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PlayStation the new indie game curator

Thomas was alone fan art

Mike Bithell shot to indie development fame following the success of his game, Thomas Was Alone. Now, just a couple of tweets or raw gameplay footage of his new project, Volume, can become gaming news. But what are his thoughts for newcomers? Is Steam still the way to go, or has the tide turned towards consoles?

In an interview on Gamasutra, Bithell explained that PC games don’t impress people much – if you want to get attention, you need to appear on console:

It’s actually a badge of honor to those people. I know Thomas Was Alone gained an incredible amount of “mindspace,” or whatever pretentious bullshit term a marketer would use, because it was out on console. And I saw a ridiculous sales boost just because, the second people saw it was coming to PlayStation, it became a “real game” for a lot of people.

What it demonstrates, and it’s going be interesting to watch in the next few years – it demonstrates that curation is more powerful than getting people to see your game. Discoverability is an issue, but it’s not the issue. Being given the badge of honor by whoever is the person handing them out is actually crucial, and makes such a difference to how your game is perceived.

I think this is a really interesting take. Indie developers often fight for open platforms and discoverability. They want their games published, and available. Yes, this is very important, but more important is for people to find your game, and to assume it’s worth purchasing. Steam used to have strong curatorship – if your game managed to get on the front page, it meant that you were doing something right. Now, Steam is all about being open and accessible, meaning that indies often get lost in the shuffle. With PlayStation (and Xbox) promoting indies on the new consoles, it gives the opportunity for great games to get highlighted; if PlayStation sees fit to put an indie game on display, consumers are more likely to assume it’s a worthwhile game.

This debate still has a lot of momentum as more and more indies are determined to get their games out there – getting traction from consumers will still be the most difficult hurdle to overcome.


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