Sony’s Shahid Ahmad has become something of a minor celebrity of late, with his team responsible for the Vita’s current influx of indie interest. The Senior Business Development Manager was largely behind getting the sublime Thomas Was Alone onto the platform and has – as his regularly updated Twitter feed will attest – plenty more games up his sleeve.
I caught up with Shahid recently, and we talked Thomas, the Vita and his increasing levels of public interest, especially from PlayStation fans.
I started by asking him how much of a surprise was the press and end user reaction to Thomas Was Alone, a quiet, unassuming PC indie game thrust into the limelight of the PS3 and PS Vita arenas recently. “We expected people would like the game,” replied Shahid. “What surprised us was how broadly the game appealed, both to core gamers and more casual players.”
And Mike Bithell, the original game’s creator? “The one-man PR machine that is Mike?” says Shahid, “well it helps that he is such a nice guy. Humble, grounded, creative, people love these qualities and that comes across in his interviews and in person.”
I ask Shahid how that particular collaboration came about. “I’d heard about Thomas Was Alone from Christian Slater, our most experienced Games Consultant, who spotted the April Fool’s video Mike did [above] and passed it onto me,” he replied. “I got in touch with Mike shortly after and then the second the game was released, I bought it, loved it and really started pestering him.”
And what about the process of getting it working on the PlayStation platforms? “Well, there didn’t seem to be an easy way of bringing it across to PlayStation for Mike until Curve Studios contacted him,” said Shahid. “They then got in touch with me about bringing it to PlayStation and I was very happy to then make that all happen.”[drop]And so after that, and with the increasing public interest in his goings on, I ask Shahid how his role has shifted. “The role is the same, to drive excellent games to PlayStation,” comes the reply.
“The difference is that with so much more attention on what we’re doing, other developers and customers are getting more involved. To say that we’re busy would be an understatement.”
“It’s a fantastic problem to have. There is no shortage of interest in PlayStation, particularly PS Vita. I’m sure that in a few months, the fruits of all of this work will become abundantly clear.”
“Thomas Was Alone and Velocity Ultra are just the start,” he adds.
“Twitter is a really valuable tool,” says Shahid, when I mention its apparent important in his daily activities. “It didn’t start off that way, but after you engage for a while, momentum builds up and there is this big, engaged and involved community around what you’re doing.”
“It’s great to be as open as we are on Twitter and even though I stress I’m using it in a personal capacity, the lines are blurred somewhat because I love video games anyway.”
Currently working for Sony Europe
Signed Thomas Was Alone, Hotline Miami, Luftrausers, Velocity Ultra and Lone Survivor, among others
Was behind PlayStation Mobile’s portfolio acquisition
Has been working 31 years
“It’s hard to call something you love so much ‘work’, and that’s why you’ll see me on Twitter before 5am talking about new partnerships and at 11pm talking about my passion for the industry.”
“It’s not a soapbox either. It’s definitely a two-way thing and that’s what makes it so powerful.”
But Shahid refutes the use of the word ‘figurehead’ when I refer to his work with indie developers on PlayStation platforms. “I wouldn’t use that term,” he says.
“Perhaps better to say I’m a useful point of focus for some engagement and to give a face to the activity we’re doing, but the real work goes on behind the scenes with the fantastic team we have in Business Development, Publisher & Developer Relations, R&D and our colleagues in the other territory office.”
“The management here is excellent and I must give a special mention to the Content Group who underpin a lot of this activity.”
And there’s more to come. “It’s massively exciting,” says Shahid. “We are in the midst of a developer Cambrian Explosion event. It’s amazing how much talent there is. As it springs up, we want to see the fruits of that talent come to life on PlayStation, which remains for me the best platform in the world for video games and gaming expression.”
Shahid can be found on Twitter.