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Icon Games: Vita a better platform for indies

Sony "hampered" PSP by shutting out indies, forced to change by success of iOS

Independent developer Icon Games has claimed that the PlayStation Vita marks a turnaround in Sony's relationship with the indie community.

A detailed post on the company's blog recounts an experience in 2005, in which Icon struck a deal worth $450,000 with a small US publisher to publish two of its games, Vertigo and Pool Hall Pro.

"The games were complete, already released in PAL territories and ready to go into SCEA QA," wrote director Richard Hill-Whittall.

The feedback was scathing; essentially Sony asked us to completely re-design the game and gameplay

Richard Hall-Whittall, Icon Games

"Sony refused concept approval, and the deal was dead – no negotiation – finished. Overnight we lost $450,000, which for a small studio would have drastically improved our position and helped us to invest more money into future development."

Since the introduction of PSP Minis, however, working with Sony has been a much more "positive experience". Icon Games has now developed five Minis, including two for the Vita - Build'n Race Extreme and Pub Games.

The Hill-Whittall complained that the initial stages of the approval process for the Vita offered evidence that Sony still doesn't understand how carefully indie developers need to manage resources.

"The feedback was scathing; essentially Sony asked us to completely re-design the game and gameplay, particularly in the case of Build'n Race Extreme."

"While some of the ideas were good these were ideas for another game; someone else's game – not the game we have been working on the past few months. It is also completely impractical given my budget."

"What if we re-design and they still are not happy or feel we haven't gone in the direction they want – what do we do then?"

But within two days SCEE agreed to a meeting, offering advice and support on how to finish each game to the right standard. He also claimed that Sony is open to games "of various different sizes and scope" and is more accepting of ports of iOS games.

Icon Games believes that the PSP was "hampered" by Sony "closing the door" on the indie community, but the success of the iOS platform and the App Store forced a change in the company's culture.

"Let the market decide – poor games won't sell and poor studios will fold," the post concludes. "iOS has proven that the consumer is open to a lot of different game styles and approaches, and this has allowed innovation to flourish in a way it hasn't done for a good many years."

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Matthew Handrahan avatar
Matthew Handrahan: Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.
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