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Ska Studios shifts to Sony after 6 years on Xbox


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Ska Studios has been around for seven years, and during six of those it's had a close relationship with Microsoft. All of its games, from The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai to Charlie Murder, have launched on Xbox 360 or Windows Phone only. Dead Samurai won the Dream Build Play competition in 2007, serving as a catalyst for Ska's tight partnership with Microsoft.

"I've said it before: XBLA literally made all of my dreams come true," Ska founder James Silva said in 2012.

And now for the twist: Ska's first next-gen game, Salt and Sanctuary, will launch exclusively on Sony's PS4 and Vita. James and Michelle Silva, Ska's artist and community manager, made the announcement today.

"There were a bunch of factors that led to us deciding to publish Salt and Sanctuary with Sony, but it really came down to an overwhelming amount of enthusiasm from them," James told Joystiq in an email. "They loved Salt and Sanctuary, they loved our previous work, and maybe most importantly, they offered us Pub Fund support; after a bit of talking it became apparent that working together just made an insane amount of sense to us as both a business decision and a creative decision."

Technical issues also nudged Ska toward Sony, he said:

"And I know it bores everyone to tears and no one likes reporting on it, but the engineering side of it was an issue. All of our code is .NET/XNA, and, even though XNA support has ended, .NET games can use open source wrappers like Monogame and FNA to carry the torch. But Xbox One has no .NET support. PS4 does, with titles like Towerfall: Ascension and Transistor using Monogame in one form or another to deploy to PS4. Microsoft promised .NET support 4 months ago, but there haven't been any updates. Unity on Xbox One is an option, but that would require me to do major rewrites. I know our games probably look simple enough, but they always end up with hundreds of thousands of lines of code in them."

The new console generation gave Ska time to step back and re-evaluate its path going forward, James said. Microsoft's Xbox One independent outreach program, ID@Xbox, launched just after Charlie Murder hit XBLA on Xbox 360.

In this nebulous time before Microsoft revealed the Xbox One, many independent developers found the company's publishing practices to be outdated and less effective than the rising stars of Steam or PSN. James, with his commitment to Microsoft, was an outlier.

"Since I founded Ska Studios seven (!?!?) years ago, we've been a 100 percent independent studio, even if we have worked closely with Microsoft for six of those seven years," he said, and later continued, "We're still registered ID@Xbox developers, we're still friends (I hope) with a lot of great people at ID and Xbox, and we're still interested in helping them improve their program, but Salt and Sanctuary will be a PS4/Vita exclusive."

Gallery: Salt and Sanctuary | 3 Photos

Salt and Sanctuary isn't the first independent game to favor Sony over Microsoft during this generation – Vlambeer's Nuclear Throne will release exclusively on PS4 because the studio didn't agree with a clause in Microsoft's contract that required launch parity across all next-gen platforms for any game coming to Xbox One.

When Microsoft announced ID@Xbox in August 2013, Director Chris Charla said the program was still a new idea and was finding its footing.

"We like criticism," Charla said. "It never feels good to be criticized, but that's how you get better, right? I think we've come up with something that devs will be really happy with, and that's really just focused on getting the best possible original games onto Xbox One."

James and Michelle Silva have faith in Microsoft, James said:

"I do think that ID@Xbox is a good direction for Microsoft. It definitely has a way to go, and the people behind ID@Xbox are absolutely cognizant to this, so they've been really interested in getting feedback."

Salt and Sanctuary launches next year, exclusively on PS4 and Vita.

"We're obviously pretty crazy about the direction that Sony is going," James said. "Hence, you know, the Sony jam."

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