PlayStation Network has a lot more indie games than you might expect. For example, Steam/iOS darling Cogs is available as a completely free-to-play multiplayer game on your PS3. The only thing is, it's hidden within the confines of PlayStation Home.
Gaming is a big push for Home, especially with its upcoming redesign. However, I had to ask Jack Buser, director of Sony's PS3 social network, why developers would even want to make content for Home in the first place. Wouldn't chasing PSN and the Pub Fund be the wiser choice? Buser told me that "A lot of developers start at Home" because "Home tends to be one of the easiest points of entry for content creation on PlayStation."
"Home is all scripting (LUA), and all the 3D stuff is being done in Maya. So it's super-easy," Buser explained. "You can have teams of literally one person. Usually team sizes vary between 5-10 people. You can create a full-on game the scope of Sodium in six months. That's just not possible in traditional console development."
And sure, approaching the broader PSN market would be more lucrative, the audience of Home is rather sizable. "We've had 23 million downloads of Home. It's a very active service, so the traffic is extremely high. And we just point that traffic to whatever game is featured at the time." At any given time, Home is promoting a game through multiple points of entry, including the What's New icon on the XMB. By clicking through, you'll be able to bypass most of Home's intimidating menus and go directly to game content. "We're a managed platform, we make sure that if you take the time to build a game on our platform, we tell people to go play that game."
The new Home
The business model is entirely different on Home, with most games opting for a "freemium" model that allows users to play for free, but augment the experience with add-ons. Buser calls development on Home "data-driven," where user feedback is implemented almost immediately, thanks to Home's weekly update schedule. "It's a model that's really common on the open internet, like Facebook games," Buser said. And the results? "You can see traffic and revenue increase over time."
Buser is confident that the Home team will continue to draw the attention of indies to the platform. "You're not writing any assembly, no C. So your cost of development is very low," he said. However, there's an even more lucrative opportunity: getting paid by Sony directly for content. "We do investments ourselves, strategically. If we see a developer with a game idea that we really want, we can invest in those games. We'll actually buy some games outright."
"We can go to a developer and say 'we need a first person shooter built,' we'll just pay them outright to do it." That may be how the ambitious free-to-play FPS Bootleggers found its way into Home. With the impending re-launch of Sony's evolving online community, it'll be interesting to see what other games it will play home to.