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Sony guides indie game developers to next stage

PlayStation maker will help startups put games on Nintendo Switch, too

"Tiny Metal" was released Dec. 21 for Sony's PlayStation 4, the Nintendo Switch, Windows and macOS.

TOKYO -- Sony is looking to give indie games a shot at the global market by offering to handle the logistical aspects that smaller developers have trouble with, aiming to draw additional revenue from merchandising and animation as well.

Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) seeks to unearth little-known developers from around the world through a new division focused on indie titles. It will draw on Sony's sales network to take the software global on multiple platforms, such as Sony's own PlayStation 4 and Nintendo's Switch. Shouldering the burdens of marketing and logistics, including negotiations with the likes of Nintendo, will free the independent developers to concentrate on what they do best.

The goal is to release 20 to 30 titles a year. The first tie-up is with Tokyo-based developer Area 35. The company's war strategy game "Tiny Metal" is already out for the PS4, the Switch and PCs. Simultaneous launches on so many platforms would have been difficult for an independent developer with limited funds and staff to pull off alone.

The game segment has become a cash cow for Sony and the driving force behind its expected 20-year-high operating profit for the year ending March. Gaming subscription fees bring in stable revenue. But the key to keeping players loyal is offering the most appealing titles.

Under the agreement with Area 35, Sony Music would also manage rights to characters and animated works. The hope is to diversity income by cultivating alternative revenue streams from globally successful games.

Major developers can throw tens of millions of dollars and a thousand bodies at creating a single title. But the rise of development kits has made the space more accessible, allowing startups of 10 or so people or even individuals to create games for a fraction of the cost.

Indie games tend to have innovative designs and have gained in popularity. Sony Music expects continued growth in the market.

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