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PS Vita doesn't deserve bad reputation - Drinkbox

PS Vita doesn't deserve bad reputation - Drinkbox

Mon 14 Apr 2014 3:04pm GMT / 11:04am EDT / 8:04am PDT
Development

Guacamelee studio's Chris McQuinn on why Sony's handheld gets short shrift, fear of mobile market, and the importance of staying small

Guacamelee developer Drinkbox Studios today announced its next game, Severed, a fantasy role-playing game with touch-based combat controls. And while the company hasn't committed to platforms just yet, the PlayStation Vita seems a likely candidate, given the game's interface and the studio's experience.

Drinkbox was one of the earliest supporters of the Vita. The studio's Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack!!! launched alongside the system in 2012, the first indie game on the handheld that wasn't published by Sony. They followed that up last year with the critically acclaimed Guacamelee on Vita, PS3, and (several months later) the PC. Speaking with GamesIndustry International earlier this month, Drinkbox's Chris McQuinn explained his affinity for Sony's portable platform.

"Honestly, Vita owners are the ****ing best," McQuinn said. "People rag on the Vita so much, and I think people who rag on the Vita don't understand, at least from a business perspective, the purchasing power of Vita owners. Vita owners are serious purchasers of games. It's an amazing system."

"People rag on the Vita so much, and I think people who rag on the Vita don't understand...the purchasing power of Vita owners."

That sentiment falls in line with Sony's own pitch to developers from last year. And Guacamelee gave McQuinn all the evidence of that he needed.

"The split in sales for Guacamelee between the Vita and the PS3 wasn't quite even, but it wasn't far off," McQuinn said. "I think that speaks to the strength of the Vita as a console to sell your game on because there are so many more PS3s than Vitas. For us, the sales on the Vita were really, really strong. It was a great SKU for us."

As for why the system is perceived as an unattractive platform, McQuinn suggested it was more an issue of hardware numbers than software sales.

"If people don't see the Vita doing the same number of sales as the 3DS, then it's automatically a failure," McQuinn said. "But I think what people fail to understand is the purchasers of Vitas are very, very engaged game consumers. For them, the attach rate with games is very high. There might not be a lot of Vitas out there, but the people who do own Vitas are very serious consumers; they buy a lot of games."

While the touch-based combat of Drinkbox's next title might lend itself well to tablets and smartphones, those platforms aren't a priority for the studio.

"For us, I think we're still going to be a bit hesitant about that market until we can see the market to be a bit safer with regards to you making a good game, putting it out, and people buying it," McQuinn said. "That's not necessarily true in that market. We've seen great games come out in that market that just don't get picked up, and that's scary. Whereas I feel if you put out a really good game on the Vita, people will buy it. So until we see that stabilize a bit, we'll probably be a bit hesitant."

The idea of selling games for $0.99 instead of $14.99 was another daunting aspect of dealing with the mobile market. Price deterioration and discoverability are two oft-lamented concerns with the almost non-existent barriers to entry in the mobile market, but while some indie developers see pushing the barriers down as an absolute good, McQuinn suggested they should probably only be lowered to a certain point.

"I think there being some barrier to entry is probably a good thing."

"I think there being some barrier to entry is probably a good thing," McQuinn said. "And I'm not saying a very high one, but something to at least ensure there's some quality to the game, with regards to it even working. I'm not saying you want to go as far as consoles still have it set up. Consoles are getting better, it's easier to put your game out on a console, but there's still a ton of work that's involved. I think there's a happy middle ground we could find."

McQuinn noted technical requirement checklists (TRCs) that ensure the product functions properly as one barrier probably worth retaining in some form.

"I think that's good for the customer, and when you have that, the customers will be more confident, so they'll be purchasing more."

Looking at the future of the indie scene, McQuinn was optimistic, saying there's plenty of room for small developers to steal a larger piece of the industry's pie. However, he predicted the big challenge for indies in the near future will be breaking out of the indie fanbase to get on the radar of the mainstream AAA gaming crowd.

