Mike Rose, founder of British publisher No More Robots, has just gone through his publisher’s first PS4 launch. The studio has mostly been publishing games on PC, Switch and the Xbox, but last week No More Robots finally published Nowhere ProphetÂ on the PS4, Xbox and Switch simultaneously. But despite the benefit of a simultaneous launch, this will probably be the last game the indie publisher pushes to release on Sony’s platform.
Nowhere ProphetÂ is the kind of game for those who like deckbuilders. Featuring a prophet roaming a desert in search of a mystical tomb,Â Nowhere ProphetÂ blends elements ofÂ Magic,Â Slay the SpireÂ andÂ FTLÂ with the followers joining you on your journey making up the “cards” in your deck.
According to Rose, Nowhere Prophet’s sales on the PS4 — not the Switch or Xbox which recouped their release costs “within hours” — are so bad, the publisher is questioning the value of publishing on the PS4 at all.
Finally had our first PS4 launch last week!— Mike Rose (@RaveofRavendale) August 3, 2020
If you're wondering whether smaller games sell on PS4 right now
Our opening weekend sales on PS4 were 5% of our Nintendo Switch opening weekend sales haha
aka we barely sold anything at all on PS4
Quite frankly, I doubt we'll put any more games on PS4 after this. I'd heard it was bad, but holy fuck, not even close to the sales we're achieving on Switch and Xbox— Mike Rose (@RaveofRavendale) August 3, 2020
It’s not the first time developers and publishers have talked about the Switch being better for indies. But that discussion doesn’t usually focus on the difficulties selling on the Sony platform. Rose added in a later tweet that Sony wouldn’t even allowÂ Nowhere ProphetÂ to have a launch discount, because “they’re too busy to be able to add such a thing right now”.
What’s interesting about the success on different platforms is that Nintendo didn’t feature or promoteÂ Nowhere ProphetÂ at all, while PlayStation (via a blog post) and Xbox did. I reached out to Rose for further comment, but didn’t hear back by the time of publication, likely due to the difference in the Australian and British timezones.
The Nowhere Prophet publisher’s experience speaks to the attach rates across each of the platforms. The Switch isn’t bogged down with Netflix, Twitch or other video sharing apps, so generally, whenever someone turns on or picks up their Switch, they’re looking to play — or buy — a game.
Putty Pals, an Aussie made game that was published across PC and the Switch, was a good example. The game sold more copies on Switch in a single day than it did “in the previous 8 months on Steam,” according to the developer’s studio director.
“[The] Switch has continued to dramatically outsell Steam since. The tail has been pretty similar to Steam in regards to relatively slow normal units sold with spikes during sales,” Joe Park, the director at Harmonious games, told Kotaku Australia.
The PlayStation or Xbox, on the other hand, are both consoles with much bigger ecosystems and use cases. They’re as much media servers as they are gaming devices. The impact of that means indies and newer games can often struggle to break through or get surfaced to users at all, unless they receive some direct promotion from Sony or Microsoft.
There’s an element of this that’s undeniably centred on the game, its marketing, and how well it reached the audience on the PS4. But the bigger question is to Sony and Microsoft, particularly as we head into the next generation consoles.
Both the Xbox and PS4 storefronts are in dire need of an overhaul, struggling to highlight smaller indies and new titles outside of AAA games with huge marketing budgets. Steam’s fought against this for years, relying on automated suggestions to users based on games their friends are playing, or games that might align with a users’ library. In recent times, Steam’s rolled out more AI-powered features via the Steam Labs.
Having a good storefront experience isn’t just a handy user feature — it’s good business. Not just for the platform holders, but for developers as well. No More Robots’ experience is indicative of the kinds of questions that Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo need to answer as their ecosystems mature even further.
As for No More Robots,Â Nowhere ProphetÂ won’t be their last title on the PS4 –Â Descenders, the downhill BMX game, will hit the console digitally and via a physical release later this month. But after that, the future is much less certain.