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PC players left behind by Dear Esther dev

Why PS4-exclusive Everybody's Gone to the Rapture isn't planned for other platforms, and why that's a good thing

Article by Brendan Sinclair, .

PC playing fans of Dear Esther got some bad news today, as Rock Paper Scissors confirmed that thechineseroom's next game, Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, is now a PlayStation 4 exclusive.

As the studio's Dan Pinchbeck told RPS, "So the thinking went like this: We don't have enough money or production expertise to make this game without help. We don't think we can raise enough through Kickstarter or public alpha to make this happen. We could do with production support on a game this scale. We've always wanted to make a console game. Publishers have bad reputations all too often. Hey, Sony Santa Monica are great though. We've met them a few times and really like them and their attitude. Also, PS4 is starting to look very cool as a platform. All eggs thrown into singular basket, Sony Santa Monica contacted, everybody likes each other, lots of love for the project. Long dark night of the soul mulling over implications of shifting across to console. Mix of pragmatism and excitement about the possibilities win out."

Some see Everybody's Gone to the Rapture's PS4 exclusivity as a betrayal of thechineseroom's PC fan base.

The news was met with a fair amount of anger from PC players, if the RPS comments section is anything to go by. One poster hopes the game fails, calling it a "complete betrayal in my books." Another criticizes their "indie spirit." Still another chalks it up as one more developer to boycott. While the posters displaying animosity are outnumbered by those merely expressing understandable disappointment, the general reaction is clearly an unhappy one.

While the studio has tweeted that the game could at some point come to PC, "it's not planned right now." It basically sounds like another one of those slightly gross timed exclusivity deals where the people involved aren't allowed to acknowledge the deal, right? But putting that speculation aside for a minute, looking at this as if the game will be a PS4 exclusive for an extended period of time, I'm all in favor of what thechineseroom is doing, specifically because so many of their fans disapprove.

Some people might have you believe that there's no difference between indies and AAA developers. Perhaps counterintuitively, thechineseroom hooking up with Sony for Everybody's Gone to the Rapture underscores exactly what the difference is. Independent developers can do what they think is right for their game. They can make whatever deals they need or work on whatever platform they want in order to realize their vision for a project. They can risk alienating their fans.

AAA developers can't do that. Once there's enough money riding on a project, and enough other people devoting their lives to its success, they become largely paralyzed by their own success. In order to make their scale of development profitable, they need to carry over as many of their previous fans as possible. And in most cases, the one thing guaranteed to appeal to the largest number of those fans will be more of the same thing they liked last time.

Independent developers can do what they think is right for their game. They can risk alienating their fans.

For an example on the grandest scale possible, look at Microsoft's Xbox One unveiling. The company clearly had a vision for a natively digital, constantly connected console. But people rejected that vision, and Microsoft has spent the time since dismantling the vision and bringing everything in line either with the status quo or the PS4. As hideous as we might have thought the original Xbox One vision was, we'll never know if it would have worked now. For all we know, it might have been another Steam, an idea that drew plenty of initial skepticism but in practice evolved into a beloved cornerstone of the industry.

I don't want to waste time debating definitions of AAA or indie, because they are both arbitrarily assigned labels. I'll just say that I want every developer to be independent in the sense that they are free to make what they want to make. I would rather trust them to make decisions on what the game should be and wind up being let down in the end than have them so afraid to alienate their fan bases that they wind up producing the same thing every time out.

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Comments 12

  • Avatar for Spazgadget #1 Spazgadget 3 years ago
    Boycotting a game because of what platform it releases on seems petty at best and childish at worst. thechinesroom's decision seems based on pragmatics rather than any personal decision to piss off PC players, so it seems silly to get emotional (or worse, aggressive) about where the game comes out.

    Sure, this is less of an issue for me because I'm generally a Playstation fan, but part of why I'm a fan of the platform is their willingness to invest in developers who, like thechineseroom, are exploring interesting and unusual gameplay ideas. I don't see any PC manufacturers shelling out money or production support to get games on the platform, so it's hard to fault these developers for their decision.
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  • Avatar for renatocosta90 #2 renatocosta90 3 years ago
    It IS rather disappointing, though. Their games have been consistent on the PC, and I guess that's where most of the fan base are playing right now, so it will drastically limit the reach the game will receive, since not all the players who digged Dear Esther will be on a sony platform early on (or at all).

