie star Capybara Games and surreal puzzler, QUBE Director’s Cut from Toxic Games.
The indie charm offensive provides an interesting insight into the modern console industry. Both Sony and Microsoft will have seen from the massive success of Minecraft and top-selling hits like Contrast, Fez and Thomas Was Alone, that there is a huge appetite for offbeat, innovative ideas. The PC platform Steam has allowed a community of small studios to flourish, providing easy access to many millions of PC gamers – no doubt this is a model for the plans of the console manufacturers.
There is also perhaps a realisation that the traditional Triple A sector is shrinking. Development costs are into the hundreds of millions of dollars now so fewer mega-budget titles are likely to be released every year. Consequently, console owners will need to be kept engaged with small, budget productions. That may mean lots of innovation, but it may also mean that favourite indie genres are able to break into the mainstream. Basically, if you didn't know what a roguelike Metroidvania crossover RPG was last year, you soon will do.
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