Sony recently announced an aggressive new program called “Only on PSN” that serves up downloadable games that are exclusive to the PlayStation online service. A lot of the games in the initial lineup are creative titles made by independent developers. With its focus on small games, creativity, and indie devs, “Only on PSN” will be competing hot and heavy with Apple’s iOS App Store.
IndustryGamers also believes that these two services are competing and asked Sony Computer Entertainment America senior director Susan Panico about taking on Apple. Here’s some of what she had to say.
On that platform [iOS] it is survival of the fittest and you really only get great success if you break into that top 20, but on our platform because it is managed and we do want to ensure we’re giving visibility to our community and marketing support behind this content, it’s a really great way for developers to not only have to invest little up front but they’re also getting the marketing machine of a large organization like PlayStation.
I agree with Panico to a point. Sony can definitely do a better job than Apple when it comes to adding community elements and catering content for its audience, which is more specific than Apple’s. Those are complexities and nuances that Sony can certainly leverage, but first it has to overcome a much more basic issue with PSN — the user experience.
The App Store’s user experience is flat-out better than PSN’s. Part of it is simply because of how you interface with each service; it’s much easier to navigate menus using your finger than it is with a d-pad and several buttons. Part of it is due to design; PSN is awfully stylish, but it’s not nearly as friendly or functional as the App Store. Before Sony worries about community engagement and casting Kevin Butler in side-splitting “Only on PSN” commercials, it needs to improve PSN’s user experience.
As for attracting independent developers for sweet exclusives, Panico said:
We have dedicated resources within our organization to go after indie developers and to work with these teams where we see great talent, and then of course we like to make sure people know we have an open platform and an open door, so they’ll want to come to us and bring their content.
Sony can definitely do a better job than Apple when it comes to reaching out to indie devs. I know people at both companies that are tasked with developer outreach and relations. Objectively, Sony has more people interacting with independent developers. Subjectively, Sony has better better people reaching out to game developers.
While a PSN vs. iOS App Store fight sounds ridiculous and lopsided in favor of Apple, there are several areas where Sony can win. Will it? I’m not sure about that. The allure of having a best-seller on iOS is tough to compete with. Will developers gamble and go for broke with Apple? Or will they prefer to go with Sony, which will (arguably) treat them better and do a superior job at helping them reach gamers?
What do you think of the “Only on PSN” initiative? Will Sony be able to attract the top indie developers? Will it be able to steal some talent away from Apple’s iOS walled garden?