As platform holders step up the importance of subscription services, Oddworld Inhabitants bigwig Lorne Lanning has described the PS Plus treat as “devastating”. The industry veteran – whose company launched Oddworld: Soulstorm in Sony’s submarine on the PS5 – was speaking candidly as part of an Xbox podcast, and while he made it clear that PlayStation isn’t to blame, he is clearly unhappy with the way things have gone for his team’s play. .
In the meandering interview, he explains that the developer needed financial backing to complete his remake of Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus, and so he signed a deal with Sony to release the game on PS Plus on day one. He doesn’t divulge the financial details of the arrangement, but reading between the lines, it appears the team received a lump sum, which ultimately gave them monetary security coverage in order to wrap up production.
However, when he signed the deal, he was banking on the fact that the PS5 was still relatively new when it hit its expected January 2021 release window; as it turns out a global pandemic has had a massive impact on global workflows, and the game has been pushed back to April 2021. That gave Sony an extra three months to sell PS5 consoles, meaning that ‘In the end, there were more consoles – and, therefore, PS Plus subscribers – on the market than the people of Oddworld had anticipated. It’s worth noting that subscribers who didn’t own a PS5 could still add the game to their library through the online store if they wanted.
The result was that four million people downloaded the game as part of Sony’s subscription, but full-price sales were significantly lower than expected. As such, the developer was devastated, as despite still receiving a decent lump sum payment from PlayStation, it appears the PS Plus period had a direct impact on the release’s sales. Of course, it’s worth remembering that the Japanese giant also marketed the hell out of this title – perhaps more than some first-party releases.
The original interview is all over the place, and we think Lanning is having a little trouble getting his point across. Four million downloads sounds like a positive thing, but it’s worth remembering that critical reception for Oddworld: Soulstorm was low and there probably wasn’t much positive word of mouth following the giveaway. Plus, it would be naive to assume that four million people would have paid full price for the game, even if they downloaded it with PS Plus.
But it’s interesting to hear someone speak somewhat negatively about subscription services. While Sony has been quieter on this front, Microsoft PR has only ever painted Game Pass as a positive for developers, promising that it pretty much guarantees increased sales and engagement. This rosy outlook is to be expected given how important the business model is to Xbox, and it would obviously be unfair to compare PS Plus directly to what the team in green is doing – but here’s a developer who’s perhaps a little more skeptical as for subscriptions, with first-hand experience of it all.