Since last year, there have been a wide range of games added to the list available for the PlayStation Vita that – for one reason or another – have been almost completely ignored by the majority of PS Vita owners. With puzzle games, first person shooters, platformers, and classic retro arcade games, there’s something for everyone on offer at bargain prices but most gamers have ignored what is on offer. For those of you who are still unsure, I’m referring to the PlayStation Mobile range.
Some time ago, starting with the Experia Play, Sony launched a new range of mobile phones that were branded “PlayStation Certified”. This heralded a new level of mobile gaming that was going to bridge the gap between consoles and smartphones allowing mobile users with these phones access to a range of games that met standards set by Sony. While it was hinted at initially that classic PlayStation games would be made available to run on these phones, eventually after some re-branding and some changes, the service was rolled out last year as PlayStation Mobile. Compatible with a range of Sony and non-Sony phones and tablets and – more importantly to us, the PS Vita, PS Mobile delivers a range of cut-price gaming.
Minis Mark Two
Developers and gamers alike generally look upon the PlayStation Mobile range as the natural successor to the PlayStation Minis. The games themselves are relatively small in comparison to their “normal” PS Vita counterparts and while there are a wide variety of games on offer, many are ideal for shorter gaming sessions when you don’t have the time to sit down with your Vita for hours on end, very much in the same way the Minis were. They are almost all produced by smaller, independent publishers and developers but still offers something for everyone. Because games range in size from around 5Mb – 160Mb in size (but averaging at around 50Mb) it’s easy to fit plenty onto a memory card so it’s a great way to have a large games collection that you can carry everywhere even if you only have limited storage space.
Despite being a relatively new addition to the PlayStation family, there are already a large number of games available and offering something for everyone. There are puzzle games, platformers, racers, shoot-em-ups, strategy games, first person shooters, retro arcade-inspired games and more unique titles that really can’t be put into any pigeon hole at all. I really challenge everyone reading this to look at the range of PS Mobile games that are available and honestly say that there isn’t a single game that they don’t find at least remotely appealing.
These truly are “pocket money” games. With one or two exceptions, virtually every game for PlayStation Mobile is under £3. Most are under £2.50, many are under £2 and there are a lot of incredibly high quality titles for under £1! Even if these are games that you only play occasionally, or for a short while, for less than the price of the average DLC package, there isn’t really a financial reason to not try out at least one or two games from the range. There are some games that gamers do consider to be over-prices in the PSM range, with some coming in at close to £5 each but these are a rarity. Generally the “sweet spot” for games is around the £2 mark though.
But Aren’t These Games Free On Other Formats?
I’ve heard this argument a number of times before. People have looked at the range of games available for PlayStation Mobile and seen some times that have been released on other platforms and compared the prices between them. They have then refused to buy the PSM version, citing lower prices (or even free versions) on other formats. However, it’s not as clear-cut as that. Ever since the modern games industry began, prices have varied across formats – Commodore 64 games were more expensive than the Spectrum, Amiga games were more expensive than the Atari ST and so on – so it’s nothing new. When games are released on different platforms, developers need to take into consideration a wide range of factors:
- Economies of scale – how many copies a game is likely to sell on a particular format. If a game will sell in greater numbers then the unit price can potentially be lowered
- Supplemental charges – if there is the potential for additional charges to be made to the gamer, then games can be sold at lower prices (or even offered freely) knowing that income will be received at a later, or even ongoing basis. This is the core principle that F2P (Free To Play) is based on.
- Game content – are the different formats identical or are there significant differences between the platforms or do some have features that the others don’t?
- Development time – how long does it take a publisher to port a game between platforms. In some cases, conversions can be done relatively quickly if the core programming language is similar (back to the 8-bit era, the Spectrum and Amstrad used the same processor, as did the Amiga and Atari ST) but if machine specific elements are involved it can make conversion more difficult.
At the end of the day, if a game is free on iOS but the PSM version is £1.99 and it’s a great game, then it is still worth the price. If you really begrudge the developers £1.99 then buy an iPad or an iPhone and get the game on that but if developers don’t receive any income from their games they’ll stop developing them. In fact, the majority of games on PSM that are free on other formats actually have paid premium content or giving players the option to unlock levels early.
Open To Anyone
I’ve already said before that there are indie developers working on PlayStation Mobile games. In fact, Sony are actively encouraging it and as part of this, they have made their development kit available freely to encourage programmers to write games for PS Mobile. The only time a charge comes into play is if people want to release those games commercially through the PlayStation Network and even then, the fee is so low that it has allowed almost anyone to be able to become a published developer. Thomas Hopper, from TACS Games, for example is a lone programmer who handles all of the programming, graphics and sound for all of his games and – at the time of writing – has released five PS Mobile games, has a sixth about to be released and several more in development and only PlayStation Mobile makes this possible.
