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Meet Sony’s indie man, Shahid Ahmad

Wednesday, 11 September 2013 14:54 GMT By Johnny Cullen

Sony’s ongoing indie push has been spurred on by the enthusiasm of one particular person, Shahid Ahmad. Johnny Cullen talks to the man who’s championed some of the best indie titles on PlayStation.

It’s quite amazing how Shahid Ahmad became something of a minor internet celebrity overnight. The head of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe’s strategic content management team – and also developer of Chimera 2 in his spare time – is one of the most hard-driven, passionate people to be seen in the industry. He’s a one-man army on Twitter, tweeting about life within and outside PlayStation. An open book, if you will.

But more than anything, he’s enthusiastic in his passion to bring the best games made by independent talent from Europe to PlayStation platforms, from Thomas Was Alone’s Mike Bithell to Vlambeer and thensome. He’s that passionate about his work, he sometimes doesn’t end up leaving SCEE’s Soho HQ until near ten or 11pm at night, but that’s not an issue for him considering. In his words, he has “the best job in video games today.”

“I work for great management, with a great team. I’m regularly high-fiving Lorenzo [Grimaldi, production manager] and Spencer [Low, producer], easily twice a week,” Ahmad says. “We work our socks off. Facebook? Forget it. We’re jumping from machine to machine, phone to Skype, Twitter to meeting, visit to build test, review to presentation, strategy planning to one-on-ones, email to email to email to email to … there is rarely an average day. We shoot for excellent and are barely satisfied with “above average”.

Ahmad’s rise to fame has been amazing to behold, but it’s not a massive surprise. He’s now become a mouthpiece for all things PlayStation worldwide on Twitter, regularly interacting with PlayStation fans on all things related. The way he communicates with the fan base hasn’t changed dramatically, but he still admits it’s all down to having “real dialogue” with the fans he’s talking to.

“There are three types of people. There are those who like you, those who hate you and those who are indifferent. Most people are indifferent, and the people who don’t like you will rarely change their minds. So long as you’re genuine with the people you get on with, your collective enthusiasm is bound to rub off on some of those who were initially indifferent. So in that sense, the group of people I get on with are really important.”

Ahmad now shares his face-fronting status of PlayStation with the likes of SCE World Wide Studios boss Shuhei Yoshida, US WWS boss Scott Rhode, SCEA execs Adam Boyes, Shane Bettenhausen and Nick Suttner. With his newfound fame, Ahmad has been become a kind of news figure, teasing numerous nuggets of news that end up on NeoGAF within minutes of becoming public knowledge. He’s aware of running the GAF gauntlet, so to speak, but is in fact pretty full of love for the forum.

“The double-edged sword is not something I worry about,” he mused. “All actions have a consequence. So long as we are true to our values, the right actions for us should follow. There is no point in getting too caught up in how those actions will be interpreted or you’d be paralysed.”

He continued, “Things are going to end up on GAF and they won’t always be the things you thought they’d pick up on. You know, GAF is pretty incredible. Yes, they can give you a hard time and sometimes you feel that some of that is undeserved because the full picture isn’t available, but to think there are people out there who really care about this stuff is pretty amazing, pretty humbling. Also, they once changed a thread title because I asked nicely. That’s just class. I’ve never known that to happen.

“So the way to handle the scrutiny and attention is to be genuine, passionate, focussed and to remain true to our values.”

Ahmad’s main focus in his role as head of SCEE’s strategic content is bringing the best independent games to PlayStation Vita. For a device that launched a year-and-a-half ago as the next “Swiss Army knife of handheld gaming”, its now gaining more of a cult status for attracting some amazing indie games.

The likes of Thomas Was Alone, Retro City Rampage and Hotline Miami are just a few examples of strong indie content on the format, along with the likes of Flower, The Walking Dead and Hohokum among other games on the way. Despite setting out to be a AAA device, Vita’s evolution as a more of an indie handheld “seemed obvious,” according to Ahmad.

