PS4: how indie plugged the early days gap with resounding success

Tuesday, 14 January 2014 09:13 GMT By Patrick Garratt

Indie releases are keeping Patrick Garratt plugged into his PS4, despite his skepticism last year that smaller games wouldn’t be enough to lubricate the initial insertion of Sony’s next generation.

I keep switching my PS4 on, and it’s because of indie. I may have played some of this stuff before, but I don’t care. If I can have them again for my TV, I’m hardly going to say no.

I was skeptical of Sony’s sudden affinity to indie last year. As the PS4 promo roadshow rumbled on, the prominence given to smaller games on the bigger stages seemed forced to me, a cutesy smokescreen to cover the lack of launch triple-A. I wasn’t the only one throwing around the adage that one doesn’t spend £400 to play games you can buy on PC for the price of a few cups of coffee in any Steam sale.

As ever, I was partially wrong. Yesterday’s announcement of Outlast hitting PS4 in the February PS Plus line-up was one of the biggest stories of the day. Outlast is a great game (I played through the first few hours on PC before being distracted by whatever extraneous butterfly I’ve since forgotten), but Sony’s success with securing these indie console exclusives isn’t specifically about the nature of the content; it’s about games being released for the machine at all. How are all those new Xbox One titles working out for you?

Because it doesn’t matter if you’ve already played Outlast or Don’t Starve, the star of the January PS Plus roster. They’re new to PS4 and they’re “free,” so it means you turn on your console and download them and play for a bit (or a lot) and while you’re doing that you check all your notifications and play a bit of CoD because it’s there, and go back to AC4 and do a few more missions because why not? And there’s Zen Pinball 2. I know I bought God knows how many tables on 360 but so what. It’s free. And you’re using your PS4. Indie is keeping Sony’s next generation current in a time traditionally reserved for editorials moaning about a lack of content. No, they’re not the next Uncharted, but anyone complaining about there not being a triple-A game releasing every month for a console just after it’s launched probably isn’t that au fait with games in general. And you have a PS3, right? Maybe just settle for BioShock Infinite for now.

Sony’s need for cheap exclusives in the slow patch at the start of the PS4’s life was doomed to failure, so many of us thought, because of the likelihood of previous releases on PC, but the reality is that PS Plus is putting the likes of Don’t Starve and Outlast in front of an entirely new audience. I love PC games, but I never would have played Don’t Starve without its PS Plus release. On Steam it’s another indie game; on Plus it’s the indie game for the month and I can just press the button to try it. I’ve lost count of the impromptu streams I’ve seen popping up on social media as a result, feeds from journalists and gamers who’d never take to Twitch with a PC version. Looking further out, the games get bigger and newer: Transistor, Octodad and Abe’s Oddysee: New n’ Tasty soon. I can’t wait for the blockbusters, but turns out indie’s just as big a turn-on for the TV. Maybe all that marketese about breadth of content wasn’t bullshit after all.

I was half-wrong. You don’t drop £400 on a console to play Contrast, but it certainly helps ease the notes from your wallet if you get Contrast and Don’t Starve and Outlast and Resogun and Zen Pinball 2 and Blacklight and Warframe on top of your Plus sub, and flOw and Doki-Doki Universe and whatever else for a few quid. It’s plenty of extra stuff for very little extra money. I keep switching my PS4 on, and it’s because of indie. I may have played some of this stuff before, but I don’t care. If I can have them again for my TV, I’m hardly going to say no.