An Open Letter To Sony Computer Entertainment Regarding PlayStation Mobile

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I am writing this open letter to Sony Computer Entertainment with regards to the PlayStation Mobile format and the future of what is potentially a bright and exciting gaming platform.

Before I continue, I would like to give a brief background on myself. I have been a gamer since the 1970s and the advent of the early home Pong clones. From there I moved on to the 8-bit computing era, starting with the Commodore Vic 20 and remaining loyal to Commodore with the Commodore 64 and numerous Amiga systems before making my first mainstream leap into consoles with the original PlayStation. Since then, as have many gamers, I have purchased – and still own – a PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PS3, PSP and now, a PS Vita. Simultaneously, I have worked in the computing and gaming industry in retail, journalism, and software development and am currently the site editor for the PlayStation Vita gaming site, Vita Player. If you play overwatch check out this great site at rivalry.gg/matches/overwatch-betting.

One thing I have found to be exciting about the PlayStation family is the cross-system playability of gaming. PS one compatibility was a major selling point of the PlayStation 2 for me as a gamer, as was backwards compatibility of the PS3. When the PSP range of Minis became available for the PS3 I believed that this was another fantastic boost for the system enabling gamers access to many under-rated games and this level of backwards compatibility (running PSP, PS one and Minis( is something that many PS Vita owners appreciate greatly.

Both developers and gamers alike now see PlayStation Mobile as being the natural successor to the Minis range and there is no doubting that there are some high quality games currently available, but that being the case there is an almost universal level of frustration levied at the format which so far seems to be failing both gamers and developers, many of whom are struggling to make it financially viable to support.

My intention with this open letter is to call upon Sony Computer Entertainment – not just in Europe but on a global level – to take steps to help PlayStation Mobile and its developers to ensure that the format has a strong future and to build on what has already been started and to show gamers the true potential for what it can really offer. For those who are behind the format, we already know what it can provide and enjoy what it has to offer but without radical action developers could start to look elsewhere. So where do we begin?

The Format

Without stating the obvious here, PlayStation Mobile has access to a potentially vast userbase. In additition to PS Vita owners, PSM titles can also be run on most modern Sony smartphones as well as phones and tablets produced by other manufacturers. At the time of writing this, there are an estimated 5 million PlayStation Vita owners worldwide and while I do not have figures for the number of owners of other devices, Sony themselves shipped over 30 million phones in 2012. According to the official list of PSM certified devices, I would estimate that all of these phones shipped during this period would be PSM compatible. Taking other manufacturers into consideration and it is not unreasonable to assume that there are 50 million plus potential users worldwide for PlayStation Mobile.

Distribution

At present, PlayStation Mobile is only available to gamers in just nine countries. Gamers have been used to different offers being made to different territories through the PlayStation Network Store, or titles being released at different times but PSM has left gamers angry. There are players eager to try out PlayStation Mobile and buy games and support the format but have been unable to and despite numerous requests online through official blogs and forums, these requests have been met with relative silence other than a standard “we are working on it” response. If there are particular issues, or there is a known time-frame, then players should be informed of this so they know when to expect the service in their territories.

What does concern and confuse many gamers – and the question needs to be asked – is why PlayStation Mobile is so restricted? If services such as the App Store and Google Play can be rolled out on a global scale then it is quite easy to understand why there are such high levels of frustration. While gamers do understand that there is a need for localisation of titles (which affects distribution of games on the PS3 and PS Vita), as a gaming community we do need to ask whether a global delay for the service is really justifiable? Infact, with the number of countries currently affected, it means that there is a large percentage of the market simply not able to access PSM gaming.

Trophies and PlayStation Network Support

While many gamers are not interested in Trophies and Leaderboards, it is clear that social gaming lies at the heart of Sony’s plans for the future of PlayStation. If PlayStation Mobile is to be a part of this, then the ability for PSM gamers to be able to interact with each other is vital. There are gamers who are shunning the format simply because they can not share their achievements with each other, they can not compare scores with online friends or as part of a global Leaderboard or can not play online. This was seen as a failing of Minis and both gamers and developers alike have been asking for this to be added.

