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The State of the Vita, 2012

October 4, 2012 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

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."

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Ahmad Jadallah
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I think that for Vita to work, it needs to be the upper class version of iOS and Android when it comes to indie titles. A piracy free environment coupled with a non-fragmented high end device.

Also, Sony needs to really work with Unity to bring their engine to Vita either natively or through the PlayStation Mobile program (although it is supposed to support Android titles and unity supports Android, it doesn't seem possible currently from what I understand). So basically something similar to what Nintendo announced recently about providng a WiiU enabled version of Unity to every registered developer. Because lets face it, AAA studios are probably not going to bother with such an install base, yet at the same time the base is attractive enough for small to medium studios.

Jeremy Reaban
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I just don't see how indie support is going to help, when you have thousands (tens of thousands) indie games on iOS.

They need AAA Blockbusters, the only thing that Vita can potentially do that iOS can't (though I have to say that windows is closing with each iOS product iteration). One of the games that has been toted on iOS is Real Racing, yet where is Sony's flagship racing series? Nowhere to be found

Beyond that, what's the most popular genre in the West? The FPS. How many FPSes does the Vita have? 1. The PSP has more on it at this point in its lifetime.

Sony needed to show it was serious about the Vita by supporting it with their best teams and IP, rather than a bunch of smaller ones which they closed down after shipping Vita titles (3 times it happened)

I think Vita is pretty much going to end up being Sony's (temporary) answer to the Wii U pad.

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"I just don't see how indie support is going to help, when you have thousands (tens of thousands) indie games on iOS."

Physical buttons on the Vita provide a gaming experience you cannot get on iOS. As an example, Super Crate Box on the iPhone is a joke compared to the newly released Vita version.

And there's such a flood of crap on the App store that I've all but given up looking for new games on there. The thought of developing a game on iOS and having it get lost in the fray or having a game being deemed 'not worth the 99 cent investment' is depressing.

Merc Hoffner
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They need 1st party strength. 3rd parties started pulling games on 3DS too and Nintendo's fightback started with the one-two punch of the price-cut and a few high/higher profile 1st party games (third parties weren't stepping up to the plate). The pickup in sales reinstilled some confidence in 3rd parties and it regained some support (though at the last address Sega still had only 3 3DS games in the pipeline and 17 for Vita - go figure). If Sony could do the equivalent thing (No, an Uncharted spinoff, Wipeout and LittleBigPlanet are not the same thing as Mario 3DS Land, Mario Kart etc.) they surely could put some fight back in it. Unfortunately Sony doesn't have quite the roster, what they do have doesn't post those kinds of monster evergreen numbers, and even if they did it's clear Sony's not putting quite the effort in that they should. Without that the circular install momentum -> 3rd party support -> install momentum problem won't be shifted, unless they moneyhat for decent versions of big 3rd party games. If they could buy their way into serious new Resident Evils, Tekkens, Final Fantasys and yes, even Monster Hunters then everything else would follow. But if they can't even finance internal studios to cover the platform then it'll be a struggle.

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David OConnor
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Dan,that's insigthful, I think you are right, Playstation should be an ecosystem, and this would help establishing it as the 'living room box' too

Matthew Jackson
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pretty cool. i have a few airsoft guns from the games i play as well and its a lot of fun.