End of the road for Playstation Mobile
On the 15th of July, the Playstation Mobile platform will close its doors for good. With it will go hundreds of games, many of which aren’t available anywhere else. In the post-coitus glow of a stunning E3, it’s unlikely that many gamers will even notice its final gasps before slipping off into the digital night. However, it’s a loss that needs to be discussed, and one that could have repercussions for developers, gamers and digital rights in general.
Playstation Mobile’s inception
Playstation Mobile first appeared in October 2012, an attempt by Sony to introduce Playstation content to mobile devices, including its own Xperia range of phones. It was also made available to the Vita, and later, Playstation TV. It was conceived as a platform that was easy to develop for, and, barring a small licensing fee (which was later dropped), it was open to all. The result was a library of games, which, in all honesty, were a mixed bag. Yet for every Flappy Bird clone, there was an undiscovered gem waiting to be found, like the stealth-focused Behind You, or retro shooter Rock Boshers DX, a game which later came to the Vita & PS4. Small price tags encouraged gamers to download and give them a go.
The service will close its doors on the 15th of July this year. After that, there will be a grace period of a few months in which users can download content they have purchased in the past. On the 10th of September, however, the service will be removed forever, obliterated from the face of the earth. There will be no way to access your games after this. They won’t be waiting for you on a server somewhere at Sony. They won’t be in the cloud. They’ll be gone.
The disappearance of digital
It raises some important questions about digital rights in general. We’ve been ‘lucky’ so far, in that most major platforms have continued to make legacy products available for download. Even those titles which have been removed from stores for legal reasons (expiration of a licence is a popular one), have still been available for download for those who had purchased them prior. But how much longer do we expect this to be the case? Could the quiet termination of Playstation Mobile pave for the way for more services to close?
One of the last games to squeak onto the service at the 11th hour is Oh Deer!, a retro driving game from Necromancy games. As a professional game studio, they’ve got more experience than some of the hobbyist developers on the platform. The game’s music has it’s own pedigree too, provided by the composer Motohiro Kawashima, responsible for the Streets of Rage 3 soundtrack. It’s a game that wears its influences on its sleeve, evoking arcade racers of old, mainly OutRun. Unlike OutRun, you score points by ploughing your station wagon into deer that patiently wait for you in the middle of the road. Devoid of upgrade trees and XP points, it brilliantly captures the sort of simple, dumb fun that video games used to offer in spades. It costs just 40p.
The game’s title screen denotes that it’s an alpha version, but with less than a month to go until the closure of Playstation Mobile, don’t expect updates to come thick and fast. It’s clearly not 100% there yet – the game crashes regularly after a race, and in later stages some objects can be driven straight through. However, in the age of the day one patch, it still performs better than some AAA titles on release. Arkham Knight, anyone?
Right now, Oh Deer! is a Playstation Mobile exclusive, so is the clock ticking if you want to bag a copy? I reached out to the developers on Twitter about the possibility of the game coming to other platforms, and was told that, fingers crossed, it would eventually come to ‘everything that has a controller’. It means that at least this title won’t go down with the Playstation Mobile ship.
As for the rest of the library? Yet again, gamers will have to put their faith in enthusiasts to archive the collection of games somehow. As with previous generations, it will probably be the ‘pirates’ that put the most effort into preserving the Playstation Mobile titles. We can’t rely on Sony this time around.
If you want to grab a small slice of gaming history that will soon disappear, cruise on over to the Playstation Mobile store and find something that looks interesting. Forego the cost of a coffee for a gaming treat. Take a punt, have fun, and pay tribute to the last days of a digital platform, as well as supporting the talented developers.