PlayStation Blog

The PlayStation Blog is an important marketing tool for Sony. Every day there are news updates on the latest games – from mainstream publishers and smaller, indie developers – but it is rare that we see PlayStation Mobile games featured. It is our experience as gamers that only those games that have had direct development support from Sony themselves that have been featured on the Blog and the rest have been left to the developers to self-promote.

Equally, each week the PlayStation Blog providers players with an update on the latest additions to the PSN Store. While the Blog updates visitors on the latest content added for the PS3 and PS Vita (including releases of Classics and discounts) there is no mention of releases of PlayStation Mobile games. A prime example of this was the EU PlayStation Store. On the Blog on 24th April 2013 only two titles were announced for the PS Vita – Draw Slasher and Thomas Was Alone. However, on the same day, no fewer than eight PlayStation Mobile titles were released for the EU market, all of which were playable on the PS Vita. At a time when PlayStation Vita owners are calling out for more games aren’t these releases something that should be emphasised more? It isn’t an isolated incident either. PSM games do not appear to be featured in any of the weekly Store updates.

Marketing

At the moment, very little is being done. It appears that, with the exception of Sony-supported titles, it is down to developers and the media to promote PlayStation Mobile. As most developers are not provided with review codes for their games, many websites and publications will not provide review coverage so it is left to the smaller, fan-run websites to cover titles that have been purchased by site owners / writers. Without complimentary review code, the mainstream press simply will not consider covering PSM.

What is needed to market PSM properly in addition to review codes is a multi-levelled approach. Not only do we need to see more media coverage of PSM games, but also more coverage of PSM generally. Both the mainstream gaming community and mobile phone market need to be aware of PlayStation Mobile and the range and quality of gaming that is on offer. For the majority of potential PSM customers, the reason they are not currently buying games is that they simply don’t know about PSM rather than the fact that they do not want to buy them.

PlayStation Network Store

This is another area where promotion of PlayStation Mobile is sorely lacking. Despite the addition of the Indie Games category to the PSN Store, PSM games are generally sidelined when it comes to the Store. While PS Vita games can be purchased easily using the web and PS3 versions of the store (as can Minis, PSP titles and PS one Classics for downloading), PlayStation Mobile games can only be purchased directly using a PS Vita and they are only available using their own separate area, as are the Videos. By keeping these isolated from “regular” games, many players simply don’t even look at PSM titles or know when new games are released unless they specifically visit that section on a regular basis. Gamers have admitted to me that they don’t look their and if it had not been for my campaigning, many wouldn’t have even considered trying a single title.

PlayStation 3 / PlayStation 4

As I touched upon earlier, cross-compatibility has been a key strength of Sony systems in the past. We have seen the PS3 capable of running Minis and PS one (and more recently PS2 games) and the PS Vita is capable of running PS one, PSP, Minis and PlayStation Mobile titles. What would give PSM a significant boost would be to tap into the sizeable established userbase of the PS3 by providing a runtime engine allowing PlayStation Mobile games to run on the console. While this would not be possible for all games without some form of touchscreen emulation, the majority of titles that utilise the directional pad / joystick and action buttons would function perfectly on the PS3. Introducing this range to PS3 owners who do not currently own a compatible phone or PS Vita would open up the market again to a new world of gamers.

The Future?

Here at Vita Player, and at many of our friends in the PS Vita community, we are staunch supporters of PlayStation Mobile and we strongly believe that it does have a great deal of potential and a bright future but changes do need to be made. Right now, it seems as if PlayStation Mobile is being treated like a separate entity to other gaming on the PS Vita but it needs to be fully integrated both in terms of the store (in addition to its inclusion in the web and PS3 versions) and its marketing online through the Blog and other means. These are proper games and need to be regarded as such and if gamers and developers don’t feel that Sony are treating these games as such then they won’t be taken seriously by anybody.

