LGC 2013: Why PlayStation believes the indie revolution is over

LGC 2013: Why PlayStation believes the indie revolution is over
James Batchelor

By James Batchelor

November 13th 2013 at 6:57PM

Sony's Shahid Ahmad discusses the new world that the rise of indie games developers has created

The indie revolution is over, and PlayStation is embracing the new world it has created.

That's according to SCEE's head of strategic content Shahid Ahmad, who discussed the transition during his keynote at London Games Conference 2013.

"People say the indie revolution is only just beginning," Ahmad said. "It's not. It's over.

"When the power structure shifts to the content creators, the old buildings might still be standing but there's new people in there. New content creators, with new ways of doing things. That's what's happened to PlayStation.

"It's through the experience of the last few years that PlayStation is emerging. We realise we have to be focused and passionate about embracing that new space."

Ahmad began his keynote by contrasting his trip to GDC 2012 and that of 2013. Last year, he was tasked with bringing more people on board for PlayStation Vita and find out what's happening in the world of software, but some developers weren't even aware about the new handheld.

"I found myself asking: 'was PlayStation even relevant any more?'," he told the audience. "There was a whole generation of developers that didn't even know what Vita was.

"And it wasn't just indies we had trouble getting behind Vita - even our favourite partners like Sega and Sports Interactive. At a meeting with Miles [Jacobson, Sports Interactive founder], he spent the first 15 minutes saying how shit Vita was.

"He wasn't being rude, he was being forthright and honest. But what he didn't know was I had been told to tear up the rule book. You don't change the course of supertanker by saying you want to go another way. You have to take radical action."

Fast forward to GDC 2013, and everyone was talking about both PlayStation as a whole and Vita at GDC, according to Ahmad.

What had changed? PlayStation's attitude as it came to realise the ongoing indie revolution was based on three pillars.

The first was what Ahmad refers to the 'atoms to bits' process. Now content creators and developers can not only handle everything to do with making games, but releasing them as well.

"Everything to do with publishing is becoming digital," he said. "The speed at which an individual can make a company, a product, and market it to people is instant. It used to be a multi-year cycle."

Another major pillar was the rise of ubiquitious hardware. When PlayStation first started out, it didn't have to compete with a lot of devices, but today there are dozens in every household - from smartphones and tablets, to PCs, laptops and even Smart TVs - and most play video games.

Thirdly, there are 'power tools', as Ahmad describes them. Tools like Unity and Game Maker make it easy for developers to create content for multiple platforms, and if one platform doesn't work for their title, they can move to another.

"In 2012," Ahmad said, "I realised we were competing with a whole new bunch of players that had started in the digital era. Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo have one leg in the digital era and one in the physical, and we don't know when to step off the latter. Apple, Steam and Android don't have that problem.

"In an era of massive fragmentation, the old rulebook doesn't work. Operating in an environemtn of trust was the only way to work. We've forged open and friendly relationships with developers - in fact our relationship with developers are better than they have ever been."