Sony begins courting indie devs again as PlayStation 5 approaches

Sony Interactive Entertainment appointed a new head of its PlayStation Worldwide Studios today. Of course, that’s Sony veteran Shuhei Yoshida’s old job. But while Yoshida vacated that position in 2016, he’s still at the company. And now, he has a new responsibility as the head of an initiative to support independent developers on PlayStation platforms.

“I am thrilled to announce Shu Yoshida as head of this new initiative,” SIE president and chief executive Jim Ryan said in a statement. “Everybody knows just how passionate Shu is about independent games – they are the lifeblood of the industry, making our content portfolio so special for our gamers. These wildly creative experiences deserve focus and a champion like Shu at PlayStation. [He] will ensure the entire SIE organization works together to better engage with independent developers through a culture of supporting and celebrating their contributions to PlayStation platforms.”

This means that Yoshida is leaving Worldwide Studios. Now, he reports directly to Ryan as the leader of this new group. As PlayStation indie ambassador, he will build relationships with smaller studios around the globe. Yoshida will also work to ensure that those teams have the tools and technology that they need.

Shuhei Yoshida may rebuild Sony’s relationships with indie developers in time for PS5

Yoshida is one of Sony’s most beloved executives. And he already has a strong relationship with many indie developers around the world. Now, he can use that network to help bring unique content to Sony platforms.

The timing of this move is notable because it comes ahead of the PlayStation 5’s expected launch next fall. And the last time Sony made an effort to court indie studios was at the beginning of the PlayStation 4. When that console launched in 2013, Sony had few first-party games. Instead, the publisher turned to indies to help fill out its release schedule.

In recent years, however, PlayStation has deemphasized indies. Instead, the company is putting much more effort into talking about its own blockbuster releases. This has enabled Nintendo and Microsoft to swoop in and win over much of that community. For Nintendo, the Switch is an indie powerhouse. Smaller games regularly sell significantly better on Switch than PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. But for Microsoft, it has begun working to put many indie games into its Xbox Game Pass subscription service. Just this year, beloved hits like Outer Wilds, Void Bastards, and Lonely Mountain Downhill launched on that service.

While Sony is likely more prepared for PlayStation 5 in terms of first-party games, it probably still sees indie studios as crucial to the launch of that console. Sony may not want to launch too many of its own exclusives on PS5 in the first year. Instead, it may wait until the device has more of install base. In the meantime, Yoshida can help fill out those early month with the helps of indie devs from around the world.

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