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Oddworld Creator Calls Out 'Devastating' PS Plus Deal

Day one releases on video game subscription services have become something of a norm. Typically, fans might expect the experience is all sunshine and lollipops for creators — as the titles often experience a slightly higher profile and ultimately more downloads — but one creator has just called out how much a day one release on PlayStation Plus actually negatively impacted their studio. "Oddworld" creator Lorne Lanning recently spent some time on the Xbox Expansion Pass podcast detailing the particular conundrum that can occur when developers opt for their game to release for "free" on services like PlayStation Plus and Xbox Game Pass.

Lanning sees making a new title available on its launch day through streaming services as a double-edged sword, detailing that there can be just as many downsides as there are upsides to the wider release strategy. Specifically, Lanning recalls his experience with the critically-mixed "Oddworld: Soulstorm" and how the title's day-one release as a free game for PlayStation Plus subscribers ended up costing developer Oddworld Inhabitants more than expected.

Oddworld: Soulstorm's Day-One PlayStation Plus Launch Cost More Than It Was Worth

While many players might assume that titles launching on a subscription service go on to make as much of a return as traditional pay-to-own copies, the practice is actually something more akin to a gamble on the developer's side. Lanning explained to Xbox Expansion Pass that Oddworld Inhabitants found themselves in a financial pickle during development of "Oddworld: Soulstorm." Sony came to the rescue by offering a deal that would see the studio receive a much-needed cash infusion — on the condition that the new title launched on PlayStation Plus for the then-new PlayStation 5 and remain free to subscribers for one month.

Doing the math, Lanning couldn't initially see a downside. Lanning says, "The most we could sell is less than the money we could get [taking Sony's deal], so that seems like 'good, let's take the deal.'" Expected to release in January 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed plans back until April, when more gamers had gotten their hands on the latest Sony console. Those few months proved crucial, as more PS5 owners meant more financial loss.

Lanning recalls, "Because it slipped to April, we had the highest downloaded game on PS5. And it was, I think it was approaching, at the end of the day close to 4 million units or something like that. For free, because they were all subscription. So for us it was devastating." By the time "Oddworld: Soulstorm" actually released, the assumed 50,000 or 100,000 free downloads became millions, proving that these kinds of releases can actually work against smaller publishers in unexpected ways.