A couple of weeks ago, Ubisoft Toronto head Jade Raymond said she believes the rising development costs of AAA titles will stifle innovation.
"It's going to be 'I'm making the next Call of Duty or the Assassin's Creed, and I know it's going to make X amount, so we'll make money'," she said. I think, to an extent, this is already the case.
That's why I was so pleased this week when Sony's Gamescom conference went big on indie titles for the PS4 and PS Vita. It took the positive feedback from E3's indie showcase and ran with it. Good job.
The problem, however, is that this won't appeal to a lot of owners of Sony's handheld. There are still many PS Vita fans looking for the home console experience on the portable. It's not hard to see why: this a powerful piece of kit and seeing it used for less intensive purposes does make the hardware feel a bit wasted.
But it's time to face facts. Break down the numbers and most big developers just aren't going to take the risks involved with creating those big experience on the portable right now. Indie devs, however, have a gold mine at their fingertips.
Two analogue sticks, an OLED touchscreen, a rear touchpad, sixaxis motion sensing - there's a whole world for them to play with here, and more than enough horsepower to run it all.
I'd rather have a fully-formed indie experience than a half-hearted attempt to appease the mainstream games who have invested in a capable handheld. I don't want BioShock on my Vita. I think Bioshock on my Vita might actually suck.
So if the Vita becomes home of the indies and little else, that's completely fine by me. In fact, I think that's a pretty neat idea. Fighting mobile gaming is swimming against the tide, so grow alongside it instead. Turn the PS Vita into a smartphone without the phone.
This industry needs risk takers, and those risk takers need as many platforms as they can to reach gamers. Sony may not have intended for the Vita to be one of these platforms but that's sure as hell is what's happening, and now it just needs to keep capitalising on that. It's no bad thing.
Because eventually these indie games won't be called "indie games" anymore - they'll just be "games".
If you build it, they will come
The last time I picked up my Vita was to play through Hotline Miami and Thomas was Alone (both excellent, in case you haven't already checked them out). Before that, I think I've only truly enjoyed one major Vita title - Rayman Origins. For the remainder of our relationship it's sat in my bag untouched.
But there are still plenty of indie naysayers out there who need to see that this is where the interesting stuff is happening, as it gradually chips away at the behemoth blockbusters.
I recently visited an old friend who told me he'd become addicted to an indie game called Papers, Please. You might know of it. Basically, it involves you assuming the role of a border immigration officer in the fictional country of Arstotzka.
As people come through, you have to inspect their passports, documents and other various details to determine whether they're eligible for entry. As the game progresses you're faced with more difficult scenarios in which you have to use your judgement.
I laughed when he told me about it, especially when I found out it describes itself as "A Dystopian Document Thriller". As far as game ideas go, it was one of the weirdest I'd heard of. The idea of ever pitching that to a big game studio would seem insane. Can't see EA biting at it.
Then I went home and bought it. And I've been hooked since. Papers, Please may make it to the Vita, it may not. But I know that hundreds of equally-intriguing indie titles certainly will.
These are the games I'm excited about, and hopefully we'll be seeing just as many on the PS4 and Xbox One too. But the idea of taking Binding of Isaac and Hotline Miami 2 on the go fills me with geeky joy.
A lack of AAA titles won't kill the Vita if Sony can keep the indie engine running. And hey, maybe when the wheels of the Vita start turning a bit more we'll see the big developers pulled back to the handheld. But if they don't, big deal.
Jade Raymond was right – innovation can, and does, suffer at the top. And I fear we'll only see that more as the PS4 and Xbox One bring developers added power and more space for bigger blockbuster experiences.
As for the risk takers, they now have a new outlet on the Vita. Sony sees it. We can now see it. And I really hope that every indie developer out there right now sees it too. I couldn't be more glad to have that Vita in my bag.
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