    This disappointment stems from a bit of brand loyalty (or developer loyalty, I guess) and a sense of broken continuity. I wish all the success to thechineseroom, though I would definetely want to enjoy this game in my preferred platform, the PC.
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  • Avatar for HeroLite #3 HeroLite 3 years ago
    I am excited to see this title become a PS3 exclusive for now. It usually means that the team can optimize the hell out of the engine and really push the limits on what is possible with the gameplay. Look at Uncharted and Halo, they are top tier games for single platforms and everyone loves them.

    I imagine that there will be more people rallying behind Dear Esther than apposing them.
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  • Avatar for AxiomVerge #4 AxiomVerge 3 years ago
    I think you're completely right about AAA developers not being able to do what they like. To me the most disturbing example of this was how Bioware felt beholden to popular opinion on the Mass Effect 3 endings, to the point of having to release a patch for them. That wouldn't happen with, say, Braid. Back to thechineseroom, I'm certainly in favor of developers being able to do whatever they think is best. Particularly in this case, it sounds like the support Sony can offer them will be a big help to development.
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  • Avatar for weevilo #5 weevilo 3 years ago
    What I find most interesting is that Dear Esther is one of the games that has seemed to benefit most from Oculus Rift support, which as far as we know isn't coming to consoles. This seems to be a fairly similar type of exploration game that would likewise be primed for VR.

    Then we have the fact that very few if any indie games have ever become widely successful on the consoles without having come out first for the PC and gained widespread support. I suspect that's largely a result of a far less community driven indie scene on either console with a subsequent lack of promotion and discoverability. Whether Sony or MS will be able to foster such a community on their consoles seems doubtful, the current status quo takes very little marketing effort and dollars from them to reap good profits. As a result, I doubt this game is going to do very well; I think that not only are they risking antagonizing their original supporters from Dear Esther, but they risk losing all of the promotion and word of mouth that they lent to make the first game successful as well.
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  • Avatar for Bla1ne #6 Bla1ne 3 years ago
    As an (ex-)Insomniac fan, I can understand the PC audience's reaction to this. But there's a difference: thechineseroom said they didn't have the expertise needed to develop the game they wanted. So it was PS4, and Santa Monica, or nothing. If that's true, then anyone who's disappointed must be seriously immature. Better the game come out on PS4 than not at all.

    As a soon-to-be PS4 owner, the news that they were developing for that platform made me happy! Dear Esther is a game that interested me, but I don't play on PC.

    (Returning to Insomniac and their exclusive Xbox One game, I'm pissed because there's no technical reason it had to be on that console. Insomniac just abandoned their fanbase, probably for bags of cash.)Edited August 2013 by Bla1ne
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  • Avatar for chaosyoshimage #7 chaosyoshimage 3 years ago
    You know what I like? Unique content libraries. So happy to see another actual exclusive (At least for the time being) on one of the upcoming consoles. I hate how "console exclusive" now means "but also on PC".
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  • Avatar for aaronpinsley40 #8 aaronpinsley40 3 years ago
    @Bla1ne You've nailed it here: if Sony Santa Monica is "helping" with development (which they've done before for Journey and a few other Indie Fund titles) this isn't just a timed PS4 exclusive, it's a forever PS4 exclusive.
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  • Avatar for generiko #9 generiko 3 years ago
    @Bla1ne Insomiac said that the servers they're getting will allow them to change their world at a faster pace and when you partner with a publisher it (usually) means you get extra resources like people who work on the console answering your questions about certain problems.
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  • Avatar for Bla1ne #10 Bla1ne 3 years ago
    @generiko Sony have been working very closely with devs on PS3 development, I'm sure they'd answer any questions Insomniac may have had on PS4 development. As for servers, there's nothing being done on One that you can't do on PS4. MS like to act like they're the only ones who have access to servers and cloud services, but that's false.

    Whatever Insomniac may have gained by going with MS, they lost tenfold by abandoning the PS fanbase they've had for (console) generations now.
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  • Avatar for generiko #11 generiko 3 years ago
    @Bla1ne MS has the servers for launch though and they wouldn't have to go through another party for that service. Insomniac probably pitched this game to different publishers and if they didn't believe that going with MS was in the best interest of the game they wouldn't have partnered with them. And Insomniac hasn't "abandoned" anybody, they're doing a new Ratchet and Clank for PS3.
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  • Avatar for structuregeek #12 structuregeek 3 years ago
    OT, but since the lede is still incorrect 12 days after I used the "report an error" form, the source of this story is Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN. It's an easy mistake to make, but not being able to at least make the correction when it involves your "sister site" does not speak well to editorial priorities.
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