Sony sees developer meetings "like a focus test"
GDC 2013: Adam Boyes tells us how critical developer feedback is becoming for PS4 and all PlayStation platforms
Following his presentation at a Sony Indie Arcade event during GDC, Adam Boyes, SCEA's vice president of developer and publisher relations, took a few minutes to talk with GamesIndustry International about the critical changes Sony has made across its worldwide publishing system to ensure that developers' needs are put first. Boyes believes that Sony's developer-centric approach will give PS4 an edge over other platforms in the long run.
"It's talking to them directly, it's listening to them, it's caring about what they have to say, and then it's actually taking that feedback and applying it to improving things. A lot of times you're sort of complaining down an empty hallway and nobody's listening, so what we're doing this time is we're talking the talk, we're telling them that we're pro developer, and then we're walking the walk," said Boyes.
Boyes likened Sony's frequent meetings with developers to a "focus test" where the company can continually learn about what works and what doesn't and make changes accordingly.
"It's really important for us to work with them to make sure it's as easy as possible for them to get the content out there, especially if it's a fix for a game breaking bug"
"We're literally in meetings on a weekly basis changing and evolving all the processes - we basically say, 'what's bugging you most?' So we use it almost like a focus test - what's the next thing? And the next thing? You almost picture a world in four years where hopefully we'll be down to very minuscule things, so we're going to continue to evolve the process to make it easier," he said.
So what about all those developers who are already gravitating towards iOS and Android - how can Sony convince them that PlayStation platforms like PS4 are worth their time? Boyes thinks that Sony's intense gaming focus makes a big difference, that Sony offers them an audience that actually cares about good games.
"I think the fact that PlayStation is focused on games and gamers and game developers... The way I like to say it is if you're a musician and you want your music heard by a lot of people it's easy to think that I just take my guitar and go to Times Square and just start playing and there are a lot of people there and they're listening, but the reality is that not a lot of people go there to listen to music; so what we like to do is create the PlayStation 'auditorium' of gamers that are big fans that are going to buy a lot of games and enjoy that content and then put the developers out on stage so that they can perform for the people who are going to buy games," he remarked.
It also helps that independent developers will be able to patch their games on PlayStation Network without any exorbitant fees. You may recall the controversy around Fez on Xbox Live; Phil Fish wouldn't patch the game at the time because Microsoft wanted to charge "tens of thousands" to allow it to happen. Sony doesn't want to see that sort of situation on its platform.
"Our publicized policy is that you have to pay patch fees in order to patch the content but the reality of it is, especially for independent developers, we don't charge that for them. We have not in the last three years in our territory. It's really important for us to work with them to make sure it's as easy as possible for them to get the content out there, especially if it's a fix for a game breaking bug," stressed Boyes.
One of the more interesting aspects of Sony's initial PS4 reveal was the planned integration of Gaikai cloud technology. Getting most games up onto PSN as free demos to try would be fantastic, and you'd think that Boyes' role woud allow him to discuss this with independent developers. The truth of the matter, however, is that Gaikai may not be ready for those discussions. Boyes told us it's not something he's bringing up with developers. "Right now, there are no discussions externally happening about Gaikai; we're not ready to talk about it," he said.
Regardless, Boyes feels that he has a distinct personal advantage when it comes to signing more great development talent for PlayStation - he's been on the other side of the fence, at Capcom and elsewhere, so he knows what it's like to be in that situation.
"It feels very real, when you know you've been through the process. I've made games for iOS, I've made game for Steam, I've published games for other platforms, I know what it's like personally, so you have this aspiration that we can not only make it as good as if not better that the other ones - it gives you a lot of perspective. When you sit down with other publishers and developers and have that discussion, there's a lot of that 'oh yeah, you've been to battle'. So it definitely allows that internal observation level to be very much heightened because I went through this myself and I know this is a high priority," he said.