‘The Witness’ came to PlayStation 4 because the next Xbox isn’t “strictly about games”

The Witness

There have been several fair criticisms leveled at Sony in the two weeks since its coming out party for the PlayStation 4 in New York City. The few games were actually shown were pretty, but Killzone: Shadow Fall and even Knack looked largely similar to the games we already play. The ambition behind the console’s myriad streaming entertainment options were desirable, but Sony has overpromised these types of services in the past and under delivered. The console itself wasn’t even there! That said, Sony’s commitment to catering to independent developers with the PS4 seemed like the real deal – if only because notorious curmudgeon and Braid designer Jonathan Blow came on stage to discuss his new game, The Witness. Blow’s presence said much about Sony’s new machine and ongoing strategy, but it also said something about the next Xbox as well.

“We haven’t been officially disclosed on Microsoft’s next console,” Blow told Edge Magazine, “But we do see the same leaks as everyone else has and they seem plausible.”

Blow’s actually been at work on The Witness for around four years now, or approximately since one year after Braid released as a timed exclusive for Microsoft’s Xbox 360. His breakout game was originally developed as a PC title, just like The Witness has been, but Blow decided instead on the console so players would have “a single tangible experience.” And according to Blow, he’s working on the PS4 because the next Xbox won’t offer a comparable experience to the Xbox 360.

“To me [Microsoft talks] 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 like a good choice.”

Not only that, but Blow says that past experiences working with Microsoft have soured him on the company. “I’ve had a bad time working with Microsoft in the past,” said Blow. Microsoft does seem to be less interested in independent developers than it once was. The XNA game development platform Microsoft made for designers just like Blow—Braid was made for Xbox 360 using XNA—is being discontinued by the company.