Skip to main content

Long read: The beauty and drama of video games and their clouds

"It's a little bit hard to work out without knowing the altitude of that dragon..."

If you click on a link and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. Read our editorial policy.

Zen rejects "Xbox inferior tech" claim

"You'll do better on XBLA than on PSN."

Pinball FX developer Zen Studios has rejected Sony's claim that Microsoft's Xbox 360 content policy is an attempt to "protect inferior technology".

Last month Eurogamer revealed Microsoft reserves the right to refuse to publish games on Xbox Live Arcade if they launch on PlayStation Network first.

Microsoft may refuse to publish retail games if they do not feature content parity on-disc.

Sony then criticised the policy, accusing Microsoft of "protecting inferior technology". "I think they want to dumb it down and keep it as pedestrian as possible so that if you want to do anything for Blu-ray, or you have extra content above 9GB, or you want to do anything of that nature, you'd better sure as heck remember that Microsoft can't handle that," Sony's senior VP of publisher relations Rob Dyer said.

"So potentially any time we've gone out and negotiated exclusive content of things that we've announced at things like DPS or E3, publishers are getting the living crap kicked out of them by Microsoft because they are doing something for the consumer that is better on our platform than it might be perceived on theirs.

"So from a creativity standpoint and what we are doing to try to make it better for the consumer, our view is Microsoft's doing everything they can to eliminate that because they have an inferior technology."

According to Zen Studios, maker of XBLA exclusives Pinball FX and Pinball FX 2, PSN and iOS game Zen Pinball, and multiplatform game Marvel Pinball, Microsoft's content policy benefits developers.

"It's their [Microsoft's] culture," Mel Kirk, Zen Studios Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations, told Eurogamer. "Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft all have very different cultures. Microsoft has a very specific way of managing Xbox Live Arcade. It makes for a more successful platform for everybody who gets a game up there. Those things are in place to as a real gatekeeper for quality content.

"I'll be perfectly honest, you're going to do better on XBLA than you will on PSN. The policies they have in place really enable that. They don't stifle creativity because, you look like a game like Pinball FX, we did some groundbreaking things there for a free-to-play with in-app purchasing game on console. They let us take those risks. They were there. They wanted to work and help us develop them even further and gave us a lot of good input on that. That just hasn't been our experience.

"If they're [Microsoft] holding back features in games because they can't do what PlayStation does, I would agree with you. But I really don't understand that. Is there an actual specific title we can talk about?"

Kirk pointed the finger at Sony in an attempt to counter what he believes has been Microsoft bashing in recent weeks. "If we're going to give Microsoft a hard time, especially recently, with other things Sony said about them trying to inhibit creativity because they don't have powerful enough tech to do things and their technology is lacklustre, if we're going to focus on all these things then we need to then look across the board at everyone and criticise everything," he said. "It just doesn't seem fair to be lopsided one way or the other."

He recounted the experience Zen had following the PSN outage earlier this year. "When PSN went down, of course it was a huge story. But then the fallout from that got taken away. E3 came and it was all gone and forgotten about.

"We missed two releases in the PSN outage. Then there was a lot of talking between account managers. Hey, when do you guys want to release? Here are potential dates. We were like, oh man, this is really good, and we'll know when we're coming out and it's not going to be so bad.

"But the Thursday night before E3, all of the games just got released. Anybody that missed their date got pushed out and was published. We found out about it over Twitter and Facebook. Hey! Fantastic Four is available! We were like, what? Totally caught by surprise. It was hard for us to figure that one out.

"We've talked about it. We have good dialogue about it. They're not exactly apologetic. They're like, OK, next time - hopefully there's not a next time - we'll try to do it differently. We're happy with that."

While Sony has had its troubles with PSN, XBLA remains the "holy grail" for digital publishing.

"They want to be first to market," Kirk said. "That's totally a business strategy and company philosophy. If you want to get your game on XBLA, yeah, don't put it out anywhere until you get it there. But XBLA right now, Steam is rivalling, but XBLA is the Holy Grail for digital publishing.

"Steam changed things very recently, but up until the last six months, 12 months, you ask a developer, hey, where do you want to publish your game? The first answer they're going to say is XBLA. Now it's changing. Steam and XBLA are fighting and jockeying for number one destination."

Read this next