Vita: Why developing for Playstation Mobile is a waste of time
When the Playstation Suite (now known as Playstation Mobile) was announced, I was extremely excited at the idea. Playstation suite was full of promises. Vita compatibility, Android compatibility, and potentially PS3 compatibility. The Playstation suite also made the implicit promise of reducing fragmentation on Android, by bringing a “playstation seal of quality” to a range of devices.
The Playstation suite was the solution for indie devs and homebrew programmers who wanted to develop officially on Sony’s new consoles.
In hindsight, I think spending some time on the Playstation Mobile SDK, for an independent developer, is a waste of time and money. Let me explain…
It’s all about numbers
First of all, with its new name, the Playstation Mobile is sending the clear signal that your applications will not be available on the PS3. PS3 compatibility was never promised by Sony, but is something many were hoping. Now it’s obvious, Sony is cutting indie developers from its 65 million PS3 owners userbase (you still have the minis for that, though…), leaving you with a userbase of somewhere between 5 and 15 million users (that’s Sony certified device owners + Vita owners + HTC Certified devices, yet to come).
Note on these numbers: I am assuming numbers of about 1.5 million Vita users, 5 million owners of Sony compatible devices, and roughly the same for HTC compatible device owners. (this is assuming Sony and HTC each represent 10% of the total Android user base, and that 15% of that is certified Playstation Mobile compatible).
15 million potential users sounds a lot? Well, compare it to the 400 million Android users, and the 300 million iOS users out there, then think again…
As an indie developer, one of the things you want for your app is a large audience. The Sony playstation Mobile does not offer that for now, and I don’t think it ever will. Bringing HTC to the party took Sony 6 months, and the compatible devices are not even announced yet, so what are the hopes to see more devices/companies join the Playstation suite certification any time soon? If you want to develop a nice touch application and make a bit of pocket money with it, Android or iOS is where you should be.
In addition to that, although Sony will try to be “flexible” on the apps it will have in that program, I’m pretty convinced it will be roughly similar to what Apple has. Apple can afford to put crazy restrictions on their apps because of their gigantic user base (every developer is ready to make sacrifices if it means such a large audience). Sony can’t really.
Finally, by not making the Playstation suite available to the PS3, Sony fails once again at bridging the gap between their devices, and once again we won’t have the full “Playstation experience” we were all wishing for. Sony’s devices, as usual, stay far away from each other, Playstation Mobile won’t be the symbiosis we really expected.
But games on the vita will use the full potential of the machine, Right? Right?
Another reason people might want to develop on the Playstation Mobile system is because the Vita is, let’s face it, a nice piece of hardware. The back touchpad is a cool addition, the screen is awesome, etc… so developing in order to fully use that kind of functionality would be really awesome…
… except Sony have been very clear several times that they will enforce strict rules on the compatibility of the devices. Your app does not only need to run on the Vita, it needs to run on (for example) the Xperia play as well, and on the upcoming pss certified devices. At this stage, let’s say that your app needs to be able to run on any highend android device, including ones that don’t have a physical pad, ones that don’t have a back touchpad, ones that don’t have such a big screen, etc…
The result? A game developed on the playstation Mobile SDK cannot fully use the power of the Vita, but rather must (technically) reach the lowest common denominator between all certified devices.
My conclusion is that if you’re serious about developing a touch game as an indie developer, you should go Android or iOS directly, without going through the Playstation Mobile SDK. If what you want is to actually develop high end games for the Vita or Sony devices, you’d rather look into becoming a Minis dev, or an actual developer with Sony (which, err, is not really easy for indie devs).
Are any of you developing on Playstation Mobile? Have you thought of developing for android or iOS instead? What are your thoughts?