Without a doubt, one of the biggest surprises during Sony’s PlayStation 4 event last month was the announcement that Jonathan Blow’s open-world puzzle game, The Witness, would be a timed exclusive for the upcoming next-gen system. We have already heard a little about how the developer behind the 2008 XBLA game Braid ended up signing a deal with Sony, but he has now expanded on that story to reveal that part of the decision was due to “a certain amount of dread” he has about working with Microsoft again.
Speaking in an upcoming Edge interview, Jonathan Blow expressed concern over the way Microsoft conducts their business relationships with indie developers, saying:
“I’ve had a bad time working with Microsoft in the past. Maybe not super bad, but a moderately bad time in terms of business relationships. Other developers who are friends of mine have had a horrible time, so the idea of signing up again with Microsoft isn’t something I’d have ruled out, but there’s a certain amount of dread I have about doing that again. I don’t have that with Sony. Who knows, maybe it’ll turn out to be just as bad at the end! But I don’t think so. The people we’re talking to on a daily basis there are just really good people, and we’re happy to work with them. We’ll see how it goes.”
Jonathan Blow also noted that some of his concern over developing The Witness for the unannounced next generation Xbox is due to the rumors surrounding the direction that Microsoft is taking the console.
“Yeah, there were a lot of reasons why it was a good choice. Some were technical – we haven’t officially been disclosed on Microsoft’s next console, but we do see the same leaks as everyone else has, and they seem plausible. To me they talk about a console that is not strictly about games. It’s trying to be the center of the living room device, which is fine and maybe it’s the right thing for Microsoft to do, business-wise. I don’t know; I actually don’t think it is, but they’ve certainly thought about it more than me! As a place to put the best, highest performing version of our game on, it doesn’t seem as good a choice.”
Blow is hardly alone in the indie community when it comes to concerns over working with Microsoft on XBLA titles — Team Meat recently expressed a similar (if not harsher) opinion of the Xbox platform holder’s business practices. This current attitude towards Microsoft not only has obvious ramifications when it comes to The Witness, but it also seems to suggest that the next Xbox could lose a tremendous amount of indie support if things don’t change.