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PlayStation Mobile opens the floodgates for all game developers Exclusive
PlayStation Mobile opens the floodgates for all game developers
November 19, 2012 | By Mike Rose

PlayStation Mobile launched on Vita and PlayStation-certified Android devices last month, with a select number of indie devs given the opportunity to lead the opening ceremony.

Today Sony has opened the floodgates, announcing an update to the SDK and a new online developer portal that provides access to the tools for any person or studio wanting to get involved and build/release games for the platform.

For those who missed the launch last month, PS Mobile 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.

Early signs were good, with the platform positioned well in the online store, and the studios involved feeling encouraged by what Sony had in place. Sarah Thomson, manager of PS Mobile content for Sony, tells Gamasutra that what is currently in place is just the "first phase" of what the company wants to achieve with the platform.

"We've gotten really great feedback with the developers that we were able to work with," she says. "We're gathering all the feedback that they're giving us, whether it be things that they're loving, or things they'd love to see changed or improved on."

She adds, "We're quite excited to see how involved the developers are with us, and that's something we're welcoming." Thomson hopes to maintain this philosophy going forward, with various new features and functionality to come, as the platform evolves dependent on how developers and gamers alike respond to it.

Curation station

Of course, where there's an open platform, there are issues to overcome, from developers putting out direct clones of other studios' games, to those people who consider it amusing to upload content that is clearly against the rules. Then again, there's also the content that straddles the guidelines, making it difficult to determine whether a game is deemed acceptable or not.

Says Thomson, Sony is ready with some curation tricks up its sleeve.

"The fundamental philosophy is that this is an open platform," she explains. "This is the first time that PlayStation has ever made the barrier so low for entry for developers, which is a really good thing. We want to be able to offer a real rich array of content."

"Now the way that we're looking at it that's different to a lot of other platforms, is that we're wanting to approach this with a much thicker layer of curation," she continues. "What that means is we'll be policing the storefront for obvious clones or games that will be crossing some major barriers or breaking some major rules in our guidelines."

That's not to say that Sony's policing will determine whether a game is fit to settle down in the PS Store, however. "Really we want to be able to have a place where developers can have a lot of freedom to develop the kinds of games they want to develop, whether that be really elaborate rich experiences, or something a little bit more snack-sized, but still with that quality level," says Thomson.

ps vita (2).jpgShe adds, "So the layer of curation is really about us working with developers in a lot of different ways, in a few different touch points - being able to draw out and showcase the real show-stoppers, the real flagship content that we feel is going to justify the platform and really showcase it."

Compared to the iOS App Store, for example, PS Mobile is looking to run its curation efforts a little deeper.

"I think that's something you're seeing with iOS and Apple and other platforms - they do [curation] to a certain degree, but I think we want to take that a few steps further," she notes. "We want to work more closely, and really broaden out our inner circle of developers that we're working with, and provide a lot of support with discoverability. Because you know, it's just one of the biggest pinpoints for developers these days."

Attack of the clones

But what of those titles that are on the fence when it comes to curation? Those games that get lambasted on Twitter for essentially ripping off another game entirely, yet aren't exactly carbon copies? Are those games welcome on PS Mobile too, or will they be rejected?

"There's no sort of one blanket answer to that," admits Thomson. "It's a case-by-case situation."

"I think it's also something that we'll be tackling from all different angles," she adds. "So we'll have that first line of app reviews, and anything that stands out as a clone, we're able to shut down within that first filter. And then if anything happens to get past the filter - which I'm sure it will; at the end of the day, if we have thousands of games going through our system, there's going to be some that will slip through the cracks. What we can do is have other layers kick in there as well."

Those extra layers will include the ability for users to be able to report offensive or rule-breaking content, flagging it up to the PS Mobile team so Sony can check it out and see if it fits the curation guidelines.

"We also will be scanning the storefront and taking a look at what's launching and what's getting pushed out there," Thomson says. "So I think we'll be very diligent about it, and we'll be taking down things as quickly as we can, if they do indeed break any of the content guidelines that we have."

As for questions about specific additional content for PS Mobile (such as the promised trophies and leaderboards), Thomson says there's no new information right now -- which will be a real bummer to those devs and gamer crying out for it.

Fortunately, there are new additions to the system to report. Thomson says that phased launches in numerous extra countries are planned over "the next several months", while there are "plans to build out the cross-connectivity between the stores [Game and PS Mobile], and we're looking at new ways to promote and showcase the content."

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Christopher Myburgh
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What about overall quality and pricing control? If Sony are only policing for blatant clones and content violations, I still doubt it will be long before the store gets flooded with shovelware and the gems are forced to sell at rock bottom prices to see any return. And thanks to MonoGame, there's no shortage of XBLIG devs ready to release their shovelware on PSM.

Alex Nichiporchik
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I'm genuinely interested to see how this goes.

Either all of a sudden there will be a killer piece of software that's exclusive to the PS Vita (or possible only on it) and the platform explodes in growth... Or nobody will really care.

The Vita is a cool piece of tech that is irrelevant in this day and age due to the open stores with cheap app prices. I really hope that'll change now.

Greg Quinn
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Good to hear indies are gaining wider acceptance on all fronts.
In fact any big player won't remain competitive if it doesn't.

I especially like the fact they're going to be tough on clones.
Clones have caused a lot of discoverability issues for developers that actually provide unique content, their apps getting lost in a sea of clones, cracking down on them will also force developers to be a little more creative.

Kris Steele
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Still holding off until I hear how sales are going. But I'm very interested.

Maurício Gomes
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Now someone for the love of whatever deity you love, make more Xperia Play games!!!


I don't want this phone die on me while I am convinced it was a bad decision to pay 500 USD for a almost-PSP with no games!

Bram Stolk
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According to Wikipedia, vita sales are so bad, the old PSP is out selling the new vita?

If your game has a relatively broad appeal and reaches 1% of all vita users, you still only sell 20K units.
Not enough to be economically viable.

Bob Charone
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the PS2 outsold the PS3 for a while too

Michael Thornberg
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But still no access to the back sensor last I tried it. And the environment is quite limited to what the Vita is actually capable of. I think Sony would have been much better off giving real access to the machine, rather than through a heavily restricted mono environment. It is really a very good piece of hardware. Much better than anything else out there. It is a real shame they limit it in this way. Although I think it is *very good* that they finally open up (a little bit) for the indies. Let's hope that they come to their senses down the road and open it properly. Because I am much more interested in making something exclusively for the Vita, than having something portable for Xperia mobile phones.

Andrew Stein
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Keep in mind that PS Mobile is intended to be an environment for apps that can be deployed to all compatible devices that are PS Mobile certified, including other Android phones from SonyEricsson, HTC and whoever else jumps thru Sony's hoops. So it would be problematic to give access to Vita-specific aspects as the app wouldn't run elsewhere.

I think Sony's bigger problem is going to be adhering to C# development environment - this was Microsoft's fatal mistake with WP7 as a developer couldn't bring an app over from iOS/Android easily. Sony is forcing devs to essentially start over from scratch and lose most of the investment that they've already made in mobile development for a very niche market. Microsoft eventually learned its lesson and, amazingly, WP8 supports C++ built apps. Hopefully Sony will as well.

Nahuel Bergamo
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Good news I guess, too bad Its geographically limited though, hope they open up registrations for south america soon.