For the longest time, independent game developers have been looking for ways to get their game supported, and spread out across potential buyers, without worrying about signing a deal with a mega-publisher or, worse yet, taking part in a channel where they won't meet with success. There have been some avenues that have helped them out, including the Xbox Live Indie Games Channel for the Xbox 360, as well as the new Greenlight service for Steam, where people can vote to determine what independent games will go live.
But starting this week, Sony has finally opened up a new area for independent games to thrive, while at the same time providing an option for mobile gamers to enjoy some new games for a small price. Welcome to PlayStation Mobile, a service that was announced a while back at one of the previous game convention showcases, and is now available for a number of devices, including the PlayStation Vita and Android-supported tablets and phones. The service is supported by a number of devices, which are listed in full here and include the likes of Sony tables, Xperia models, and, in the near future, HTC One models.
But more importantly, PlayStaiton Mobile will allow independent game developers to offer their game to a wide assortment of portable gamers. For just $99 a year, Sony will put your offerings, pending approval of course, on the service, where users can access and purchase your games. These games usually range around $1-$5 in price (so don't expect to make a gold mine), but really give you a variety of titles to play, outside of the previously offered PS Vita retail games (through digital download and physical purchase), PS One classics and PS Mini's, as well as select PlayStation Portable games.
There is some question to accessibility for some of these games, as PlayStation Mobile is currently only offered through PlayStation Vita and some mobile devices, rather than the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable, where they would no doubt be right at home. But keep in mind that this is just the start of the program, and as it rolls along, Sony might spread its accessibility to new systems and devices. Who knows, one day it may even end up somewhere in the App Store from Apple. (Don't bet on it for a while, though, if ever.)
If you have an Android-supported tablet by Sony, the PlayStation Mobile option will automatically pop up, so you can access the available games with ease. And if you've downloaded the latest software update for PlayStation Vita, you can go ahead and check out the games through a PlayStation Mobile option at the top menu. Though only 20 or so games are available at the moment, there are some fairly good picks here – and ones that won't put a burden on your wallet like full retail games will.
A number of indie favorites are already on the service, including the popular puzzle game Super Crate Box; the Bejeweled-with-a-humorous-twist adventure game Loot the Land; and several others. Titles include Flick Hockey, Rebel, Beats Slider, Aqua Kitty, Samurai Beatdown, Twist Pilot, Underline, Tractor Trails, OMG Zombies, FuelTiracas, Wordblocked, Beats Trellis, Hungry Giraffe and Cubixx, with several other titles set to be released over the next few months. Though Sony didn't provide a full release schedule just yet, you can expect many independent game darlings to join the ranks.
If you had to start somewhere with game selections, there are two games you should download immediately – Super Crate Box and Loot the Land.
Super Crate Box is a reminder of the glorious arcade games, with lots of run and gun action using 8-bit style characters. The game's developer, Vlambeer, is already hard at work on its next project, Retro City Rampage, so, yeah, you can totally see where they've got their hearts in the right place when it comes to classic game development. This one is a definite favorite around the office, particularly with its excessive (yet cartoonish) violence.
Meanwhile, Loot the Land is a match-three type of puzzle game, where you work with a group of Vikings to plunder the land of jewels and treasure within the allotted time limit. This is also one of the first PlayStation Mobile games to really take advantage of the PS Vita's touch-screen, so you can slide your way to victory and get treated to some humorous Viking animations in the process.
Like most of Sony's cross-platform games, PlayStation Mobile supports cross-buy, so that if you buy one version for, say, your PlayStation Vita, you'll be able to download the same game on other devices at no additional charge. Some future titles may also support the cross-play feature, depending if they apply online gameplay or not, so be sure to watch out for that as well.
While it may seem like the PlayStation Mobile service is starting out slow, understand that it's a growing process. The fact is, when the PS Minis first started out, they were a little stagnant with their title releases as well. But thanks to the release of Angry Birds, that service picked up significantly, and it'll be just a matter of time before PlayStaiton Mobile finds its big hits to help propel it forward. That's not to say that Angry Birds is guaranteed to arrive for it, but from a business standpoint, it'd make sense. Or who knows, maybe a one-man (or woman) team will come out of nowhere and really create something that shines, without a huge multi-million dollar budget to make it up. Remember, independent games thrive on creativity, not a luxurious set of graphics or features.
Regardless where the future may lie, the present state of PlayStation Mobile is quite welcome, not only for the players seeking cheaper games to play, but to the developers looking for ways to expand their product outreach. Here's hoping it continues to thrive for years to come.