The creator of indie hit Braid admits that the idea of working with Microsoft on its new Xbox console fills him with “a certain amount of dread”.
Jonathan Blow’s experiences with PS4, on the other hand, have been overwhelmingly positive. That’s why his next game, The Witness, is scheduled to be a timed PS4 exclusive.
“I think Sony realise that downloadable games are going to be bigger than they ever have been, and I think they realise that part of success in that area is having developers who are making the most interesting games want to be on their platform,” Blow told Edge.
But Sony’s praiseworthy strategy isn’t the only reason for his decision. Concerns about Microsoft’s next-gen plans and, indeed, the mystery that still surrounds the machine, also played a part.
“There were a lot of reasons why it was a good choice,” he continued. “Some were technical – we haven’t officially been disclosed on Microsoft’s next console, but we do see the same leaks as everyone else has, and they seem plausible.
“To me they talk about a console that is not strictly about games. It’s trying to be the centre of the living room device, which is fine and maybe it’s the right thing for Microsoft to do, business-wise. I don’t know; I actually don’t think it is, but they’ve certainly thought about it more than me!
“As a place to put the best, highest performing version of our game on, it doesn’t seem as good a choice.”
Then of course there are the issues that Blow faced personally with his hit release Braid, which appeared first on Xbox Live.
“I’ve had a bad time working with Microsoft in the past,” he admitted. “Maybe not super bad, but a moderately bad time in terms of business relationships. Other developers who are friends of mine have had a horrible time, so the idea of signing up again with Microsoft isn’t something I’d have ruled out, but there’s a certain amount of dread I have about doing that again.
“I don’t have that with Sony. Who knows, maybe it’ll turn out to be just as bad at the end! But I don’t think so. The people we’re talking to on a daily basis there are just really good people, and we’re happy to work with them.”
Writing on his blog, Blow also revealed that he was not paid for PS4 exclusivity, but instead felt a single-platform launch was strategically prudent.
“Because we are a small developer, we only have the ability to launch on a small number of platforms at once,” he explained. “We liked the idea of being on a console, and originally we thought we might be on the PS3 or Xbox 360, but eventually we decided not to target either of those, due to the relatively low system specs and the work required to do the ports.
“After some more time went by, and our release date drifted further into the future, we realized that the next-generation console launch time might be a good time to release the game.”
None of which is to say that an Xbox 720 release has been ruled out. Far from it.
“Our deal with Sony is a limited-time exclusivity that applies to competing console platforms,” Blow said. “Basically it is that you will see the game on the PlayStation 4 for a while before you will see it on the Wii U or the rumoured next Microsoft console. This exclusivity does not prevent us from being on the PC or iOS at launch, for example.
“To launch a high-spec version of the game on a console, it came down to a choice between the next Microsoft console or the next Sony console. There were people at Sony who really liked the game and were keeping in touch with us about it, and so we naturally started going to their PS4 developer events, got a dev kit, and started playing with it.
“I don’t have good communication with anyone at Microsoft right now, but all our technical people like the PS4 specs a lot more than the leaked Durango specs, and we like the positioning of the PS4 (it’s about games) more than what we perceive Microsoft’s positioning is going to be.
“So we just found ourselves doing a PS4 port. And once we are doing that, it is not practical for us also to think about another console port. We were going to be a de facto console exclusive for Sony no matter what. As I mentioned, there are people at Sony who are very interested in The Witness, so they somehow percolated up through the ranks the idea of showing the game in the launch show.”