"There's a huge number of those gamers who would like indie games but just aren't exposed to them," McQuinn said.

While growing the audience is a priority for the indie development scene, McQuinn has no similar interest in growing Drinkbox itself.

"It sounds kind of stupid, but I think it's really easy for our team to grow, but we don't want to do that," McQuinn said. "We don't want a big company. We just want a small team. We all know each other really well, and I think we're happy with the size we're at...We're at 14 now, which is monstrous for us. And I don't see us going any bigger. That's enough for us to always be working on two projects simultaneously, and I think we're pretty happy with that."

18 Comments

Nick Wofford
Hobbyist

172 179 1.0
vgchartz has the Vita listed with an attach rate of 2.78 on average. That's not exactly a high number for active Vita owners.

Posted:4 months ago

#1

Roy Van De Mortel
Co- Founder, Lead level design

5 4 0.8
I keep hearing about this incredibly high attach rate from Vita users all around me so I'm pretty sure its much higher than 2.78.... maybe the global software sales from VGchartz don't take digital downloads into account?
Either way its all estimations in the end... I'm pretty sure there aren't 8 million Vita sold either. Last time I heard confirmed numbers this was quite a bit lower.

Posted:4 months ago

#2

Nic Wechter
Senior Designer

32 68 2.1
The fact that Guacamelee on vita plays so well certainly doesn't hurt, I loved this game and it worked brilliantly on Vita.

Vita is a good system, my biggest beef is that its so silly that the games on the PSN store often cost more than brand new game carts from Amazon. Also not being able to change the country associated with your PSN account is massively frustrating for people like me who have moved around for work.

Posted:4 months ago

#3

Neow Shau Jin
Studying Bachelor in Computer Science

52 81 1.6
@Nick Wofford

VGChart did not track digital sales, and there are way more downloadable games came out for the Vita than physical games, add that up to Sony's digital pricing strategy that have their digital Vita games $5 cheaper than their physical counter part, AND having the games in digital version is simply more convenient for a mobile device, Vita can definitely score a very high digital attach rate.

Posted:4 months ago

#4

Nick Wofford
Hobbyist

172 179 1.0
@Roy
I certainly don't trust vgchartz with my life haha. I do think they fudge their numbers, but I'm certain it's not by too much of a margin.

@Neow
Digital Vita sales are $5 cheaper, but the memory cards instantly erase that price advantage. The convenience of instantly loading a game doesn't happen when you have to constantly delete and reinstall the game. Like I said to Roy, I'm sure the numbers are a bit fudged, but it's certainly not that far off.

Posted:4 months ago

#5

Neow Shau Jin
Studying Bachelor in Computer Science

52 81 1.6
@Nick Wofford

Oh it is off by a large margin, how about almost double of that? if the following is what it goes by

http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2014-02-11-48-percent-of-vita-game-sales-are-digital

And I never understand the argument of memory card prices. Yes it is very high when compared to a regular micro SD card, but I never see people complain when a 32GB Iphone cost $100 more than it's 16GB counterpart so this is a none issue for Vita owners. I totally agree with McQuinn:
"People rag on the Vita so much, and I think people who rag on the Vita don't understand, at least from a business perspective, the purchasing power of Vita owners. Vita owners are serious purchasers of games. It's an amazing system."

Posted:4 months ago

#6

Christian Keichel
Journalist

635 866 1.4
Yes it is very high when compared to a regular micro SD card, but I never see people complain when a 32GB Iphone cost $100 more than it's 16GB counterpart so this is a none issue for Vita owners.
The problem is, that physical games often are up to 4 GB on the Vita and with memory card prices like this, it means that even the heavily discounted 16 GB memory card that amazon now sells for $39.99 instead of $59.99 only holds 4-5 of these games at a price of $8-$10 per game, the 32 GB card goes currently for $85.99 which makes it even more expensive to store games on it. Additionaly the VIta doesn't allow you to swap memory cards without turning the system off and after every reboot the device builds a database which takes several minutes, so it's not very convenient to have more then one card on the system at all. Another problem is that the Vita has no internal memory, so that you have to set up the email client on every memory card seperately, which isn't extremely comfortable.
The 64 GB card would help to minimize the problem, but honestly, who wants to pay more the $100 for a memory card nowadays?