“Playing PC or Mac indie games is very much a lean-forward experience that creates an air of intimacy,” he says. “Vita is also intimate, but with headphones and that stunning screen and perfect array of real controls, it seemed even more suited to that type of indie game.

“We just knew that it could come alive with some of those brilliant games and we wanted indie developers to realise that the Vita could be a natural home for the kind of experience they wanted to create, so we set about inviting them. ”

More so, the indie revolution that has been building and building over the past few years can help – Ahmad believes – “lead” Vita on to “bigger and better things.”

Ahmad noted, “What were good, creative games called before we used the label ‘indie’? The only difference now is that there is digital distribution. You can get all kinds of game in this space, from really simple 2D games to pretty big 3D games. We’re not talking about indie on the one hand, and AAA on the other – it’s not either/or, but a continuum of form. A game is a game and I’m sure we’ll see a growing catalogue of excellent games spanning many genres and encompassing all kinds of scope on the Vita.”

”I think there will be a far greater number of indie games on the PS4 than there were on the PS3. The PS4 is easier to program and much more powerful. For many indie devs used to a PC, the PS4 will seem like a supercharged version of what they’re used to. I can’t wait to see what they make of the PS4, and what they make for it.”

But while Vita is his ‘baby’, so to speak, the groundwork is being laid on bringing the best indie games to PlayStation 4, including the absolutely beautiful-looking Hohokum. Outside of SCE, self-published titles like Oddworld: New ‘N’ Tasty, Don’t Starve and Octodad – already a cult-classic on PC – are either exclusive or coming first to PlayStation 4 for their console debut. Though the focus for the strategic content management team for the next while will actually be for Vita, Ahmad is “massively excited” by the possibilities for indie PS4 titles.

“I’ve never been more excited about the launch of a piece of hardware,” he stated. “It’s so spectacular, so well thought out, so powerful, that I want to make games for it myself. The next best thing to making games for it is to work with people far better than me who can and will make great games for it.”

He went on,”I think there will be a far greater number of indie games on the PS4 than there were on the PS3. The PS4 is easier to program and much more powerful. For many indie devs used to a PC, the PS4 will seem like a supercharged version of what they’re used to. I can’t wait to see what they make of the PS4, and what they make for it.”

When I made note of the indie revolution earlier, it was a revolution that was unthinkable – on consoles at least – when PlayStation 3 launched across Europe in March 2007. But six years on from the system’s release on the continent, the independent games development movement is no longer a footnote to the AAA titans but rather a main pillar for the industry and could even go as far as deciding who could win the impending console generation.

After all, look at the success of Journey and The Walking Dead last year, to name two, and you have an idea that indies are now starting to take centre stage. But there’s still room for the two – AAA and indies – to coexist.

“We’re certainly a lot further along as an industry than we were in 2007 down the road towards digital distribution,” says Ahmad. “There will continue to be room for all kinds of games.

“What makes the industry really ready is that we are adopting digital distribution and digital service at the core of everything we do. It’s not just about delivering bits to players. Now we see players create and share, and new bits are coming back to the creators.

“So the next generation is going to have this new connected world feature more prominently. But I think we will continue to see traditional AAA games and disc-based games continue for a while yet.

“People still buy DVDs, CDs and even vinyl.”

Shahid Ahmad is head of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe’s strategic content management team.

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15 Comments

  1. Biscuitpants

    JOHNNY YOU SXC BEAST WHERE YOU BEEN?

    #1 2 years ago
  2. AngryConsumer

    sonys indie man rocks and totally gets it. the idiots over at redwood dont.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. pcbros

    Fanboys are idiots… no matter their “nationality”.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. VibraniumSpork

    An excellent article, props Johnny! Shahid sounds like exactly the kind of guy you want in that position; open-minded, notes and promotes great games no matter their size and scale and – above all – deeply passionate about the industry he’s in and people he’s putting together the product for.

