In a shocking move, Sony announced this week that they are removing support for Leaderboards from PlayStation Mobile titles at the end of June. An email was circulated to all PSM developers a few days ago from Sony Computer Entertainment citing under use of the SDK’s leaderboard feature. The email stated:
“Due to the limited usage, we will be closing PSM scoreboard service on June 30, 2014.
If your PSM Application uses the service, please delete the scoreboard function and re-submit your application as soon as you can. (Note: If your PSM Application uses an external scoreboard service, no actions are required.)
Once we close PSM scoreboard service, it is unable to access PSM scoreboard service. Also, we are afraid, but we cannot provide any technical support such as transfering data from PSM scoreboard service to another scoreboard service.
We are deeply sorry for the inconvenience, and truly appreciate your understanding.”
This action from Sony has left developers across the globe stunned and is leaving many with additional work now to remove features that – in many cases – have only been recently added to their games through free updates. Not only does it mean spending additional time re-writing existing games that could be spent on creating new games but also potentially causes other issues for developers. Implementing Leaderboards originally caused headaches for some with countless re-writes to their game code in order to make the online scoreboards function properly, but the removal of these could now mean that smaller developers simply don’t have time to remove said function from their games. In fact, for games that haven’t performed as well in terms of sales, some may decide to cut their losses and remove games from sale completely rather than re-code them.
What Sony fail to understand is that many PSM developers are not part of full time software houses and produce PSM games in their spare time alongside regular employment. Revisiting old projects is time consuming and generates no fresh income and if anything else, removing a function that gamers have requested makes games less attractive to would-be customers.
While campaigning for PlayStation Mobile and attempting to encourage as many gamers as possible to buy PSM games, the common reasons we encountered as to why people didn’t buy them were that the format lacked support for Leaderboards and Trophies. Even now no matter how good games are on PlayStation Mobile – with releases such as Chaos Rings, Console Saga, Life Of Pixel, Crystal Ice, Eufloria Adventures and many more gamers won’t even think about trying a game just because they can’t add a few trophies to their collection or can’t attempt to beat their friends’ scores online.
As a long-time gamer this makes no sense to me. Trophies have only been a recent addition to the PlayStation family. The PS One didn’t have them, the PS2 didn’t and neither did the PSP. Even the PS3 only had them added some time after the console was released. Going back further, things like this didn’t exist in the 8-bit or 16-bit eras and to be blunt no-one cared. Even leaderboards are a relatively new concept. Yes, games had high score tables but these were only local scores and this never bothered anyone before – the games were what mattered but in recent years there has been an obsession with what are relatively unimportant features.
With the recent expansion of PlayStation Mobile into new territories and confirmed further expansion this year, combined with the introduction of Unity as a development platform allowing for greater performance in games, this seems like a massive step backwards for PSM and quite possibly the biggest mistake Sony could make for the ailing format. What PlayStation Mobile desperately needs is to offer incentives to gamers to purchase PSM titles – quality affordable games, wider distribution, better marketing and promotion and most importantly providing the features that appeal to the most die-hard of gamers – Leaderboards and Trophies. Leaderboards were a massive step forward and encouraged new gamers to try games they would have otherwise avoided and introduced new levels of competitiveness amongst gamers and breathed new life into older titles, something that Trophies did so well on the PS3 before it.
Is it too late for Sony to change their decision on this and not only retain Leaderboards but push forward on the promise made about the implementation of Trophies? I would certainly hope not because without them it could mark the final curtain for PSM in the eyes of many gamers. Leaderboards are a vital feature of PlayStation Mobile and without them it will leave PSM receiving no more regard than Android or iOS games amongst the PlayStation community.
This could all be a ploy however. It has been speculated that the removal of Leaderboard support is linked in with the introduction of Unity for PlayStation Mobile. It has already been reported that PlayStation Mobile games developed with Unity are likely to be focused more as PlayStation Vita only releases rather than being available for all PlayStation Certified devices to enable them to make better use of the Vita’s native capabilities and the question has been asked whether or not the removal of Leaderboard support will result in developers being guided towards Unity as standard for their future releases and the adoption of a more coherent approach to PSM development across the board, potentially integrating the format properly with the PlayStation Network?
Unfortunately only time will tell but if this is Sony’s intentions then clarity is needed rather than leaving developers and gamers feeling frustrated and let down…