SPECIAL REPORT: New content pipeline and cheaper, smaller download games on the way

Exclusive: Sony’s new development strategy for PSP

Platform-holder Sony is aggressively courting developers around the world to work on digitally distributed games for PSP in a bid to grow the software offer on its handheld.

And, Develop can also reveal, the firm is planning to introduce a streamlined content pipeline for the platform – which includes abolishing concept approval – plus cheaper devkits, shorter quality assurance processes, and very low price points for new games.

The details were revealed exclusively to Develop last month at a behind-closed-doors event at E3.

The news came after Sony had detailed plans to slash the cost of the PSP SDK by 80 per cent, and had unveiled the digital distribution-only PSPgo handheld.

16-year Sony vet Zeno Colaço, SCEE’s head of developer relations, is behind the new strategy.

“One of the things that has been exciting in my time at Sony is the big shift changes we have seen – the latest is that consumers have been consuming digital content in a totally different way," he told Develop.

“Sony’s been working very hard to find our position in that and bring top-end gaming to not just the consumers who were there for the launch of PSP, but extending to an audience that is changing how it consumes entertainment and applications.

“We’re introducing new initiatives for the PSP which take it beyond traditional gaming, but still includes elements from gaming, and also includes new developers.”

Over 50 studios around the world are already hard at work making these new kinds of games and applications – many more are on the cusp of signing up.

Their creations will then be sold via a specially-branded, separate area of the PlayStation Store open to the PSP and its upcoming successor the PSPgo.

Signed studios include Subatomic Studios, the iPhone developer who is readying a PSP-exclusive version of its Fieldrunners tower defense game, plus casual games giant CandyStand.

It’s also signed up developers from emerging markets, including India’s Gameshastra, and PlayStation Network experts Creat.

This latest move will see Sony take a step closer to addressing the march that Apple has stolen on its handheld platform with the iPhone, that lets developers sell pretty much whatever they want (pending Apple’s approval) via the App Store.

Sony isn’t totally opening up development with a publicly available-SDK, a la the iPhone SDK, but it’s doing its best to lower barriers around the PSP platform said Colaço.

He explained: "It is still a professional environment, you still need a development kit and you still need to have investment and a team. But it can be a small team. We don’t see any of the restrictions on the disc-based space being in this space."

Subatomic’s Ash Monif praised Sony’s move to be the first traditional format holder to more aggressively pursue creating cheaper, digital-only content and remove restrictions around getting that content available to consumers.

He told us: “This initiative is about bringing the lighter, lower barrier content to the PSP that has been so successful in other categories.

"You don’t see this happening at Microsoft and you even don’t see it happening at Nintendo yet.

"Part of that ‘snackability’ of the content is because you can deliver the content over WiFi super-fast. We’re making games that are just 20MB each, that’s less than a minute to download – instant gratification, snackable content. This is an opportunity for the premier indie developers – and I hope we represent that group – to come in and offer content that will fit the PSP.”

Two exclusive Develop features reveal more about the PSPgo games – click here for part one, and click here for part two.

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