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Stigma around PS Vita could be driving away devs
Stigma around PS Vita could be driving away devs
October 4, 2012 | By Eric Caoili

October 4, 2012 | By Eric Caoili
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"When developers I know hear that I am working on a PS Vita project, because of those sales numbers, their typical response to me is 'Oh, I'm sorry to hear that.'"
- Ex-SCEA developer and Twitchy Thumbs Entertainment founder Jim Buck (Snapshot, pictured) remarks on PS Vita's troubling hardware sales so far, and the stigma of creating games for Sony's handhelds.

Sony is already having a tough time convincing game makers to support PS Vita despite the system's poor sales, but it also has to overcome a lack of confidence some studios have for the company's portables.

Buck has heard a lot of negativity aimed at PS Vita from fellow game developers, many of them drawing comparisons to what they saw as the failure of PSP (Buck and SCEA insist the system's sales were respectable, just not at the same level as Nintendo DS's figures), writing off the system too early.

He notes that when the current home console generation began, companies didn't immediately abandon PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 development just because Wii was dominating at first, yet now he's hearing that publishers are bailing out on PS Vita even though it's not even a year old and hasn't had a chance to really prove itself yet.

"There is some weird knee-jerk superstition when it comes to Sony handheld devices compared to other companies' hardware," says Buck. "I've no idea why, but I do fear that the perception might turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy that could have otherwise been avoided."

Gamasutra's latest feature, in which Sony and several third-party developers share their thoughts on the current state and future of PS Vita, is now live.


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Comments


Eric Pobirs
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Important difference: The Wii never dominated in third party software sales. Developers and publsihers have known for a long time that what is good for Nintendo doesn't necessarily help your product on a Nintendo console platform. The big third party opportunities with Nintendo have been on the handheld platforms. You could move a ton of DS games while a Wii version languished.

Also, the console business was pretty stable in general when the PS3/360/Wii generation started. But the Vita was launched into a very rapidly shifting market, had a high cost of entry, and a lot of consumers who would have been early adopters a few years previously instead chose to wait and see what this really offered after maturing a bit.

Interestingly, Nintendo had a big negative impact on the Vita but not in the traditional sense of competition. Rather, what hurt was what Nintendo needed to do to rescue the 3DS from its own weak launch. The big price cut on the 3DS has lead a lot of consumers to expect the same from Sony. On top of all this it isn't a really good time to be promoting new toys that cannot be rationalized as practical necessities, like a new smartphone.

This raises the question of whether anything Sony did could make things much better without taking a big hit on each sale. I'd buy a $150 Vita tomorrow, along with quite a lot of other people. But unless I bought a good number of games soon after it would be little better for Sony than taking a pile of money and setting it on fire.

Merc Hoffner
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"Important difference: The Wii never dominated in third party software sales. Developers and publsihers have known for a long time that what is good for Nintendo doesn't necessarily help your product on a Nintendo console platform. The big third party opportunities with Nintendo have been on the handheld platforms. You could move a ton of DS games while a Wii version languished."

A fair bit of this particular argument is circular. Third parties didn't put games on Wii because third party games didn't sell, because third parties didn't put games on Wii. EXCEPT this becomes meaningless in the face of third party games that DID sell, when the dregs they put out synced with the audience: i.e. Guitar Hero, Just Dance, the Lego games, the Rabbids games etc. (Incidentaly I believe there was a period in 2008 when even in the US total 3rd party Wii software actually WAS outselling 360 software rendering the idea bunk again).

More importantly these games buoyed the financials of the likes of Ubisoft and Activision, insulating them from their various loss making PS3/360 ventures, hence Christian's comment about them regretting it. Of course they don't, which explains their various collapses in share value and net equity or bankruptcy filings, and aren't likely to change. But this actually extended to the handhelds. You may regard the DS as a successful platform for devs (it more or less was) but despite amazing successes in hardware sales, software sales, gameplay innovation and demographic mix, when you get down to it there was practically zero 3rd party support of note in the West. I often repeat this, but for the first 4 years of its life the highest Metacritic rated Western 3rd party game on DS was Tony Hawk Pro-Skater at 84% - a launch game. This isn't to say there wasn't opportunity - this is to say that 3rd parties willfully ignored it. If DS saw no love then it's hard to see why the slower selling and 2-generations-more-expensive-to-develop-for PS Vita should see much support except an inflated sense of entitlement. Sony's just not used to being in the position they relegated Nintendo to for 15 years. It's a good thing they've finally tried pushing through 1st party stuff because it's the only thing that saw Nintendo through.

Lyon Medina
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@Merc Hoffner
(Incidentaly I believe there was a period in 2008 when even in the US total 3rd party Wii software actually WAS outselling 360 software rendering the idea bunk again).

I think it was 2009 when "Just Dance" came out and just conquered the gaming market.

Phil Weeks
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as for developers not working on the hardware, sony is less than inviting on having devs actually work on the device. Sure independent devs can use the "gimped" playstation mobile, but that also forces devs to develop for any phone that sony wants to support.

I've made games for 20+ years, I'm a licensed PS3 dev currently (and have been licensed for all playstation platforms as well as nintendo and microsoft) yet when trying to become a registered dev for Vita, it's a no go.

Soooo...no hardware, no "un-gimped" libs = no developer...

Sony can take quite a bit of blame for the lack of developers IMO, and hence the lack of software and sales

Giro Maioriello
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"many of them drawing comparisons to what they saw as the failure of PSP (Buck and SCEA insist the system's sales were respectable)"

Sales of PSP were respectable, but what about software - that's what's important to 3rd party devs. The PSP was a favourite of home-brewers and emulators, I wonder how that affected software sales.


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