Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
View All     RSS
April 16, 2014
arrowPress Releases
April 16, 2014
PR Newswire
View All





If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM TechWeb sites:


What happened to PlayStation Mobile? Exclusive
What happened to PlayStation Mobile?
March 20, 2013 | By Mike Rose




When PlayStation Mobile launched late last year, I truly had high hopes for the platform. Six months on, and it seems like my optimism may have been misguided.

The PS Mobile platform allows indie developers to sell their games via the PlayStation Store with relative ease. Once a studio or individual has registered and paid $99 per year for a publisher license, they can then release as many games as they want, as long as they keep to the relatively lax service guidelines.

It's without a doubt one of the easiest avenue for indie developers to launch a game on a "proper" video game console alongside Microsoft's own Xbox Live Indie Games, and those studios involved in the launch back in October were also pretty positive about what the system offered.

I've been covering PS Mobile over on Pocket Gamer since its inception, and each week has seen a new release or two ever since launch. It's been but a trickle, sure, but for a new platform it's been a great start. The coverage for PS Mobile on the official PlayStation blog has been great too, with each new title getting its own "Spotlight" post, and every new release rounded up in the weekly releases lists.

That was up until mid-January anyway. All of a sudden the regular posts about PS Mobile games on the PS Blog stopped, and PS Mobile was no longer mentioned in the weekly roundups. In fact, the only way to find out which new games had been added to the PS Mobile store was to boot your PS Vita up and hit the "Recent" tab.

And yet at the very same time a PS Mobile promotion, giving away a free game each week for six weeks, continued to trundle on via the blog. I was concerned, as without the full weekly promotion on the PS Blog, PS Mobile would no doubt go the same way that PS Minis did. I decided to get in contact with Sony, and a handful of recent PS Mobile devs, to find out what was up.

Team talk

The overwhelming response from devs on the service was that the team handling the platform is struggling to handle the workload.

For example, Chris Egerter of Rocking Pocket Games, which has released titles like Dungeon Bandit and Blue Skies on PS Mobile, told me that "The mobile division seems to be pretty understaffed and it takes a long time to get things done."

Other studios backed up this theory, with developer Thomas Hopper offering more detail into what's going on behind the scenes. Hopper is perhaps the more prolific PS Mobile developer, having release five games for the service already, including Meltdown Moon and Still Life.

"I did find it a bit strange that the blog posts don't seem to cover PS Mobile anymore," he says, "but it appears to me that this is down to internal communications issues."

It seems that the PlayStation Mobile team handles the service globally, rather than having a team for each region, as is the case with the rest of the PlayStation business. This means that the single team is finding it difficult to keep in contact with each of the regional PSN teams.

"A few weeks ago I was told by email that one of my game updates had gone live to the PS Mobile store, when in fact it hadn't," Hopper continues. "I've since been told that the email had gone out as a result of human error."

Hopper has been hit by other errors by the PS Mobile team too -- just last week a banner for his game Out of Mind appeared on the PS Mobile store, yet the game wasn't actually available yet (it's being released this week).



Notably, Hopper offers some insight into how and when games are released on the service -- it seems there is a queue of new games and updates to previously released titles that are ready to go, and Sony lets them out of the gate a few at a time each week, so as to make sure there's always something new to play.

Despite the issues mentioned above, Hopper believes that Sony is serious about PS Mobile, and hasn't given up on it. The six-week free game giveaway which ended recently is proof of that.

"My guess is they're still having technical problems which make it hard to be sure what content is going to be released any given week," he adds, "which means that the PS blog posts don't get the info the need in time to talk about releases, and so they've kind of given up for now."

Blood from a stone

Talking to Sony about these matters has been hugely frustrating. I began correspondence with both the U.S. and European PlayStation PR companies three weeks ago, and have talked to five different Sony staffers. As of Monday, I hadn't received a single real answer, other than being told that I'll be reached out to "soon."

Yesterday, I finally got a response, but it wasn't exactly worth the wait. "PlayStation Mobile is a really important part of the PlayStation ecosystem," said the statement, later adding that "where possible we have supported the PSM developers and their games on our own channels, including the EU blog." That "where possible" is particularly confusing -- what does that even really mean?

