Sony's new PlayStation Vita continues to post poor sales numbers in Japan, where it sold fewer than 10,000 consoles last week (Sony has stopped publishing sales figures for North America). Even Nintendo's 3DS handheld has been outselling it, especially after last year's price drop.
Part of the reason? The Vita has few games available for it, and the last generation PlayStation Portable's UMD discs are unable to run on it. Sony promised earlier that it would be able to run third-party "PlayStation Suite" games, which were also compatible with "PlayStation Certified" Android devices, but so far no such games have come to the Vita's market.
On April 19, Sony took the first step toward remedying that, by opening the PlayStation Vita to the same developers who are writing Android and PC games.
Introducing the "Open Beta of Development Program for PlayStation® Suite"
That's how Sony introduced it, in a press release on the company's main page. Its more user-friendly Developer Portal has the details for aspiring PlayStation game authors: You can download the free development tools and game demos there (for Windows PCs only), and if you visit the page on a PlayStation Vita's browser you can download the "Development Assistant", which lets you try out the games directly on your Vita. There are also official forums, where developers are comparing notes and Sony representatives occasionally chime in.
Who is this program for?
The games, in theory, will be playable by anyone, whether they're posted for people to try out or they make their way to the PlayStation store. People who want to program their own will need a relatively modern computer that runs Windows, as well as a working knowledge of C# (pronounced "C sharp"), the language used to write PlayStation Suite games. They will then need to learn how to use the PS Suite SDK to write for PlayStation Certified devices (and the Vita) specifically.
C# is not normally used to write Android apps, and is more commonly used in Xbox Live and PC indie games. The MonoTouch project, however, lets developers use an open-source version of Microsoft's critically-acclaimed .Net framework to write Android and iPhone apps, and the PlayStation Suite uses similar technology "under the hood".
What's the catch?
The beta will only be open for a limited time, after which you'll apparently have to go through an approval process and pay $99 a year to be approved to write Vita games. Sony's FAQ isn't forthcoming on the details of exactly how people will be approved, how much people will be able to sell games for, when they'll be able to start selling them, or how developers will be able to incorporate PlayStation Network features into their games. It does say they'll be able to start publishing "freemium" games with in-app purchasing at some point during the open beta, however, and that the official launch (and the end of the beta) "is scheduled to begin later this year".
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.
- Game Consoles
- Technology & Electronics
- PlayStation Vita