The other day Elsa made a blog post about the PS3 shooter Dust 514 and explained why we should be excited. The gist of the game is that it is a class-based, first-person shooter based on the EVE Online universe with some interconnectivity with people playing the real-time strategy game on their computers. More importantly, it’s free-to-play. No ifs, ands or buts. There’s no subscription fee, no activation cost or unfair advantages to paying. How is this even feasible? Well it turns out CCP worked with Sony to remove PSN restrictions in regards to updating games. The key point was that it wasn’t “relaxed” but “removed”. They no longer have to pay or be approved by Sony to apply patches. This turns out to be a pretty big deal.
In a recent interview with Hook Shot Inc., Tim Schafer revealed that his Kickstarter game won’t be found on the PS3 or 360. Part of this reason is because the price to update games costs developers $40,000 on these networks. For indie and small developers, that’s a huge financial burden if a game requires several patches and especially so if they’re trying to push the game out for $5 or less. Now some gamers may say that games shouldn’t be released until they’re finished and thoroughly checked like “in the good old days” but business is conducted differently now, for better or worse. The $40,000 required is likely why many developers only intermittently update their games, and why developers such as LightBox and Naughty Dog have to go out of their way to create an infrastructure that allows them to apply a hotfix to their game and bypass Sony’s quality assurance.
From the interview with Eurogamer, we learn that this deal isn’t exclusively for Dust 514 either and other developers will be able to take advantage of these new policies. This couldn’t come at a more opportune time. Recently we found out that Valve was dropping PC-vs-PS3 cross-platform support on Counter-Strike: Global Offensive because of the hurdles preventing them from updating the game as often and fast as they wanted. Instead of pushing updates through for the PC and PS3 at the same time, I’m assuming updates on the PS3 would have had to gone through Sony’s QA first, which takes up both time and money. Now I’m not sure if this news has changed Valve’s decision but it will definitely be enticing for other developers. Is it too late for me to ask for a legitimate version of Team Fortress 2 on the console? Hats for all??
In another Eurogamer interview, we learn that these new policies also stretch across the PlayStation brand, covering the PS3, Vita and PS Suite. Sony is attempting to attract developers away from the more open networks of Steam and mobile markets. They’re taking a more hands-off approach with developers allowing them to have greater control over their games. We have already seen how horribly PS Minis have failed so these new policies should help to make the Vita in particular even more competitive. This may be speculation on my part but we could see developers selling games at the prices they want, instead of the tiered system Sony seems to use, and decide when they want their game to go on sale. This could also be another strong push to get developers to start thinking about bringing their next ideas to the eventual PlayStation 4.
Now I’m sure it won’t all be clear sailing. If developers are free to update their games as much as they want, I’m sure we can expect more than a few patches that cause gameplay to become unbalanced or even completely broken. On the other hand, it also lifts any excuses that developers may have such as Zipper when it comes to balancing their goddamn MAG maps in a reasonable amount of time or EA fixing voice-chat in most of their new releases. There’s more pressure, but also more opportunity, for developers to provide us with the best possible game. Hell this may be a naive thought but we may even start to see the occasional added content for free again. Hello Burnout motorbikes!!
These new policies should provide us with some exciting news come E3. Can we expect some more MMOs on the PS3 now that there’s an environment that should allow them to succeed? Will indie developers see the Vita as a legitimate platform for their brainchild? Is it too late for Sony to challenge Apple in the tablet market? The lead-up to the conference should definitely be eventful.