The Witness Is On PS4 and Not Xbox One Because of Microsoft’s Policies on Indie Developers

Microsoft’s hostility turned early independent games and developers away.

Posted By | On 19th, Sep. 2015 Under News | Follow This Author @Pramath1605

the witness ps4

Braid was one of the breakout independent game hits last generation, and it came into the spotlight once it released on the Xbox 360 via Xbox Live Arcade. Why, then, with the next game by developer Jonathan Blow, the ambitious puzzle game The Witness, did he decide to go with the PS4 instead? Did he find the PS4 more suited to his ambition for what he wanted the game to be?

No, as it turns out. Both the PS4 and the Xbox One are very great architectures that suit his game just fine. However, games are getting complicated, and it is not getting any easier to make them, especially for an independent developer such as him, Blow points out to ArsTechnica.

“Games are more complicated than they’ve been,” Blow said. “The ambition of things is taking up the room that is being seeded by the reduced complication of the development process. People are getting better games, but it’s not necessarily easier for a developer. When Braid was going to be on Xbox Live Arcade, the reason it was called Xbox Live Arcade was because the whole thing was arcade ports. Now, It’s harder to get attention. Due to availability of 3D engines, people are making stuff that’s much more ambitious than the past.”

So why, then? As it turns out, it had a lot to do with the difference in independent game developer policies that Microsoft and Sony had at the time, which facilitated respect and ease of development for him on the PS4, while creating a positively hostile environment on the Xbox One- something which, in light of the above, was a deciding factor for which platform he would go with.

“For a while, I presumed we’d do a PS3 port [of The Witness],” Blow said during the interview. “[But] as we went on and the game’s ambition became bigger, I realized it’d be harder to shoehorn onto PS3—it’d be a debilitated version of the game.”

At this point, Blow reached out to Sony via some contacts, and he was frank. “Look, we can’t do PS3, but I know there’ll be a new console at some point. Please keep us in mind for that,” he said. The result? He was invited to a pre-announcement PS4 summit at the company’s Foster City, California headquarters. The best thing about this summit was how there seemed to be no differentiation whatsoever  between AAA developers and indie developers- indie developers like him were rubbing shoulders with representatives from companies like id Software.

How about Microsoft, then? What happened there? As it turns out, Blow reached out to Microsoft with a similar email too. His intent was to learn more about the then unnamed next Xbox system, so he would be able to target that system too. But the result he got is chillingly telling of Microsoft’s attitude towards independent game development at the time. “I have no political path to making something like that happen for an independent developer,” was the reply he got.

Yikes. I mean, I know that Phil Spencer and the ID@Xbox program changed the indie game policies for the Xbox One a lot, but this early attitude will continue to haunt them for a long time to come.

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  • XbotMK1

    As I’ve been saying, Microsoft gives 0 fks about games. They care about their Windows monopoly and fking the customer out of every penny. Microsoft loyalists don’t see it.

    The Xbox deserves to fail and everyone who bought an Xbox One in the past two years is a dumbazz.

    • Deeboy

      Everyone knows by now that you’re the biggest idiot here. The only games you’ve played this is Gen is Xbox Gamingbolt, Xbox Attack of the Fanboy, and Xbox duelshockers edition.

    • GamerJudge


    • Alistein

      Good one.

    • archfiendx

      And it seems like the only games you’ve been playing are damage control Gamingbolt, damage control Attack of the Fanboy, and damage control Dualshockers, so what is your point hypocrite? Bored of Forza 6 already?

      I do recommend Driveclub. It’s like skipping a generation ahead with the detail and dynamic lighting and weather physics. Load times are faster and the racing is extremely fun.

    • Deeboy


    • Tech junkie

      You somehow think Driveclub with arcade physics is a suitable replacement for a Sim?

      I know you are going to call Forza an arcade racer. Go see what the guys at inside sim racing think of Forza. Show me 1 link where Driveclub is compared to a PC quality Sim like Forza is.

    • ShoNuff

      Please get another hobby you give gamers a bad rep

    • Tech junkie

      Are you so threatened by xbox even with Sony’s massive sales lead that you need to continue to spread your propaganda?

      I hope Sony at least pays you to be this ignorant

  • Robin Smith

    “He wasBlow was”

  • Princess Ailish

    I’m sorry this is why i’ll never trust Microsoft and their console anymore, they don’t care for indie developers. Don’t they know that these indie developers make the next big games. They’re the future of gaming. I Had an Xbox One and their console sucks. It was too slow, It always Under-preforms, The resolution Sucks, Framerate is not Steady usually around 30fps. The PS4 is better guys please go with them. Camp M$ will never understand gamers.

    • Orion Wolf

      Your right, we should all buy consoles to play indie games, that’s the big idea here. To get a ps4/xb1 so you can play android/iOS like games on your TV. Do not use your phone or tablet, go out and buy a console so you can do exactly that, what a marvelous idea.

