Think you (or someone you know) has what it takes to write games for the PlayStation Vita? Sony just opened up its PlayStation Mobile game store to anyone who wants in. All you need is a half-decent Windows PC and a Vita, and the cash for a $99 developer fee -- the same yearly price Apple charges.
How PlayStation Mobile fits in
PlayStation Mobile isn't the same thing as the PlayStation Store, where you can buy most PlayStation games and downloadable content. It's more like a separate department that's only on the PlayStation Vita and on PlayStation Certified Android devices like Sony's smartphones and tablets.
In a nutshell, it's Sony's version of Xbox Live Indie Arcade, except that it's for portable PlayStation consoles instead of home Xbox ones. It's where small, indie studios can get their work published and featured, and where PlayStation Vita owners can look for unique, inexpensive game titles.
How developers can get started
Game developers can start with PlayStation Mobile by registering on its developer site. After that, they download the PlayStation Mobile SDK (software development kit), and get to work on their games. Third-party software like the free Blender 3D modeling program can be used to create in-game art assets, while the SDK itself is powered by the open source Mono version of C#, the same programming language used by Xbox Live Indie Arcade's XNA toolkit.
How PlayStation Mobile compares to other game and app markets
For starters, the $99 annual fee and the cost of a PlayStation Vita or PlayStation Certified device put it right up there with Apple's App Store in terms of up-front expense, except that you don't have to buy a Mac to write things for it. This is a lot more than the $25 one-time fee to get in to the Google Play store, which you can use pretty much any computer and Android device to write for. On the other hand, anyone who's considering writing PlayStation Vita games probably already owns a Vita to begin with.
Developers aren't allowed to write non-game apps for PlayStation Mobile, unlike with most markets. Pretty much the only apps seen on the Vita so far are official licensed ones like YouTube and Flickr, while PlayStation Certified devices running the Android OS get their apps from the Google Play store anyhow.
Perhaps the strangest restriction? Developers don't get to set their own games' price. They instead specify a "wholesale price," as though they were selling their games to Sony, and it decides how much to sell them for. In essence, the company chooses its own profit margin on a per-game basis, unlike most app markets' 70/30 split. It also seems to be able to decide when and whether games go on sale.
Rami Ismail told "The Story of Super Crate Box" on the PlayStation Blog, explaining how he and a fan managed to bring an iOS game that he'd already made to the PlayStation Vita on very short notice. He said the game "feels right at home" on the portable console, while Joystiq's JC Fletcher calls the Vita port "the definitive version." As for whether it's selling well or not, though, we may have to wait to find out.
Jared Spurbeck is an open-source software enthusiast, who uses an Android phone and an Ubuntu laptop PC. He has been writing about technology and electronics since 2008.