Mike Bithell, the creator of indie title Thomas Was Alone, says that his game managed to generate significant sales after it was launched on the PlayStation-branded platforms and suggests that the importance of Steam for the genre is fading.
He is quoted by VG247 as saying that, “Thomas Was Alone gained an incredible amount of ‘mindspace’ or whatever pretentious bullshit term a marketer would use, because it was out on console. And I saw a ridiculous sales boost just because, the second people saw it was coming to PlayStation, it became a ‘real game for a lot of people.”
The developer believes that when a company that has so much gravitas as Sony chooses a game, it immediately gets a boost in terms of attention, which no longer happens on the Steam digital distribution service.
The issue might be that the Valve program is at the moment too inclusive and that means gamers no longer automatically become interested in the titles that are featured on its front page.
Bithell adds, “Steam meant something at one point, and being on Steam said something to players that allowed a lot of people with weird, esoteric games to get an audience. That’s going to be harder to find now. You’ll require more traditional marketing and talking to press.”
Valve has also been pushing many more titles through the Greenlight approval process, which might be a problem for small companies in the long term.
Gabe Newell, the leader of the company, has also suggested that he is interested in modifying Steam in order to allow each user to create his own storefront and promote and sell those titles that he sees as being important to his fellow gamers.
The creator of Thomas Was Alone believes that soon the digital distribution service could look like the App Store from Apple.
At the same time, Sony and Microsoft are making big strides when it comes to their support for indie games and that could lead to a long-term shift towards next-gen consoles in the coming years.
Mike Bithell is currently working on a title called Volume, which uses sound-based stealth mechanics and is connected to the Robin Hood mythology.
At the moment, the biggest indie success on home consoles is the Xbox 360 version of Minecraft, but the situation will probably change significantly in the coming year, especially if the sales pace for the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 remains unchanged.