      And oh yes every single indie developer out there ends up becoming the next CDPR, EA, Activision etc.

      Indeed Microsoft doesn’t care about games, that’s why the xb1 isn’t getting any triple a titles this holiday, nor do they have any indie game on their platform … there are maybe three indie games on the xbox one and that’s a fact.

      That was a given that the xbox one always underperforms. I mean the ps4 had 1080p/60fps in AC Unity and a steady 60fps in MGSV. Steady framerate on the ps4? Check. Best examples are knack, and every single CPU intensive game out there.

      Moreover, you should always trust Sony … especially with you credit card info.

      P.S. I would never have imagined Pramath would write such an article about MS, especially considering his disdain for Sony; and its Jonathan Blow saying all of that well than there’s real reason for concern. I mean the guy is widely known for… his games? Nope, it’s for his love towards Microsoft.

    • Princess Ailish

      In the end Orion Wolf you’re free to do whatever you want. I am just saying to those who also have a Xbox One to steer clear of it. I had it and I didn’t like it. It’s not like I never owned one and is Bashing on it.

      Also Microsoft really doesn’t have anything to offer to the table. So far PS4 has stellar games that Xbox Doesn’t. Until Dawn, Infamous: SS, The last of us. and sure PS4 has alot of Indies. AT LEAST PS4 HAVE A TON OF INDIES.

      We could Argue that Indies are lackluster, But there are a few Gems. For example Transistor and The Unfinished Swan, No Mans Sky (Coming) and The Tomorrow Children. The Witness is another great game that is coming that Xbox Cannot have because of their Arrogance and Hate for Independent Developers. Sure ID@Xbox Was made to combat ps4’s ever growing library and I would love to play CupHead one day. But the Damage is Already Done to Xbox’s Reputation and Phil Spencer is doing a great Job trying to Repair that Reputation.

      I am not a Xbox Hater, I am just speaking Facts.

    • Lord Jamar

      No offense but you defiantly sound like a xbox hater. And game facts lol wut? The bias is to real.

    • Princess Ailish

      I don’t even know where You fit into this conversation Jamar. Hop Off it. Also it isn’t Bias but i can see where you would think that. PS4 does have a lot going for it.

    • Lord Jamar

      its a public comment section so uh yeah i dont have to fit in any where. ps4 has a lot going for it…..ok man you kinda proved my point. but to each there own. again the bias is real.

    • Hailey


    • Orion Wolf

      “I am just saying to those who also have a Xbox One to steer clear of it”

      You’re free to do so. I won’t advise against getting a ps4, If you like the games on it or whatever than go for it.

      However, there’s nothing compelling on it and the system is exceptionally lackluster, IMO, everything from the games to
      the ps3 dashboard. I mean $60 for an “interactive movie”? Another $60 for a cash-grab-year-old remaster? Ermm… good job on the milk job? The only good game on there right now is only infamous, IMO.

      Now let’s talk about “facts”

      “Also Microsoft really doesn’t have anything to offer to the table”

      Umm, Forza 6 (just launched), Forza 5, Forza Horizon 2, Sunset Overdrive, Halo MCC, Gears collection, Rare Replay, the incoming halo 5, Rise of the Tomb Raider and backwards compatibility aren’t exactly nothing. I do agree that there are issues with the current xbox dashboard and the speed is not up to the ps4, but that will be remedied with the upcoming Windows 10 OS for the xbox one. There’s also the snap functionality, which, if available on the ps4, would affect the performance of every single game in a considerable manner.

      In regards to the Indies? Well there’s Ori and the blind forest, Below, Cuphead, Max: The Curse of Brotherhood etc. No Mans Sky will most likely come to the xb1 as well. Having a ton of indie games is not the same as having a ton of GOOD
      indie games and neither console, but the ps4 especially, has a ton of good indie games. Moreover, that was the original point of the ID@Xbox program, to offer people the good stuff and to go get additional content for games that will be arriving on the xb1 at a later time, instead of something like this:

      But the indie games you (and I) mentioned wouldn’t be a reason for me to get either console. Uncharted, Horizon, God Of War etc. those are reasons as to why I would get a ps4.

      About Jonathan Blow. Well he is mostly (in) famous for his hatred towards MS and not the games he makes. Therefore, him complaining about indie policies on the xbox is nothing new nor is worth reading (imo).

      Imo, and currently, the xbox one is miles ahead of what the ps4 offers, but you’re free to think otherwise. =)

    • Jfdelman

      It’s funny you mention the credit card situation. There was a study done and Xbox was the winner in who has that info used. You want to know why that was the result? Because it’s mostly younger gamers on the Xbox who don’t pay attention to their cc or their parents.

    • Orion Wolf

      This should make you lol quite a lot than … unless you’re one of the people who were hacked and had their money stolen.

