It’s been three weeks now since the first games hit the PlayStation Network Store developed with Unity for PlayStation Mobile. Several of these have been in development for some time and it’s clear that the advent of Unity and the changes that it is bringing about are going to revolutionise PSM but is it really going to give PlayStation Mobile the boost that it so desperately needs? I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to take a look at all of the games released so far and it’s already raising a few interesting thoughts…
One thing that has surprised me is Sony’s quality control when it comes to PSM or rather the lack of it. While every release for PlayStation Mobile has to be approved by Sony Computer Entertainment, including updates which can cause frustration for developers with delays, things seem to have slacked of late. In recent weeks one game – a Bomberman clone – made a direct reference to Bomberman in the description, and another – a Tetris clone – actually used the word Tetris in it’s title! With a new official Tetris release on the way, surely this at the very least would have flagged up one or two warnings…?
Something that I have noticed is the steadily rising prices of titles for PlayStation Mobile as well. While this is something that started before the advent of Unity, there are an increasing number of developers charging more for their games. While I certainly can’t dispute that these programmers need to either earn a living from their games or at the very least need a respectable level of compensation for the work that they have put into their games, the pricing needs to be realistic compared to the games themselves, especially considering many of the native PS Vita titles start at incredible low prices.
Don’t get me wrong here, there are still a large number of PSM releases that represent fantastic value for money but when there are PlayStation Mobile games selling for £4+ that to be brutally honest can’t jusfy that price tag it is becoming cause for concern. My main worry is that gamers who purchase these titles that have fallen into these higher price brackets (and are subsequently disappointed by them) could quite understandably be wary of spending any amount on PSM releases. There is what I would consider to be a “sweet spot” when it comes to game pricing from the PSM side of the store and titles that fall below this are usually going to have a better chance of achieving reasonable sales than those that are higher prices.
Sometimes it’s better for developers to aim at volume sales that to make profit from the margin on individual copies…
This is something that has surprised me and whether this is something that could be attributed to the PSM SDK (and the included example code), the scheduling of releases from Sony Computer Entertainment or the fact that many developers have opted to go down the familiar route for their first titles, but there has been an abundance of endless runners so far. Of the 15 releases in the first three weeks, six were endless runner variants and I reached the point where I am expecting more to be released every week.
Ports From Other Platforms
Right from the beginning when it was announced that Unity was coming to PlayStation Mobile, both Sony and developers agreed that the engine would make porting games to PSM (and as such the Vita) much easier both for teams and individuals. This has certainly proven to be the case as we’ve already seen games ported from iOS, Android and browser based titles quickly and providing PlayStation Mobile with identical or enhanced versions of the original releases. In the long term this could mean PSM seeing games and apps become a more attractive platform for developers and even if it isn’t the most financially viable for some, it could still be worth investing time in PlayStation Mobile ports even for a small return now that Unity is here.
Coming back to the QA side of things, it does appear that a few developers are finding their footing with Unity right now and are producing titles that are more suited for their own use more than anything else. I certainly don’t want to name names here, but developers can not use the PSN Store to test out ideas, user interfaces, programming routines or “joke” ideas just to see if they are able to write software with the Unity engine. If a developer wants to write and release a quality title (or what they believe to be a quality game) then I’m all for it, but if developers release products to satisfy a whim and to say “I can develop in Unity” or to show off a new routine, gamers should not be expected to pay for the priviledge of seeing it. Even if it’s priced at under £1, if it’s never intended to be a finished game then it shouldn’t be released as such.
Despite my reservations, I really can see a lot of potential with Unity. The early results have shown that we’re getting better performance technically and definitely the best results ever for 3D games and this bodes well for future releases. It should make ports easier but developers can’t take the easy option of continuing to give us games that we would still expect to see on mobile phones. It’s going to be interesting to see what the next few months have in store for PSM and hopefully the best is yet to come…