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Sony's Crossplatform Strategy Brings New Hope to The Vita

Sony helps the Vita come back with its cross-platform indie strategy.

Article by Mike Williams, .

The Kaz looked upon the Vita, tired and beleaguered, and he said, "Let there be cross-platform development. Let the PC developers be fruitful and multiply. Let there be a price drop." The Kaz looked upon his works and he was pleased.

- From the Gospel of Hirai

I enjoy my Vita. It's a well-designed system for me. It fits in my meaty hands, the screen is gorgeous, its got a decent amount of graphical power, and its battery life is good enough for me. I dig my retail library: Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Street Fighter x Tekken, Need for Speed: Most Wanted, and Assassin's Creed: Liberation. I bought the thing on Amazon for $180 last year and it's been pretty good to me.

But the tale of the Vita hasn't been pleasant overall. The portable's sales have been horrible. The $249 launch price for the WiFi model was only decent prior Nintendo dropping the price on the 3DS and releasing the Mario Kart 7/Super Mario 3D Land double punch. The memory cards were (and still are) absolute highway robbery. One of the system's heavily promoted titles, Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified, was rushed out the door and is one of the worst games in the franchise's history. The PlayStation Vita's poor sales have led major publishers to simply avoid developing games for the system.

It's in preparing for the PlayStation 4 that Sony began to make solid moves that would help the Vita. To differentiate its latest console, Sony has reached out to PC indie developers. Led by Sony Computer Entertainment VP of Dev. Relations Adam Boyes, the company has bent over backward to make it easy for indies to bring their games to PlayStation platforms. Boyes and his team have talked to developers making PC, iOS, and Android games and asked them how the publishing process could be made easier. Sony also instituted the Pub Fund, offering developers an advance payment to make timed exclusives for Playstation platforms.

The whole thing finally came together when Sony's indie push met its Cross-Buy initiative. Cross-Buy means that when you purchase one platform version of a game, you get that same game on other platforms. Steam does the same; if you purchase a game on PC, you'll get the Mac and Linux versions as well. Along with the Cross-Buy system, Sony added cloud saving. both system systems work well together, allowing you to buy a game on PlayStation 3 and continue to play that same game on PlayStation Vita. Major publishers haven't dealt with cross-buy much because they don't have Vita versions of their games, but indies? Games like Hotline Miami, Thomas Was Alone, Guacamelee, Divekick, Stealth Inc, Retro City Rampage, and Lone Survivor all support cross-buy.

Thomas Was Alone, but the PlayStation Vita no longer has to be.

The PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 audiences are now a trojan horse for PlayStation Vita development.

Apple did the same when it launched the iPad Mini. Instead of just making a smaller tablet, Apple made sure that the iPad Mini's screen was the same aspect ratio as its larger counterpart. Developers didn't have to do much to support the small tablet; all of their apps worked for the most part, barring some changes in touch targets. The mini launched with a ton of support in the form of apps made for the 10-inch iPad.

There are over 77 million PlayStation 3's out there and some users will be tied to that platform for years to come, but Sony's hoping a number of them will move to PS4. The home console audience takes some of the risk out of supporting the PlayStation Vita; with those consumers, it makes decent business sense to make small tweaks and bring a game to the Vita.

You saw this in the Gamescom announcements. Fez, Rogue Legacy, and Helldivers are coming to PS4, PS3, and Vita. Wasteland Kings, Hotline Miami 2, Volume, Binding of Issac: Rebirth, Velocity 2X, Switch Galaxy Ultra and are all coming to PS4 and Vita. With Cross-Buy, Sony is saying to prospective Vita buyers, "hey, if you get a Vita you can play all these awesome games you already own on the go."

Add in the price drop and Vita Remote Play and you have a compelling story for gamers. And if gamers flock to the PS4 and Vita, then Sony will have a compelling story for developers and publishers: don't just make games for one platform, make games for the thriving PlayStation family.

It will be interesting to see how the next two holiday seasons turn out for Sony and the Vita. Here's hoping their latest moves pay off, because I need more games on my Vita.

