Indie devs are complaining about difficulties succeeding in the PlayStation Store

Independent developers say the fees make it hard to succeed, but... that's how marketing works.

Living room with a Sony PlayStation 5 home video game console and DualSense controller alongside a t...
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A new report in Kotaku says that independent developers are frustrated over the process of publishing games in Sony’s PlayStation Store.

Several industry insiders aired their grievances on Twitter on Wednesday. One disgruntled developer, Neon Doctrine co-founder Iain Garner, referred to the company not by its name but as “Platform X.” But he also hinted that Platform X is a “very successful console [maker that] does not have Game Pass.” Kotaku, citing two sources, wrote that Platform X is Sony.

Opaque process — Besides charging a $25,000 fee to have titles promoted in the storefront, Garner says Sony provides little in the way of technical support and describes the process of publishing games to the PlayStation Store as “straight out of the early 00s.”

“Platform X gives developers no ability to manage their games,” he adds. “In order to get promotion you must jump through hoops, beg and plead for any level of promotion. And a blog is not as good as they think it is.” Publishing a game requires submitting accompanying trailers and blog posts, Garner says, but doing so requires speaking with an account manager, and it’s often unclear how to reach such a person.

Garner also says that Sony only allows developers to offer discounts on their games by invitation, and he doesn’t know the steps required to receive a discount. “It's been literal years since we could put a title of ours in discount, and I spoke to some other VERY POPULAR devs today and they had the same experience.”

It’s business, baby — On the one hand, charging developers $25,000 to get promoted in the PlayStation Store seems unfortunate since Sony stands to make a profit on both ends. At the same time, however, that’s really just how marketing works. Not every game can be promoted — the whole concept of being promoted is that you’re being pulled out of the noise and given special placement. Developers can either get word of mouth by making a good game or pay to advertise. Like everyone else in this hell world.

The other issues highlighted by Garner are things Sony should work on, and effectively boil down to a lack of consideration for developers trying to publish on its platform.

On top of the $25,000 optional fee for promotions, Sony takes a 30 percent of earnings on all sales in the PlayStation Store. Because players can only get their games through Sony’s storefront, it’s possible to liken this deal to the 30 percent cut that Apple takes in the iOS App Store, something that’s been heavily criticized of late. The difference between today’s consoles and the iPhone, however, is that console makers including Sony generally sell dedicated consoles at a loss with an expectation to make money from game sales. Apple makes a hefty profit on each iPhone it sells for general computing purposes.

Microsoft, like Sony, charges for promotions in its Xbox Store. 🤷