    • Deeboy

      LOL. Your lost. They should change Sony’s slogan from greatness awaits to waiting to hate.

    • ShoNuff

      I wish I wasn’t still waiting for Sony to provide this greatness the only truly good games have been made by third and 2nd parties

    • Michael Norris
    • Tech junkie

      So you think Sony with frame rates in the teens is acceptable but frame rates are 30 is no good?

      What size tv do you have and what is your viewing distance?

  • Deeboy

    This guy again. He’s been talking crap about the Xbox since launch. Either develop it for both consoles or STFU and keep your boring looking game. His attitude is what makes me not even care about his game at this point. I hope he reads this also so he can see how much of a D*ck he appears to be.

    • Jfdelman

      Man, way to turn it around.

  • Nintendo Fan 4 Lif3

    No political path? That doesn’t even make sense, what kind of response is that?

    • lagann

      He wanted to work his way up to xbox chief….lol

      Though in all seriousness maybe, and this is just a hypothesis, ms treats indie devs differently than big publishers. Though im sure sony is the same, they just pretend better. Big publishers will always have more power than indie devs.

    • Nintendo Fan 4 Lif3

      That’s true but I’d like to think as long as long as both get what they wanted they’re treated on equal terms not as subordinate and boss etc.

  • DX helios

    So this article is about one sentence taken out of context just to make the name in the news. Jonathan Blow, you do not need to port your game to Xbox. I will neither buy it or play it.

  • GK15

    So he’s salty because MS wouldn’t share their then unannounced XB1 plans with him ahead of time? Cry me a river. Your game could be on XB1 with an email or a phone call at this point

    • XbotMK1

      Phil, you seriously need to get back to making sure your team is fixing all those bugs in the new Xbox UI, instead of damage controlling here.

    • Deeboy

      Yoshida. You need to get back to doing something. Anything!!! I guess you’re just waiting too. Great name for the new expensive VR headset you guys have been working on for 12 years only to come up with the name. Dun dun dun. Playstation VR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      Yours next Christmas probably for 600 dollars what a bargain for a product with maybe 3 games at launch.

    • XbotMK1

      At least it’s optional.

      How many games were made for Kinect which Microsoft tried to shove down everyone’s throat? Wait a sec. I remember you Deeboy. You’re one of those people who fanatically defended them.

      BURN LOL

    • Deeboy

      LOL. Burn? I know its burns to upvote yourself that many time. You want some vaseline? Before trying again. Just 10 upvotes a minute? I’ve seen playstation fanboys who upvote themselves twice as much. You must literally be the weakest link.

    • Orion Wolf

      “The Kinect is too expensive at $150”

      “It doesn’t have good games”

      However now the PS VR at $300+, whit every single game being an indie is the best thing ever. And there’s also the issue
      with how much money will they sink into making VR games, which ultimately means (even) less triple A titles on the ps4.

      Here is a thought.

      I am presuming Sony invested quite a lot into the VR, so the question is, what happens if it doesn’t sell, much like the PlayStation TV? Do they drop the price and/or start bundling it in with every single ps4 just to push it out the door?

    • Deeboy

      PS. Stop upvoting yourself 10 tens a minute. You’ll break some fingers or put out an eye. Your little fan boy PlayStation buddies I see they like being upvoted to oblivion too. You guys are disgusting upvoting each other every chance you get.

    • XbotMK1


    • Deeboy

      I’d have to do what you do to be a hypocrite but I don’t have to give myself pleasure to be exalted.

  • lagann

    This might be the reason a lot of indie devs went over to Sony’s side this gen.

    Lets not forget Don Mattrick was an ahole. So im sure he treated indie devs not as good as they deserved.

    That said, Pil Spencer is trying to undo all the crap that he was left with. Connections are easy to break but hard to create. Though i dont know what this guys problem is as business problems should stay private as its business. Guess he never got the memo that you should never burn bridges.

    Nothing guarantees him that Sony will stay so “friendly” forever.

  • Mr Xrat

    Xbox fanboys in full blown damage control, as usual. Losers. 🙂

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    • Tech junkie

      Are you xbox haters so threaten even with the huge lead Sony has in sales that you have to come on here and spread your propaganda?

    • Mr Xrat

      I’m gonna assume with your fanboy tears you mean “facts,” friend. Which they are. Keep shilling for a dead brand. 🙂

    • Tech junkie

      Not a fanboy. Fanboys are ignorant. I’m well aware of both systems strengths and weakness. I think much like most things in life you are confused what the definition of fact is vs an opinion.

      It’s OK. All your comments do is show how threatened you are by Xbox.

      Me personally I just enjoy gaming, don’t care what system the game is on.

  • super6646

    You can blame Don-Weisle Mattrick for why this happened.

  • neddy

    Day one purchase.


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