    I think in terms of his effect on me personally, it has to be what he’s done for the Vita. I bought mine a while ago and after running through the big exclusives and ports it did sit unused for a little while…then came the deluge of great indie games, many of them free or discounted through PS+. Since then it’s never been very far from my hands or a charging port. That screen and those controls just seem to fit ‘Indie’ games perfectly, and it just seems so obvious since he’s done it that I can’t believe Sony never thought of that benefit before.

    Can’t wait to see the same level of quality brought to bear against the PS4!

    #4 2 years ago
  5. Animeboy413

    I Love Johnny Shahid

    #5 2 years ago
  6. GrimRita

    Although I dont have a console, this is a smart move from Sony. Indie WILL drive forward game development for original new IPS without having to fork out expensive publishing deals thanks to the likes of Kickstarter etc.

    For too long now, publishers have driven gamers down a narrow street churning out the same generic shit year after year but it’s time for them to make way for the Indie.

    I will certainly be looking at how a game I am working on can translate to PS4 after I conquer doing it on a mobile platform!

    #6 2 years ago
  7. Toastrules

    Tell us about the hamsters.

    https://twitter.com/shahidkamal/status/377834030496227328

    #7 2 years ago
  8. Gheritt White

    YAAAAAAAY, JOHNNY!!!!!!

    OMG.

    Need new pants.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. Javinator

    Whoopy. More indie game news…
    PS4 should change it’s name
    to “Sony Ouya”

    #9 2 years ago
  10. II-WAR-STEINER-II

    Javinator are to be eaten up with envy?

    MS has died you know?

    So believe in Sony makes.believe

    #10 2 years ago
  11. Sini

    Fuck indies, they won’t make anyone buy a vita, I can play em all for a LOT cheaper on pc. That guy completely doesn’t get it, and whole year we haven’t seen anything exclusive announced from AAA corner except freedom wars.

    #11 2 years ago
  12. diego-rbb-93

    PLEASE CULLEN, WHY JUST CANT ASK THIS GUY IF “PS2 CLASSICS” GAMES WILL MAKE SOME DAY THEIR WAY TO VITA.

    I asked this guy in Twitter and he didnt give a fu^k.

    Please Cullen, just ask!

    :(

    #12 2 years ago
  13. redwood

    @12 I bet that’s a tough as nails things to do, I mean porting those to vita is probably a bitch. Maybe sony’s own games might make it to vita, but with stuff that is from other publishers (ea, capcom) it’s really up to the publisher, cause it’s their IP. Sony can, at most, ask them.

    #13 2 years ago
  14. psxman

    @1 He’s been freelancing for over a year. Don’t you follow him on the tweeters?

    #14 2 years ago
  15. Biscuitpants

    @14 i dont have twitter, always wondered where he went though, always enjoyed reading his stuff

    #15 2 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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    With Final Fantasy 15, Rise of the Tomb Raider and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided on the horizon, it should come as no surprise to learn that Square Enix will be hosting a dedicated E3 2015 conference this year. The presentation will take place Tuesday, June 16 at 9am PDT/12pm EDT/5pm UK. It will be broadcast […]

  • Final Fantasy 4: The After Years 3D remake releasing on Steam next month

    Final Fantasy 4: The After Years has been given a makeover and will be released on Steam of PC next month. You can now pre-order it on Steam and take 10% off for the time being. The game will be released on the digital service May 12 and will include trading cards and achievements. Thanks, […]

  • This Project Cars video shows off the racer’s multiplayer

    Project Cars developer Slightly Mad has released a new video giving you a look at the game’s multiplayer. The game is out next month, and if you would like to refresh yourself on the tracks included,  give this a look. While you are clicking links, here’s the minimum and recommended PC specifications which dropped last […]

  • Looks like Logitech is getting out of OEM mouse production business [Clarification]

    Logitech will no longer produce “low-end” mice, citing a decline in PC accessories. This story has been updated to include a clarification. According to a Reuters report, per MCV, the firm will instead focus on video accessories and streaming music, as its wireless Bluetooth speakers are now its best-selling product rage. This will help offset […]