Having said that, it's obvious that for now at least, PS Mobile hasn't been dropped. For example, Sony is running a PS Mobile game jam at the moment, and the winning entries will fight it out in a judged final at GDC later this month. And the company told me that it has "ambitious plans" for PS Mobile in 2013 that it plans to share "shortly."

It seems like my various inquiries may have stirred up the hornet's nest too as, in the last couple of weeks, PS Mobile has once again appeared in the weekly roundup on the PS Blog (although the latest update missed off a couple of releases), and a couple of PS Mobile games have been "Spotlighted." Whether this will last is anyone's guess.

But advances need to be made if the service is going to live up to its potential. For example, where is the trophy support that was promised six months ago? And why do we still not have leaderboard support? These sound like relatively minor updates in the grand scheme of things, and yet they've still not been put in place. They're the sorts of features that will help pull in the punters, and therefore attract more devs to the service.

Right now the only idea we have of sales on PlayStation Mobile is from Happion Labs, who posted sales figures for Sixty Second Shooter Deluxe of around 1600 euros (just over $2000) from November to January. An earlier post from Happion's Jamie Fristrom noted that Japanese sales topped those from all other regions, and I've heard other devs remark about this too.

I stand by my opinion that PlayStation Mobile has the potential to be great for indies, especially with Sony's newfound love for indie games on PS Vita. What the company really needs to do now is build up some momentum for the service, and actually, you know, promote it.


Related Jobs

Turbine Inc.
Turbine Inc. — Needham, Massachusetts, United States
[04.16.14]

Director, Analytics Platform Development
2K
2K — Novato, California, United States
[04.16.14]

Web Producer
Linden Lab
Linden Lab — San Francisco, California, United States
[04.16.14]

Sr. Front-end Web Developer
Linden Lab
Linden Lab — San Francisco, California, United States
[04.16.14]

Sr. Software Engineer, Back-end










Comments


K Gadd
profile image

Mike Rose
profile image
Hey Kevin,

cheers for the added info! RE: The game jam, I found the same - I'm usually quite on the ball when it comes to knowing about the various game jams going on, so when I was told about the final of the jam for the first time last week, I was thrown a bit.

It seems like the main issue is that Sony has trapped itself in a Catch-22 - it doesn't want to put too many resources into PSM until it can see that it's a viable platform, but until it actually puts the effort and money into the platform, it's never going to become viable.

K Gadd
profile image

Jeremy Reaban
profile image
"It seems like the main issue is that Sony has trapped itself in a Catch-22 - it doesn't want to put too many resources into PSM until it can see that it's a viable platform, but until it actually puts the effort and money into the platform, it's never going to become viable. "

You could say the same thing about the Vita. I don't know why they launched it if they weren't going to support it properly.

Mike Rose
profile image
Jeremy: I think the recent surge of indie game announcements for Vita show that Sony is (finally) looking to do something with the handheld - whether it's too little, too late remains to be seen, but it does give me hope that they may perhaps throw a little extra support at PS Mobile sometime this year.

Jeremy Reaban
profile image
The developers of Haunt the House: Terrortown also released their sales figures in a recent video on youtube.

http://www.pspminis.com/10711/haunt-the-house-developers-give-tal
k-about-playstation-mobile/

Despite being one of the better PS Mobile titles, and one of the better selling, they sold 1100 copies in the first 4 months, making them about $3000

Rich of Super Icon has also chimed in, agreeing with those figures more or less.


I honestly think this is just the usual Sony dysfunction. You have several different branches, all seemingly independent and somewhat hostile to each other.

It's not even clear who is running the PS Mobile program. Japan? Their phone/tablet division? It's on the SCEE forums, but the updates seem to be closer to Japanese time. And if they are running it, it explains why there is so little coverage on the SCEA blog (though SCEA seemingly is hostile to the Vita, period).

That would also perhaps explain why the game jams aren't being promoted. My site covers them, and I only stumbled across their existence by someone mentioning it to me on a message board. Later I found a couple videos on youtube. But if it's being run by another division, of course SCEA/SCEE won't ever talk about it.

Jeremy Reaban
profile image
The other thing, is that PS Mobile really doesn't compete with Mobile.

You look at Android or iOS, you have games like Real Racing or Shadowgun or Dead Trigger. Deep games by Kairosoft. You don't even have the shameless knockoffs of Gameloft (though a couple have been sold as full price Vita titles).

