For many PlayStation fans, president Jim Ryan has become a pantomime villain. Despite working his way up the corporate ladder for decades and playing a major role in the brand’s European dominance, many attribute the firm’s more recent PR failings directly to the CEO – and recent comments on abortion rights in the United States have not helped improve his public image at all.
Despite all of this, it turns out that Ryan may actually have some good ideas. Speaking with Games Industry.biz, indies evangelist Shuhei Yoshida revealed that the president identified the platform holder’s overwhelming focus on AAA titles during 2018 and 2019, and tasked his team to do something about it. This resulted in a round of hires – and Yoshida changing roles – as the company looked to reinvigorate its relationship with indie developers, under Ryan’s directive.
“PlayStation was known for promoting lots of indie developers and indie games,” Yoshida said of the iconic early PS4 days, where the platform holder was the first to promote a selection of indie titles on its E3 traineeship. “But during 2018 and 2019 the company focused more on the AAA side, and Jim Ryan wanted to change it. He asked the global third-party relations team to come up with a plan to reinvigorate efforts as PlayStation to help indie publishers and indie developers.”
Yoshida would eventually change roles to spearhead the efforts, where he was joined by Double Fine’s Greg Rice, who’d effectively lost his job at the studio following Microsoft’s acquisition. The pair then presented their plans to upper-management to improve PlayStation’s standing among indies, and ultimately got the support from the company to execute their plans.
One thing that Yoshida and his team immediately implemented was the ability to curate the best content and showcase it to consumers. “There are so many indie games coming to PlayStation,” Yoshida observed, “that we needed to show consumers which games they needed to be looking at. Also, when developers make great games, we can make sure they’re being promoted.”
We’ve seen many examples of this on the PS Blog in recent years, where Sony will have regular “indie afternoons” dedicated to promoting the biggest and best content. We’d also argue that the platform holder has done a much better job in recent times of taste making the top content, with titles like Sifu and Stray becoming extremely popular this year alone – all thanks to targeted marketing from Yoshida’s team.
There’s still a long way to go, though. Yoshida admits that the company is still working to improve its tools to streamline the submission process, and ensure that all games are advertised adequately – including those not necessarily hand-picked by the manufacturer. With strong competition from both Nintendo and Microsoft, we’d argue that PlayStation is no longer the best place to play indies – but things have definitely improved from where they were at the tail-end of the PS4 generation, and we hope that Sony can continue to make strides to improve its standing in this all-important space.