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PlayStation Vita's biggest challenge: Convincing developers

PlayStation Vita's biggest challenge: Convincing developers Exclusive

September 28, 2012 | By Christian Nutt

PlayStation Vita isn't exactly the success story that Sony would like it to be. Sales of the handheld are lagging worldwide, and many third party game makers aren't willing to invest in a platform that has a modest install base. Add a prohibitive $300-$350 price tag, and you have the ingredients for a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Sony Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida admitted he's disappointed by the lack of third party support for the handheld, but he told Gamasutra he's ready to show developers that the Vita is the right hardware for making games.

When asked if he believes that third parties are missing out on an opportunity by not supporting the PlayStation Vita, Yoshida answered, "I totally believe so."

"PS Vita is the best hardware to bring a very immersive game experience onto portable," he said.

Developer apprehension

Of course, being one of PlayStation's top executives, his opinion is just slightly biased. But he openly admitted that developer apprehension towards the Vita was unexpected. "One thing that was surprising and disappointing to us was the [lower] number of third parties to come out [in support] after launch.

"...In retrospect, there are so many options for publishers now that we cannot take it for granted that our new platform would be supported by third parties, like [it would've been] many years ago."

Sony, then, was somehow caught with its pants down, and though Yoshida said the company went on extensive developer outreach prior to Vita's release, it apparently wasn't able to get publishers to commit to the platform.

Mobile and social games have also eaten into the Vita's potential, he said. "There are limited resources that third party publishers have, and they have to diversify into new areas constantly; that's a challenge to get the support that we want.

"We've been working harder with our third party relations department to secure more content for PS Vita," he said. "...We are confident that we have the right hardware platform that we have with PS Vita."

Despite that confidence in the hardware, he said the Vita still hasn't quite found its footing in the marketplace.

Defining Vita

Yoshida said Vita will become an attractive platform "when we are able to define what PS Vita is." He said Sony needs to show third parties what Vita players buy, and what kind of games work best on the platform. At that point, Sony will be able to entice more developers to support the handheld.

"As we can expand our install base and articulate what works really well on the platform as compared to others, it will get easier for us to be able get support from third parties," he added.

And while Worldwide Studios, which encompasses all of the company's first party development teams, such as Naughty Dog and Sony Santa Monica, doesn't do direct developer outreach in most cases, he says that it plays an important role in getting third parties interested in the platform.

"We create our content, and that can be used to evangelize some functionalities of the platforms for third party purposes."

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