On a mobile level, there are a large number of devices available that can run PSM games, but how many people with PlayStation Certified phones have actually tried a game or have created a PlayStation Network account? With the potential market there, these people need to be reached through advertising either in the general media or otherwise. Creating an account will not only give them access to PSM but other Network services such as Music Unlimited so it is in Sony’s best interest to get these users onboard.

The promotional offer giving away a free PSM game worked introducing people to PSM but more is needed here. A new variation of the offer as an introduction to the PlayStation Network could bring in the millions of mobile users that are currently not being reached. Similarly, PSM should be incorporated into PlayStation Plus. Even if members are only offered one game as part of their membership per month, and discounts on others again it could be another factor in promoting the format.

Most critically, making PSM more accessible on a global level and ensuring that people are more aware of it, as I have already discussed here, is key to ensuring the future of PlayStation Mobile. There are enough developers and websites committed to PlayStation and the PS Vita who are willing to get behind PlayStation Mobile and lend their support to and marketing that Sony will do. The rest, as they say, is now in the hands of Sony Computer Entertainment.

I do appreciate that this is a length letter but I and the PlayStation community as a whole, would welcome Sony’s input and comments on this so we can all contribute to making PlayStation Mobile the success it deserves to be.

Simon Plumbe

Site Editor, Vita Player

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This letter was originally written for the independent PlayStation Vita reviews website Vita Player (http://www.vitaplayer.co.uk). The author, Simon Plumbe, is the website’s editor and a freelance writer with 20 years experience in the video games industry having worked in retail, journalism and software development. This letter can be reproduced on any website freely as long as this notice and the link to Vita Player remains intact.

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About Simon Plumbe 842 Articles
Husband, father and lifelong geek. Originally from the West Midlands, now spending my days in South Wales with my family and a house full of animals. Passionate about video games, especially retro gaming, the Commodore 64 and PlayStation Vita. Love pro wrestling, sci-fi and I'm an animal lover and vegetarian.Enjoyed this and my other articles? Why not buy me a coffee: http://ko-fi.com/simonplumbe

4 Comments

  1. I love you! Thank you for writing this. I’ve been frustrated with this since I bought a Vita, not as much for being left out but because it seems so self-destructive from Sony’s side.

  2. Also I would like to see Sony extending the PSM licenses for people that already paid to match the now free licenses they are giving out.

    That would mean people who have currently purchased a license would be extended to September 2014

    • I would hope so but there are plenty of talented developers willing to write games for the format but the problem is that it’s just not viable unless it’s small teams who are writing games as a hobby or developers porting existing games right now.

      Companies wanting to take a risk developing for PSM have no choice but to port games to other platforms if they want to have a chance of making a profit from their games, let alone breaking even right now. What really saddens me is that even though PSM is only available in nine countries so far, each game could be profitable from sales in ONE of those countries if it was supported well enough.

      For example Thomas Hooper, who has written six games so far, does everything himself – programming, graphics, sound etc. To make a basic living from programming for PSM he would need to make (and these are very rough figures) about £25,000 a year. Assuming Sony’s share was about 50% of the sale price of all of his games, then that means he would need to sell £50,000 worth of games in a year to be able to write games for PSM as a full time venture. If his games sold for an average of £1.50 each (again, these are figures off the top of my head) all he would need to do is sell just over 30,000 games per year. That may sound like a lot, but that is spread across all the games he has written so it’s just over 5,000 copies a game so far.

      Now that’s just one example. With a game like Life Of Pixel, there was a larger development team but it was one game. Surely there are enough Vita owners in the PSM-enabled countries to support these developers and keep the games coming without developer having to look elsewhere?

  3. Whether it has been as a result of this letter or not, one of the things we have called for has now actually happened – PlayStation Mobile games being listed in the weekly Blog update so it’s a positive start from Sony.

    However, it seems to be limited to just the EU Blog right now although that will at least promote games to a larger audience. It will be interesting to see what the week one sales are like for this weeks PSM games (and the PSM selection generally) and whether they are an improvement on average sales.

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