Indie developers lash out at Sony’s PlayStation publishing methods, report $25,000 charge for platform visibility

The indie community is rallying around poor publishing practices and marketing efforts on PlayStation platforms.

Image via Sony

Stories about how poorly indie game developers are treated by bigger companies aren’t exactly new to hear about, but Neon Doctrine co-founder Iain Garner decided to “burn some bridges” today with one specific platform. 

The platform in question was never explicitly named by Garner, but every sign and subsequent detail points to Sony and its PlayStation Store being the platform that Garner claims is hurting smaller developers. 

Garner highlighted multiple issues with Sony’s alleged practices, including that there are minimal ways to get a spotlight on your game on the platform without paying a reported $25,000 marketing sum, which Kotaku verified can sometimes reach as high as $200,000. This also doesn’t affect the 30 percent revenue cut that Sony takes from any game sold digitally through the PS Store. 

To start, Garner said “Platform X” doesn’t give many developers the ability to manage their games. And to get the titles promoted, Garner said they need to jump through several hoops or “beg” for it unless the company likes your product enough to do so. 

In his thread, Garner said developers need to first develop the game to run on the platform, go through a detailed and “incredibly difficult” software check, create a trailer specific to the platform, and then submit their own content for socials and the platform’s blog—all of this while relying on the platform to evaluate your game and provide an account manager, with no details made available about either process. 

Sony reportedly doesn’t even allow launch discounts without platform approval, unlike every other platform on the market. Discounts are also invite-only, “very limited,” and can’t be synced up with other platforms like Steam. 

“Platform X is letting down indies on a massive scale while using us as a key part of their marketing,” Garner told Kotaku. “The recent call I had showed that they had no regard for us, our opinions or our livelihoods. What’s worse is that it ensures that their customers get a worse deal and have less options. I don’t understand the logic but it seems to be bad for everyone including them.”

Garner ended his thread by reiterating that he has no idea how to change “Platform X’s” methods and asked fans to complain to them rather than the developers next time they see that a game they like is more expensive on PlayStation than other platforms. 

Garner’s posts were backed up by multiple other indie developers, like Whitethorn Games CEO Matthew White, who noted that it’s almost impossible to “move the needle” when it comes to indie sales on PlayStation, with only three percent of his company’s sales coming from the platform.

This process will become even more outdated as more indie games and developers continue to publish their titles across multiple platforms. Most of those teams can’t afford to pay for a spotlight on one, let alone multiple, marketplaces. And if they don’t build some kind of hype via a showcase or on social media, they might end up just fizzling out due to the high level of competition.