Optimism for PlayStation Mobile
Sony also has another digital platform that plays an important part in Sony's efforts to attract small studios: PlayStation Mobile. Launched earlier this week, the framework enables developers to release "lightweight" games to PS Vita, as well as PlayStation Certified Android tablets and smartphones. Already, PS Mobile has snagged a few notable indie properties, like Super Crate Box and Eufloria.
Several PS Mobile developers have told Gamasutra they're optimistic about the program, as it offers an alternative to Android's fragmented and piracy-stricken market, and there's more flexibility over what kind of content they can include because the platform uses familiar rating systems like PEGI and ESRB (as opposed to Apple's review system for iOS, which often rejects titles with adult and violent content).
"I gather that PS Mobile is proving very popular with developers," observes Icon Games Entertainment director Richard Hill-Whittall, who developed several titles for PS Minis and is now working on several PS Vita projects, including three PS Mobile titles. Though developers complained about the software development kit's bugs when it first released, Hill-Whittall says, "It is a wonderful SDK, too -- very good to work with."
PS Mobile is also an opportunity for PS Vita to reach beyond its core PS3 audience -- Koller sees the platform as a first point of entry for people who play smaller or mobile-style games, introducing them to the PlayStation brand and eventually bringing them to PS Vita's bigger games when they want to play more immersive titles.
As Buck points out, however, "The difficulty [is getting] those guys to carry around yet another device."
PS Vita's Future
Looking toward PS Vita's second and third years on the market, Koller doesn't predict much change in Sony's strategy. "I think continuing to target the PlayStation 3 consumer is the right path, and messaging about console gaming, as well as emphasizing some of these indie games." he says.
As for having a strong slate of releases ready for 2013, Koller explains that Sony hasn't announced too many major first- and third-party titles for next year yet because the company wants to focus on the holiday season and its releases for now -- so far, it has Media Molecule's Tearaway, Guerrilla Games' Killzone: Mercenary, and Marvelous AQL, Comcept, and SCE Japan Studio's Soul Sacrifice on the horizon.
While those are all first-party titles, Yoshida says the company is "working harder with our third-party relations department to secure more contents onto PS Vita." He argues that once Sony can show third-party publishers what kind of games PS Vita players purchase and what type of titles work really well on the system, it can entice more of them to support the platform.
As Mattias Nygren, CEO at LittleBigPlanet PSVita co-developer Tarsier, admits, "The Vita has had a slow start, and I think that's obviously been a fear." He thinks the system's fall and winter releases, like his studio's game, could be a turning point for PS Vita, though: "I think we all hope it to be true, that people will now actually give the Vita a chance."
Even though the console hasn't taken off with consumers yet, most of the developers Gamasutra talked to continue to praise the hardware. "I still have high hopes for the future of PS Vita," says Twitchy Thumbs' Buck. "I think it's far too early to make a bad call on the platform. The platform has been very nice to work with, and my future plans include doing more projects for the PS Vita."
Not everyone is upbeat, however. "Honestly, I am seriously scared about the future," says Icon Games' Hill-Whittall. He's worried that it's taking much longer than his studio expected to develop its PS Vita titles, that pricing for smaller or indie titles on the PSN Store is too low, and that the portable's sales might not pick up anytime soon.
"With the limited installed Vita user base, I fear that we won't be looking at much more revenue than we were with PS Minis sales," he says. "For us, this would be a disaster and would most probably bankrupt us. Given how much time and money we have invested into Vita development, I am extremely concerned about our future as a studio."