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Comments 12

  • Avatar for ChameleonX #1 ChameleonX 4 years ago
    This new strategy and the price drop, not to mention the free games I've already activated on PlayStation Plus, are making me seriously consider buying a Vita before the end of the year.
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  • Avatar for AxiomVerge #2 AxiomVerge 4 years ago
    In a way the Vita is ideal for indie games, which tend to be simpler and more digestible in a portable format (perhaps explaining why the App Store has worked best on the phones). It has a nice SDK and emulator, too, which are now free for anyone who wants to play with them.
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  • Avatar for Stealth20k #3 Stealth20k 4 years ago
    Vita has no hope. Indies dont push systems. Especially when 99 percent of them are multiplat. Sony isnt even supporting vita with new games. This article is weird
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  • Avatar for DiscordInc #4 DiscordInc 4 years ago
    I've never been entirely sure how Cross-Buy is supposed to sell Vita. I mean it is a useful feature and it would encourage me to buy games if I could play them on both systems. However, I don't see a reason to spend money on a Vita if I can just play these games on a PS3.
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  • Avatar for docexe #5 docexe 4 years ago
    Crossbuy, PS+, cloud saves, the price cut, and the indie support might not turn the Vita into a big commercial success, but the combination of all those elements together might help the portable become viable as part of the whole PlayStation family and of Sony’s ecosystem. Some products don’t need to reach massive audiences, sometimes they just need to satisfy a specific niche audience in order to carry on. It’s very unlikely that the Vita will reach the same level of success of the 3DS or even of the original PSP, but some of the more dedicated fans of the PlayStation brand might see the benefits and add the Vita to complement their gaming on PS3 and/or PS4.
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  • Avatar for RoninChaos #6 RoninChaos 4 years ago
    @DiscordInc I can only speak for myself, but I'm a father and I have a family. I don't play my PS3 much. It's a glorified blu-ray player as far as my entertainment needs go. However, cross buy has been really awesome when it comes to Indie Games, at least for me. When I do have the TV to myself I can play games like Guacamelee and Hotline Miami, and if my wife or son wants to use the TV I simply switch over the Vita. It doesn't interrupt my ability to play, I'm just switching screens essentially.

    At first I pretty much felt the same as you, but as time has gone on, I think Sony's made a really brilliant move with cross buy. They're essentially creating a platform of multiple devices that will play the same games. They're creating an Eco-system that ties the consumer to that eco-system rather than to a specific device. This kind of model has made Apple a lot of money. Paying customers much less likely to step away from the platform because they'll lose access to the content they've invested in, and won't be able to carry it with them upon upgrade of their devices if they upgrade to a device that doesn't use the same platform/app store.

    As the article stated, when Apple launches a new product, even with screen size changes like the iPhone or iPad Mini, they match up screen ratios so devs don't have to adjust much to make the games playable across the product line. This makes developers happy, and makes consumers happy because they're not purchasing the same content twice. It's the system that people WISH Nintendo would incorporate to the Wii U/ 3DS. It pisses me off that I own Donkey Kong on my Wii U but I have to pay for it on my 3DS.

    The whole platform/eco-system cross-buy setup is essentially built in added value that most likely costs little to nothing for Sony to implement. It's a pretty smart move for both Sony and the end consumer. I'm more likely to upgrade to the PS4 BECAUSE of my Vita and cross-buy, and others who own the PS3/PS4 will be more likely to grab a Vita instead of a something else if they can play the same stuff across their home and handheld consoles.Edited August 2013 by RoninChaos
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  • Avatar for RandomTerrain #7 RandomTerrain 4 years ago
    A lot of people seem to be missing the point, the Vita is portable, PC and PS3 are not. You can take it to work and play it in your lunch break, use it on the train, when you're waiting at the dentist or the doctors, on a plane, while your partner is watching a soap on the television, when you're on the toilet, or in the garden, the list goes on. And it fits in your pocket (if you have big pockets like me). And the ability to simply pause and resume at any time using the sleep function is really handy.

    I actually specifically buy trousers and I bought a coat with big pockets as I love playing on my Vita so much, but I also keep it in a case to keep it safe so it bulks up the size a bit. Many of the Indies that have come out and that are still coming out are fantastic fun and it's great to be able to experience them anywhere. And cross buy means you don't have to buy the game several times.
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