You look at PS Mobile, you have mostly games that in many cases, could have been done on a GBA. Colecovision, even. Okay, it's intentional in many cases, but PS Mobile is vastly underpowered. Life of Pixel for instance, had a lot of slowdown, despite being a simple 2d platformer emulating 25 year old graphics.

PS Mobile will be ignored by most gamers until there are killer apps. Sony has tried to promote it by giving away free games, but I don't think many people even bothered to download them for free, judging by the number of ratings they have.

[User Banned]
profile image
This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Keith Thomson
profile image
I happen to be one of those who would buy a retro 2D game on my Vita. I played through Life of Pixel and loved it. (At least, once they patched it and the slowdowns went away.)

I think there's a big market for simple, short diversions that have proper button controls. The thing that annoys me about phone gaming is the terrible control schemes most of them have.

Unfortunately, too many PSMobile games stick to the terrible touch screen controls and don't use the buttons. :(

[User Banned]
profile image
This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Tom Vian
profile image
I'm the aforementioned developer of Haunt the House: Terrortown. I just wanted to point out that it was 1100 copies in the first 4 WEEKS, not months. Still not great compared to other platforms, but not all that bad considering.

As I said in my post-mortem talk, I'll definitely be porting it over to iOS/Android when I have the time. And at this point, I'm not sure if I'd make another game for PSM...

I have to say, I hadn't heard of the game jam until this article!

Phil Maxey
profile image
Any company making handheld devices (non Android ones) or games for handheld devices baffles me. It's clearly been obvious that "handheld" for many years now equals phone. As soon as phones become viable devices to play games on, that was the end of that for handhelds. Of course people will say it's a different experience, handhelds have joypads they are for true gamers! yeah well millions of people play games on their phone each day and don't have an issue, and that's just going to increase.

And this is no slight on the quality of these handhelds, I think the Vita looks like a great little machine, and I've got god knows how many Nintendo SP's/DS's knocking around.

It's just that there time has gone, there's no going back, handhelds are dead.

Tom Vian
profile image
I think that there are some types of game well suited to touch screens, and some that are awful on touch screens, and a much better fit for physical controls. I think that it'd be rather sad to condemn a huge range of game types to death just because mobile phones are also doing so well. There's room for both.

Phil Maxey
profile image
@Tom

In theory yes, in reality no. Handhelds came about because people wanted to play games on the move, people now do that with phones. Having a little joypad is great and works well for certain types of games, which I agree don't work as well on mobile, but that's probably something only a tiny majority of the public would even be aware of.

I don't think there's room for both, because most people will just carry one device around with them and that's going to be a phone for obvious reasons.

Tom Vian
profile image
@Phil

I think the astronomical size of the mobile hardware sales figures compared to handheld sales might cloud the issue. The fact is that the 3DS is currently outselling the home consoles right now, and after the price drop, the Vita is even outselling the 3DS in Japan.

I agree that mobile gaming has a huge mass market appeal, and that's great! But to say that handhelds are dead because they're selling less than mobiles are is the same as saying all of console gaming is dead, which I don't agree with.

Maurício Gomes
profile image
Excuse me, but I must now cringe a bit more for buying a Xperia Play (great game machine... BUT WHERE ARE THE GAMES SONY??? PLEASE STOP THE FIGHT BETWEEN SCEE AND SCEJ!!!)

[User Banned]
profile image
This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Adam Steele
profile image
Sony never backs up their handheld. I've learned this the hard way.

Chris Kuspis
profile image
In regards to PlayStation EU Blog coverage. It seems that only games that had deals in place with Sony prior to the program coming out of Beta are being promoted.

Not a single game released via the dev portal has been in the "Heads-up" post.

James Yee
profile image
*Sigh*

Such great tech being wasted by bad management... :(

Randall Natal
profile image
I'm getting tired of all these indie games on phones, handhelds and consoles. I play maybe 2 or 3 games on my phone mainly when I'm waiting for something and that's it. Last thing I want to hear is that all these little games (most of which are crappy or simple) are the future of gaming. The real future of gaming is playing console quality games on your handheld and being able to connect with console players and that's exactly what the Vita does for the most part. Also there's no way handhelds are dead when the 3DS and Vita are starting to outsell consoles. If you want to kill handhelds keep concentrating on indie games instead of the actual games they where meant to play.


none
 
Comment: