Cross Buy is becoming increasing popular for PS3 and Playstation Vita games and is certainly providing a real incentive for players when it comes to deciding what titles to buy for those who own both consoles. The idea of paying a single price to be able to own the same game and then being able to play it at home and on the move is an incredible idea from Sony, even more so when coupled with Cross Save allowing you to continue the same game between formats… but it doesn’t always work in our favour as PS Vita owners.
The scheme itself makes perfect sense from a commercial point of view. For many gamers, they are unlikely to buy a game twice if they already own it on one platform especially with the PS3 and PS Vita so closely matched in terms of capabilities, so there is little chance of a large loss in terms of income for Sony or the respective developers or publishers. However, for a number of people, the chance to own a game on two platforms this can actually increase the likelihood that some may buy a game, especially so in the case of indie titles that players are uncertain of because it gives the impression of significantly greater value for money for the player.
In Sony’s case, many of their more recent games being released at retail that are available for both the PS3 and PS Vita are being offered as Cross Buy with gamers being able to purchase the game for the PS3 and then either redeeming an in-pack code for the Vita version or – as in the case of Ratchet & Clank: Q-Force – using the game disc to arrange to receive the Vita version digitally. Now here is where the issue arises… For all of these titles at retail, it is only the PS3 version that offers the Cross Buy option and not the PS Vita version so it is more economical – unless you are extremely short of memory card space or have no interest in the PS3 whatsoever – to buy the PS3 version rather than the Vita version and simply download the Playstation Vita game.
Infact, this issue even extends to the Playstation Store. Sony were offering a special pre-order price of £19.99 for Sly Cooper: Thieves Of Time for both the PS3 and PS Vita versions and including additional content with each. While both stated that the game was Cross Save and Cross Play, only the PS3 version offered Cross Buy. As I was interested in the game primarily for the PS Vita, it made no sense whatsoever to buy the Vita version when I could get both for the same price and get Cross Play functionality. While some independent games offer Cross Buy no matter what format you buy the game for, there does seem to be a drive when it comes to retail based games (and certainly Sony published titles) to only offer Cross Buy when the PS3 version is purchased.
It’s understandable why Sony are doing this. They are clearly targeting the PS3 community with the initiative rather than PS Vita owners. in essence, it’s a clever marketing plan – by providing these games for PS3 owners in this way it means that they will also have an instant PS Vita games collection should they decide to buy one. While the cost of a console is always a factor that will put people off buying a system initially, the issue of purchasing games can also be a major contributing factor but if you know as a potential PS Vita owner that you will already have a sizeable games collection at your disposal from day one, it suddenly becomes a far more attractive prospect than any other handheld device, and not even the cost of the memory cards seems an obstacle. £80 for a memory card doesn’t seem an obstacle when you know that you can get several free games to start your collection, especially when they are all AAA titles.
Sony certainly aren’t stupid with this though. They do monitor sales and downloads carefully to see how successful Cross Buy really is. No doubt there will be many gamers who will buy PS3 games simply for the Vita versions but even though it will be the PS3 games that will show up at retail, the downloads will also register which should make for interesting reading and will highlight what demand there really is for Cross Buy and these games in particular. Zen Studios told us that it has worked well for them with Zen Pinball 2 and it seems to be proving successful for other indie titles as well (the PS Vita version of Retro City Rampage has been the most successful of any format since the game’s release) so who knows, this could be the real way forward for gaming on the Vita…