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The Down-Side of So Many Games Platforms

November 26, 2011

I’d written before that now is a good time to be a content creator, based on the fact that there is a huge proliferation of platforms going on now.

Sadly, there is a down-side to this for us games developers. That comes from the understandable desire of the manufacturers of those platforms wanting exclusivity:

[Developer Brian] Provinciano’s contract [for Xbox] stipulates that Retro City Rampage must not appear on other platforms for a limited period of time. But some other platforms, which he refuses to divulge, are not covered by the clause. “If I really get screwed on the launch I can put it out on some other platforms immediately, because they aren’t covered in the contract,” he says with a glint in his eye.
Provinciano’s story will be familiar to most who have made or are making games for Microsoft’s hugely successful downloadable platform – and even to some who haven’t. Take Amanita Design, the Czech Republic maker of enchanting adventure games Samorost, Botanicula and Machinarium, a game due out on PS3 early next year.

“First we wanted to create an Xbox Live version of Machinarium,” Amanita boss Jakub Dvorský says. “Microsoft contacted us some time ago. They were interested and very nice. But after about half a year of negotiations, they told us they were not interested anymore because they decided they don’t want to support games which are not Microsoft exclusive. We had already released the game for Mac and Linux, so they said they were not interested anymore.”

Its a bind. As a developer, the more platforms that my game appears on, the more people can play it and the greater the chance I’m going to make my development costs back. This is important because making games is a very risky business. I can see why platform holders might want to tie developers into one platform, however IMHO carrot is much better than stick; the best way to give players a unique experience is by encouraging those developers to make the best use of the individual features of your platform and to build a fan base there.

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