I do some writing for a website that covers Sony's Playstation Mobile program, which if you aren't familiar with, is a game platform designed to run both on their Vita handheld and their android based phones and tablets.
We used to cover their Minis program, which were essentially small Playstation Portable games. I've reviewed well over a 100 of those, and played almost all of them. Some were quite good, some were quite bad, most were pretty meh. But all in all, it was a fairly successful program, I feel, attracting small to medium sized indie developers and a few hobbyists. A few larger companies like EA and Gameloft and Namco dipped their toes into it and decided it wasn't good enough. But it was a modest success.
The Playstation Mobile program though is a step below that. A large step. For one, no large companies have gotten on board. No EA, no PopCap, not even Gameloft. Most companies that stuck with the Minis program didn't bother with PS Mobile. Laughing Jackal ported some of their Minis and Futurlab came up with some original titles. But for the most part, most Minis developers moved onto other platforms.
Leaving only a few new companies (like Ripstone) and hobby developers.
But where did Sony go wrong?† I don't know, not being a publisher or developer. But my observations:
It was too late. It launched 6-7 months after the Vita launched in the West.
The Vita is not seen as a viable platform. Companies aren't exactly rushing to make regular Vita titles.
The performance is terrible. Graphics are closer to Playstation 1 quality than Vita. Or maybe even Gameboy Advance - and I say that without hyperbole. Look at Gun Commando for PS Mobile, then look at Doom on the GBA. I would argue Doom looks better in everything but resolution.
This is partly because PS Mobile is designed to run on low specs, but also because it simply runs poorly on the Vita.
Still very buggy. There are dozens of horror stories in the official forums from developers unable to do basic things, because the implemenation of PS Mobile isn't up to snuff. From simply uploading their games to authorizing their devices to test their games. More than one developer has threatned to quit development for PS Mobile because of the problems.
Poorly advertised. While new PS Mobile games do get a mention on the store update blog entry, they don't get mentioned in the post on Sunday, The Drop.†
Not being aggressive in courting developers for the service. Okay, they apparently have been holding some game jams with small prizes. But are games developed by attendees of cons in a week really going to light up the sales charts or sell Vitas/Phones/Tablets?
So how can Sony turn this around? I don't think it can be saved. I'm not convinced it should be saved. People look at games on mobile like Real Racing and Modern Combat and NOVA. Shameless clones, sure, but then look at PS Mobile, where you have games that could have been done in Flash or on old Commodore computers. Sony should really consider dropping the whole thing and just releasing a Vita firmware that dual boots Android.
But they won't do that. So what should they do?
Firstly, they should drop the $99 fee. It doesn't keep out shovelware by a developer who makes a new game every 2 weeks (and it shows), but it does keep out a casual game developer who might develop in his spare time. Some of the apps and games from the beta period were very impressive, like the Remote Desktop program.
Secondly, stop holding game jams at conventions. Make them worldwide and offer big cash prizes. The Ouya game jam produced some very nice stuff with fairly modest prizes. Whispering Willows for instance. The Ouya is more capable than what PS Mobile can do (even though it shouldn't, since it's inferior hardware), but PS Mobile can do better than yet another endless runner or retro themed platformer or shooter