What, No Trophies?
Surprisingly, there are Vita owners out there who have deliberately snubbed the PlayStation Mobile range simply because they don’t offer support for Trophies. While we appreciate that Trophy support is a great addition to games and can be a fun way to challenge not only yourself but friends as well, the question has to be asked whether or not they are really essential for any game. Prior to their introduction on the PlayStation 3, it didn’t stop gamers enjoying PS3 titles let alone games on the PS1 or PS2 so why should it be any different for PlayStation Mobile games?
Many PS Mobile games actually include their own in-game achievements which allow you to challenge yourself beyond the basic levels offered by the game (Chimpact, for example, has 55 Achievements for players to work towards) there is also another issue when it comes to adding Trophy support. Any developer that wishes to add trophies to their games needs to request this from Sony, and this is generally only provided to established developers. Once approval has been given, the best way to describe what happens is that developers are given a “points” allowance which they can divide between bronze, silver and gold trophies (platinum are only granted by Sony for certain games). Developers then decide how many Trophies to include in their games but by the very nature of the PS Mobile format, it isn’t conducive for Trophy support.
For fairness if nothing else, PlayStation Mobile adds another complication. With the range of devices that the format runs on it’s safe to assume that not all gamers will be using a PS Vita. That being the case it’s hard to compare players who are playing a game with a d-pad or joystick with those who have to use on-screen controls. Taking that into consideration, the only option to ensure that all players are on a level playing field is to limit achievements locally as some will naturally find Trophies easier to achieve than others if using different hardware.
At the moment, the biggest problem holding back PlayStation Mobile is distribution. Games are only available in a total of nine countries worldwide. Granted, this does include Sony’s three biggest markets – Japan, USA and the UK – but there are still gamers across the globe screaming out to be able to play these games. Not just on their PS Vitas but on compatible handsets as well.
Support The PS Vita
Despite what some may believe, the guys that write games for the PlayStation Mobile format love the PlayStation Vita. Because of the nature of the format, right now it is not a big money-spinner and every sale counts. While these games may not push the Vita’s hardware, they are still great games and worth playing. More importantly, if developers can make a living from PlayStation Mobile titles, then they are more likely to be able to continue supporting the platform and – ideally – move onto the PS Vita itself. There are developers who started out with the Minis range, moved onto PS Mobile and are now working on PS Vita games and others who have released PS Mobile titles who want to develop PS Vita games but who need decent sales of their PSM games to make it happen. Ultimately, it is us, as gamers who will have the final say.
One thing I have to add is the Sony themselves have said that the PlayStation Mobile format is constantly evolving. The runtime engine that the PS Vita needs to be able to run PlayStation Mobile games is updated regularly to ensure better performance of games on the Vita and it is a relatively easy process for developers to update games if they need to as well – this has already been done on several occasions to ensure that games can be updated, receive bug fixes where appropriate and so on, very much in the same way that PS Vita games can.
From Sony’s perspective, they have stated that both Leaderboards and Trophies will be coming to PlayStation Mobile in the future which will be music to the ears of gamers everywhere. Whether older games will be updated to incorporate support for these is unknown or whether it will be down to the individual developer, although as a writer I would encourage as many developers to do this as possible. For gamers who have avoided titles simply because of the lack of these features, it could be that final hook to persuade them to make that all-important purchase.
What Can I Do?
PlayStation Mobile games are incredibly cheap. There are some games that are free (offering optional paid content for extra game modes and features) and full games starting at just £0.40 each! It’s fair to say that most PS Vita owners have some funds in their PlayStation Network account at all times. Because of the way the Store is run (and the same applies with Nintendo and Microsoft), it can only be funded in multiples of £5 but games and DLC seldom cost that amount, leaving us with the digital equivalent of “loose change”. If you have £1 in your account, you can’t buy a PS Vita game, so why not get a PS Mobile game instead? You’re still getting a game, supporting developers and will still get great value for money.
Not sure what to spend your money on? Check out our Top 10, our future recommended lists (because of the sheer range of quality games we will no doubt update this list to add a Top 20 soon) or just read the reviews to decide what games you want to buy. Either way, you’re bound to be able to find something to use those spare funds in your account! All we can ask is that you give PlayStation Mobile a chance. Even if you only buy one game if you have never supported the format before then you’re giving these developers a chance to carry on writing more games. Who knows, you may be pleasantly surprised and if everyone could buy one game a month… then the future of PS Mobile could be very bright indeed…