Sony opens PlayStation Mobile to indie devs, but its reach is still limited

sony opens playstation mobile to indie devs but its reach is still limited

PlayStation Mobile, Sony’s PlayStation branded app store selling bite-sized games on a number of Android phones and tablets, opened at the beginning of October following a year of beta testing. Not just Sony’s own Xperia devices, but also phones from HTC and ASUS tablets. It was a tentative step outside of the contained world of Sony’s devoted gaming hardware like the PlayStation 3 as well as a way to begin drawing links between the competitive but broad mobile device market and Sony’s struggling portable game machine, the PS Vita. The problem was there weren’t many games. The newly opened PlayStation Mobile Developer Program should help change that.

Independent developers that want to get their games on PlayStation Certified devices, whether a smartphone or the Vita, can register as a developer through Sony’s newly opened web portal. There they can download the PlayStation Mobile SDK for development and get their games published for a fee of $99.

Unlike Nintendo’s new Wii U eShop which lets indie developers decide on a price for their games or even Valve’s Steam where developers can collaborate with the company to determine the best price point for their game, Sony determines the ultimate price of games submitted to PlayStation Mobile. A rather confusing diagram at the Developer Program portal details how Sony purchases apps at a wholesale price from the publisher and sells it to the consumer at a higher retail price, like most retail businesses. The example given is that an app or game whose wholesale price is 69-cents will be sold for 99-cents on PlayStation Mobile, with Sony collecting the extra 30-cents.

This is actually a standard revenue sharing split in mobile gaming. Apple, Google, and Amazon all take 30 percent of app sales through their respective digital download services. Sony is offering the same money making opportunity to game makers as its competitors, at least on a mathematical level. The number of PlayStation Certified devices in consumers’ hands, though, is still limited. ASUS tablets according to IDC only account for just below 9 percent of the global tablet market. In terms of smartphones, Sony is actually fourth in the market in terms of global sales. It sold 8.8 million phones last quarter, placing it ahead of its PlayStation Mobile partner HTC who sold just 7.8 million. PlayStation Mobile is only available on three different HTC handsets, though, meaning developers looking for the biggest possible audience on mobile devices will still be limited on Sony’s service.

Sony needs to get Samsung on board, and make the Galaxy line of phones PlayStation Certified if PlayStation Mobile is going to become a premiere spot for indie game development.