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Interview: Investing $20 Million On Indie PSN Exclusives

PSN marketing director Brandon Stander talks to Gamasutra about Sony's recently announced efforts to invest $20 million into attracting indie developers to put their games exclusively on Sony's platform
Sony's recently announced three-year, $20 million effort to get more exclusive titles on PSN is all about helping to empower indie developers on the platform. But PSN director of marketing Brandon Stander has a little quibble the image such wording might conjure up. "I wouldn't even say it's an indie play per se, because I think indie has connotations of it has to be really wild and different and small and edgy and only for those that understand the nuances of the industry and a little esoteric," he told Gamasutra in a recent interview. "I don't think that's necessarily what we're going for. I think it's more along the lines of 'Hey, we as a company really value imagination in our products and having creatively differentiated experiences to offer our consumers.'" Stander said Sony is looking for a specific type of innovation for funded projects, titles that "bring something new to the market, whether via a gameplay mechanic or design and aesthetic or storyline. There's some innovative or interesting thread that continues through all the properties we invest in for the larger portfolio." Sony's evaluation group will be seeking out such projects through events, local groups, word of mouth and the Playstation-edu program run through colleges and universities, he said. Stander wouldn't discuss specifics of revenue sharing or exclusivity terms for funded projects, though he did clarify that projects are not exclusive to Sony in perpetuity. Developers in the program will have control of their own IP and game pricing, Stander said, and receive benefits like marketing help and help "formulating and structuring some of the creative vision" from Sony's internal teams as well. Those internal teams will still be creating titles for PSN as well, of course, and Stander emphasized that funding external developers didn't diminish that commitment. "You have your big established companies, you have your big established franchises, and people know and love these franchises. … I think that there will be continued demand for the next big idea, I think it's putting the stake in the sand that we're committed to this and in investing the resources to go after it, in addition to the great established franchises we have in a larger scale." That said, Stander says there are benefits from funding developers from afar rather than bringing them in to the first-party fold in one fell swoop. "There's something to be said from the standpoint of partnering in kind of an entrepreneurial setting and giving these independent individuals and creators that level of autonomy and separation from the larger organization in sort of a seed funding model, rather than having all the administrative requirements that come from being a larger organization," he said. "There's definitely opportunities for both and it's just a matter of which one works for the individual creator, and we like to service both models." While some indie developers might be wary limiting the potential reach on their project to just Sony platforms, Stander pointed out that exclusivity meant developers could focus on features like PlayStation Move, stereoscopic 3D and PSN's network of 77 million registered users. "It's a huge rabid audience so there's tremendous opportunity focusing on PSN and the advantages of the PlayStation platform," he said. "When you focus on what innovation you can bring with these platform advantages, I think that in a lot of ways enables creativity, and I think in a lot of ways that's empowering."

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