Introversion: Consoles are "second class customers"

Co-founder Mark Morris on prohibitive development costs

Mark Morris, co-founder of independent development studio Introversion, has warned platform holders that their costs make them an unattractive proposition for indie developers.

"You're not delivering the amount of sales, you're making us work harder, and ultimately we're getting paid less than what we do on PC," he told VG247.

"So I think they're definitely - in the indie world - second class customers."

He explained that Microsoft charge £10,000 for a development kit.

"It's ridiculous, and it's non-refundable once you've bought it. You've got to pay - I think our quality assurance bill was $30,000 for testing with Darwinia+, and it took four years to get the game certified to a standard that Microsoft wanted. It then sold rubbish. We hardly shipped any units on Xbox 360, compared to PC."

Introversion's next title, Prison Architect, will not be published on either Xbox Live Arcade or the PlayStation Store. Instead Morris and his team are focused on Steam.

"We've got no interest in working with any of the big console owners now with Prison Architect. The only think we might do, once the game's out there, is license it to another developer to do the port on our behalf," he continued.

"But Microsoft and Sony come along and they say, 'well we don't want to have your game second, we want to be first.' Well, they can't be first. We're on PC because they've made it too hard. Also, they want exclusive content, well piss off."

Morris also recently spoke to GamesIndustry International, and discussed the development processes for both suspended title Subversion and Prison Architect. The full interview is available here.

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Latest comments (9)

Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany9 years ago
Consoles need to change their policy when it comes to indie developers, if not they will limit creativity in general.

Sorry for taking Bruce's line btw ;P
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Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 9 years ago
This is all about business models.
There was a time when making console games was a license to print money and the platform holders had near monopoly positions. So the developers queued up to be told when to jump by the autocratic hardware manufacturers.
Now, with multiple viable platforms, the developers have all the power about how they allocate their resources,
So platform holders need to learn to be nice and to look after developers. So they need a culture shift.
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Richard Hill-Whittall Director, Icon Games9 years ago
Mark - I rather suspect you'd encounter a VERY different response and attitude (in a good way) if you speak to SONY now. They are so much more indie friendly than Microsoft - the two are now miles apart in that respect.
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Show all comments (9)
Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.9 years ago
All 3 have taken major shifts lately. Though MS, surprisingly, is the one now with the least indie friendly platform.

Indies that have worked with Nintendo on the new eShop have had nothing but positives and superlatives to state whereas they had troubles with the older WiiWare service.

The dev kit price for the PS Vita is incredibly cheap (don't know about certification costs though).

While I doubt they put them on even ground with PC services, they've definitely moved a long way in the right direction to support indie game development. It's worth at least keeping an open dialog with them to maintain abreast of their current policies and costs.
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Curt Sampson Sofware Developer 9 years ago
It would be more fair to compare the difficulty of getting on to a console with that of getting on to Steam, rather than just making a PC game. After all, as Steam does, consoles also give you a massive audience and handle the details of running the shop.

For the development side, Steam's always going to be easier and cheaper because you need simply go and download a few (free) APIs. The key area where consoles can close the gap is in certification, where I understand that Steam is considerably more flexible. There are limits to how far they can close this, though, given that consoles require expensive things like ESRB and PEGI certification (which is certainly not going to go away).

It would be interesting to see a proper comparative analysis of developing for the major platforms, though I would be that this could never be made publicly available due to all the NDAs you'd have to sign.
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Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany9 years ago

There is still a difference in the case of Steam. Steam guidelines and requirements adapt depending on the project, the budget and the capabilities of the studio behind the game. Consoles have guidelines and requirements that require the studio to accept and accomplish. Not the entire opposite, but gets close.
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Curt Sampson Sofware Developer 9 years ago
@Alfonso: err...I think I did make that point, didn't I? ("There are limits to how far they can close this [distance between Steam and console certification].")

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Curt Sampson on 30th October 2012 1:27pm

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Hugo Dubs Interactive Designer 9 years ago
Indies were not trendy when the xbox and ps3 came out on the market.
They may change the way they work along with the next gen.

Im not really sure that indie game are generating enough cash to be interesting for majors.
They may sell more when they get famous, but at a lower price so is the mix good...
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Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany9 years ago

True, misread that, sorry :)
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