  • Win! We have 1,000 Heroes of the Storm beta keys to give away

    Must have more MOBA? Win one of our 1,000 Heroes of the Storm beta keys and see if you’re more Blizzard than LoL. Can’t wait for June 2? Of course you can’t. We have 1,000 closed beta keys for Heroes of the Storm to give away this week, allowing you access before Blizzard’s MOBA goes […]

  • Xenoblade Chronicles X Nintendo Direct airs tomorrow, April 24

    A Nintendo Direct devoted entirely to Xenoblade Chronicles X will air this Friday, April 24. The video showcase will start at 11am PDT/2pm EDT/7pm UK. After the showcase, a new Nintendo Treehouse: Live presentation featuring the game will air. This is the second Xenoblace Chronicles X Nintendo Direct, but the first in English. The first […]

  • Blizzard will have 500 game stations set up at gamescom 2015

    Blizzard is heading to gamescom 2015 in August and it will have 500 game stations set up for attendees to get their hands on five of its titles. The developer will be set up in Hall 7 and those who stop by will be able to get hands-on with the latest content for Heroes of […]

  • PS4 price cut to £299 in UK

    Sony has dropped the price of the PS4 in the UK. For a limited time only, you can grab the console for £299.99 from Argos, Game, Tesco and Very. Go to Amazon.co.uk and you’ll get it for £289. You’ve only got until April 28, then it goes back up to £349. Go, go, go. For […]

  • Mad Max: first ever gameplay footage revealed

    Today, we get to finally take our first look at gameplay from Mad Max. Avalanche and Warner Bros. have shown off the first gameplay trailer for Mad Max today. The trailer below offers a look at melee combat, car combat, customisation and much more. Give it a watch below: There are a few new screenshots […]

  • Overlord: Fellowship of Evil has four-player co-op like we figured

    Codemasters has pulled the veil back on the next Overlord game, and its a four-player co-op game called Overlord: Fellowship of Evil. Rhianna Pratchett is back to write the story. The game may be co-op at its core, but it can still be played single-player. Each of the four playable character have strengths and weaknesses, […]

  • Update now available for Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, Pokemon X and Y

    Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire along with Pokemon X and Y are being updated by Nintendo to fix a few bugs and in-game text. There’s also the possibility of a few hacks and exploits being fixed. Per Nintendo Life (via Serebii), both patches are 250-270 blocks in size, and it’s a mandatory update which […]

  • Side-scrolling cover shooter Not a Hero gets a demo

    Not a Hero, the upcoming game from OlliOlli developer Roll7, has received a demo. The demo for Not a Hero was made available today on Steam. In the game, you play as Steve, the campaign manager for BunnyLord. A time-travelling rabbit who’s running for mayor of London. Think this is an absurd premise? This trailer […]

  • You have until April 30 to export your Green Day: Rock Band tracks to Rock Band 3

    Harmonix has announced that those looking to export their song collection from Green Day: Rock Band into Rock Band 3 can only do so until the end of the month. April 30 will be the cutoff date for anyone who wants to export tracks from Green Day: Rock Band into their Rock Band 3 library, […]

  • Batman: Arkham Knight minimum, recommended, and ultra PC specs revealed

    Batman: Arkham Knight is looking like it’s going to be quite a taxing game. Nvidia has released a list of the minimum, recommended, and ultra PC requirements for Batman: Arkham Knight. Here’s the full thing: Minimum OS: Win 7 SP1, Win 8.1 (64-bit Operating System Required) Processor: Intel Core i5-750, 2.67 GHz | AMD Phenom […]

  • Bloodborne patch 1.03 is live, reduces loading times, fixes suspend/resume bugs, more

    Patch 1.03 is now live for Bloodborne. The patch reduces loading times, adds item descriptions to loading screens, and fixes other various bugs. From Software has pushed update 1.03 live to all Bloodborne owners. As promised, it reduces loading times by approximately 5 to 15 seconds. Another new addition is showing item descriptions instead of […]

