Sony’s Shahid Ahmad: Indie games do sell consoles

The big three platform holders have been eagerly courting independent developers, each with their own experts doing the wooing.

But Sony’s Shahid Ahmad, heading up the Strategic Content team, is arguably the most public of these individuals. He has had a long career in the industry, going from bedroom coder in 1982 to working at Sony in 2005 via the likes of Virgin and Hasbro. And so far he and his team have been rather successful, bringing the likes of Hotline Miami, OlliOlli, Fez and Thomas Was Alone to Sony’s hardware.

These games have been particularly popular on the Vita. It seems somewhat paradoxical that a high-powered gadget such as the Vita has become the home of indie titles for Sony.

"The percentage of developers making money on
Vita is actually higher than on mobile."

– Shahid Ahmad, SCEE

It’s no secret that the Vita hasn’t had quite the sales impact we would have liked,” Ahmad admits.

That made it harder for some publishers to justify the cost of creating a triple-A game for the Vita, but that’s beginning to change. The platform very quickly become the go-to place for indie games and that’s down to a number of factors.

The Strategic Content team spoke with lots of indies about bringing games to Vita, and the community was receptive.

Indie games are also where creativity is most fertile. What we have is a playground for indies, where the percentage of those developers making money on Vita is actually higher than on mobile. That’s healthy, and we are delighted for our partners when we become a platform worthy of their successes.”

But while some argue that indie games are not a primary reason for buying a console, Ahmad says that this is simply not the case.

People buy systems to play good games. Good indie games are good games. Ergo, people are buying Vitas to play indie games,” he says.

I see evidence of this week in, week out, as more previously mainstream gamers, exposed to great indie games on the Vita, go ahead and buy one.

Many argue that a huge triple-A game could sell more systems. I wouldn’t disagree with that, but gamers are informed, curious and love new experiences, and for that reason, are seeking out the best indie games. These are on PlayStation. It began with the Vita and the movement is now in full force on the PS4.”

Ahmad also says that this focus on independent titles has helped to make Sony a more personable and affable company and shed its previously corporate public image.

He concludes: In the past, we might have been more a business-to-business corporation, but we’re much more person-to-person now.

We’re about healthy relationships. It helps that we don’t abstract those to the point where we’re just talking about two entities. With indie developers, the person you’re doing business with is generally the person who’ll be making the game. That makes the relationship very personal.”

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