  • Battlefield 4: first look at Community Map in action

    Get your first look at the map designed by the community of Battlefield 4. Battlefield 4′s community-designed map is a reality. DICE has recently updated CTE to include an early version of the map. It’s not fully textured as Westie is about to show you, but the layout is nearly finalised. Westie goes over the […]

  • Microsoft apologises for uploading misleading Witcher 3: Wild Hunt footage

    Xbox’s YouTube channel uploaded a video of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt yesterday that was captured from the PC build. The most recent gameplay video for the The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt appeared on the Xbox YouTube channel and showed a quest from the game’s opening section. A few minutes after it had gone live, […]

  • Assassin’s Creed creator’s new game is Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey

    Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey is the game Assassin’s Creed creator Patrice Desilets has been working on. Patrice Desilets has just announced that the next game his indie studio Panache Digital Games is making is called Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey. The announcement comes from Desilets’s keynote at the Reboot Develop event in Croatia. The trailer started […]

  • Bloodborne: Cathedral Ward closed door mystery solved

    The mystery of the locked door at the bottom of the Cathedral Ward in Bloodborne has been solved. Bloodborne, like earlier From Software games, is filled with doors that don’t open the first time you try them. Some will give you “locked” messages, others “does not open from this side”. Some of these will open […]

  • Assassin’s Creed creator Patrice Desilets is revealing his next game now [UPDATE: ended]

    Patrice Desilets, one of the original creators of Assassin’s Creed is hosting a presentation where he’s expected to talk about his next project. Patrice Desilets has emerged once again. This time he’s attending development conference in Croatia. Desilets is giving a live keynote and there’s a good chance we’re going to hear about his next […]

  • Destiny House of Wolves: everything you need to know about gear upgrades & The Reef

    Bungie revealed plenty of important details in last night’s Destiny stream. Let’s go over everything. Alex wants to make sure you don’t miss any of the information revealed yesterday. Most of it affects all Destiny players too, even those who don’t intend on buying House of Wolves. During the first stream, Bungie explained the armour […]

  • Mod-friendly Galactic Civilizations 3 will leave Steam Early Access in May

    Galactic Civilizations 3 will leave Steam Early Access next month for a full release, Stardok has announced. The developer called the game the “largest and most diverse strategy sandbox to date,” as players have a variety of tools such as diplomatic treaties to resource exchanges, and United Planets resolutions to hundreds of research directions for […]

  • Ys 6: The Ark of Napishtim is out next week on PC – here’s the pre-order trailer

    Ys 6: The Ark of Napishtim will be released next week on PC, and today, we have a pre-order trailer for you. The game will be made available on April 28 for $19.99/€17.99/£13.99 on GOG, the Humble Store and Steam. Along with improvements over the original PSP version, it will contain less backtracking, controller support […]

  • Destiny: House of Wolves – full gear set up to level 34 in PvP and PvE, upgrades, more

    The Destiny: House of Wolves livestream this afternoon was chock full of information. Read onward for our full report. According to Bungie, Petra Venj, who serves the Queen, is the main story agent who leads the player through the main series of quests. Players who complete bounties will be able to level up in her […]

  • Destiny: House of Wolves – watch the livestream right here

    Bungie will host a Destiny: House of Wolves livestream at 2pm EDT today, and you can watch it right here. Watch live video from Bungie on www.twitch.tv The stream will introduce the new social space, The Reef, as well as gear upgrade paths. House of Wolves contains new Strike missions, The Prison of Elders three-player […]

  • FIFA Ultimate Team: week of April 22 team includes Barcelona, Chelsea players

    This week’s FIFA 15 Team of the Week is now available for FIFA Ultimate Team players. Each team member, as with previous weeks, is selected base on the previous weekend’s matches. Here’s the list of players now available: Starting GK: Claudio Bravo – FC Barcelona (Spain) CB: Leonardo Bonucci – Juventus (Italy) CB: Ömer Toprak […]

  • Sony’s Spring Fever Sale winds down with Shovel Knight and Call of Duty discounts

    It’s the final week of Sony’s Spring Fever Sale which means more games have been added to the mix. Shovel Knight, which launches today is one offer, and the rest are all Cal of Duty titles. The Taken movie series is on sale as well. With Shovel Knight available today on PlayStation 3, PS4 and […]

  • Drivers for Xbox controllers, voice messages, more features available in Xbox One preview

    Microsoft has announced new features coming to Xbox One and the Xbox App on Windows 10 through the preview program this month. Some of the new features have been requested by the community for both Xbox One and Xbox One SmartGlass. Here’s what to expect, straight from the horse’s mouth: Xbox on Windows 10 Game […]

  • Total War: Warhammer has been announced for PC, Mac, SteamOS

    Total War: Warhammer has been announced after previous teases from The Creative Assembly touched upon it. The game will contain “gigantic monsters, flying creatures, legendary heroes and storms of magical power.” It is also the first in a trilogy which includes two additional standalone titles and extra content packs. It will feature thousands of warriors […]

  • This video for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt features a quest from the prologue

    A new video for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has been released, showing off the Precious Cargo quest contained in the game’s prologue. The quest tasks Geralt with helping a merchant retrieve a mysterious box from the swamps. The scene looks familiar, but we’ve seen so many videos for the game it’s hard to tell […]

  • Limited public beta for The Elder Scrolls Online kicks off tomorrow on consoles

    The limited public beta for The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited will launch on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One tomorrow, and Sony has provided details on the tester for those who’ve been invited to participate. The beta test contains the full version of the game and will run from April 23-27, and will start and […]

  • Dying Light debuts in second place on Media Create charts

    Techland’s Dying Light made its debut in Japan lats week, coming in a respectable second place behind Nintendo’s Girls Mode 3: Kirakira Code. The zombie shooter sold 25,530 units on PlayStation 4, while the top earner for the week moved a little over 55,000 units on 3DS. Another western release when landed on the chart, […]

  • Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven will release in the west this June

    Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven has been given a release date by XSEED Games, which announced the localization back in February. The title will launch for 3DS in North America on June 2 digitally and through retail. It will be an eShop only title in Europe and Australia when it releases on June 4. A […]

  • This Overlord video teases four new faces of evil

    A new Overlord game is in the works, going by the previous teasing and this video – which teases the possibility of four-payer co-op. Or just four characters to choose from. We don’t know just yet – all we know is the team is asking you to “join the fellowship.” A new entry in the […]

  • GTA movie will star Daniel Radcliffe as Rockstar’s Sam Houser, the BBC confirms

    The GTA movie Game Changer will star Daniel Radcliffe as Rockstar co-founder and president Sam Houser, theBBC has confirmed. The BBC also confirmed Bill Paxton will play Jack Thompson, a role Paxton already confirmed last week when speaking with Deadline. Here’s the synopsis per the BBC: “Conceived for an adult audience, this special 90-minute drama […]

  • Take a look at Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold’s Classic Mode

    Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold’s Classic Mode has received a trailer today. Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold will come with two modes, Classic and Story. Classic Mode was trailered today and in it, you’ll get to make your party by choosing from 13 classes. You’ll be able to customise them too using the character creation tool. Revamped […]

  • Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows to come with new challenge mode

    Shovel Knight’s upcoming expansion Plague of Shadows will bring with it a new challenge mode. Shovel Knight developer Yacht Club Games has revealed the challenge mode, one of the new additions coming to the game with the free Plague of Shadows expansion. “Are you more into digging than distillation? Already have your Feats book long […]

  • Nvidia releases complete graphical guide for GTA 5

    Those with GeForce cards will be happy to know that Nvidia has released a comprehensive graphical tweaks guide for GTA 5. Nvidia usually produces graphical guides for the big AAA games, and GTA 5 is no different. Their guides offer in-depth coverage of each in-game setting, how much they affect framerate, if they can be […]