Posted:4 months ago

#7

Neow Shau Jin
Studying Bachelor in Computer Science

52 81 1.6
The 64 GB card would help to minimize the problem, but honestly, who wants to pay more the $100 for a memory card nowadays?
@Christian

and many direct competitors to my example, Iphones' competing products uses micro SD cards as well. Yes the price is clearly a markup when we look at other types of memory cards, the current 3DS to PSVita comparison feels like PS3 to Xbox 360 comparison in the early generation, where PS3 includes a standard hard disk, and allow owners to swap their own hard disk, yet Xbox 360 still outsells the PS3 by a large margin despite using proprietary hard disk that has a high markup price. For whatever the reason, memory card prices are simply when people don't see the Vita doing the same number of sales as the 3DS, then it's viewed as a failure, and trying to find it's faults by pointing that out. But what they point out here is simply a non-factor.

Posted:4 months ago

#8

Christian Keichel
Journalist

635 866 1.4
the current 3DS to PSVita comparison feels like PS3 to Xbox 360 comparison in the early generation, where PS3 includes a standard hard disk, and allow owners to swap their own hard disk, yet Xbox 360 still outsells the PS3 by a large margin despite using proprietary hard disk that has a high markup price.
The 360 isn't outselling the PS3 by a large margin, both consoles sold almost exactly the same (being released 12 months after the 360 this means the PS3 sold faster), but that's not the point, the 360 was the cheaper solution, then the PS3 and even if you weren't able to use a standard HDD, it doesn't meant that the 360 wasn't sold with a HDD big enough to hold a decent number of games.
The Vita is sold without any memory card (the new slim model has 1 GB of storage, but that's practically useless, if you want to download games to it and it can't be accessed any more, when you put a memory card in your Vita) and even the different bundles always came with a 4 or 8 GB memory card, which is simply not enough to hold a decent number of Vita games.
But what they point out here is simply a non-factor.
My 3DS 32 GB memory carrd currently holds about 40 games I bought in the eShop, 3 of them are retail releases, when I compare this with the games I have bought on the PSN store (1 game: TxK), I can clearly say it is a factor.

Posted:4 months ago

#9

Nick Wofford
Hobbyist

172 179 1.0
@Neow
I am highly suspicious of any PR statement from a corporation that is selling a device that is notoriously underperforming.

That said, I'll humor you: if half of the software sales on the Vita are digital, and therefore unreported (though that last part is unverified), we're still looking at an attach rate of 5.6 (I'm rounding up for your benefit). That's not quite "powerful."

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Nick Wofford on 15th April 2014 1:33am

Posted:4 months ago

#10

Shehzaan Abdulla
Translator

86 181 2.1
When the Vita performs it really performs. Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster performed almost as well on the Vita as it did on the PlayStation 3 despite the massive install size difference:

http://www.siliconera.com/2014/01/13/closer-look-final-fantasy-xx-2-hd-remasters-sales/

Posted:4 months ago

#11

Jeff Kleist
Writer, Marketing, Licensing

305 170 0.6
The problem is that they're gouging the customer. That 16Gb they put in your iphone for $100? Costs Apple $10-12. People look at what they can buy the same amount of storage for their camera and day:Hell no." These proprietary memory cards are hurting, not helping Vita, and Apples customers tend to be too fanboy, or have more money than sense to pay that.

Im wonder how many people would buy it if they figures out the 90% markup

Posted:4 months ago

#12

Craig Page
Programmer

382 218 0.6
I rarely touch my Vita, but I have physical copes of Rayman Legends and Gravity Rush. And digital versions of Sound Shapes, Escape Plan, two God of Wars (PSP ports), Theme Hospital (PS1 port), Sim City (PS1 port).

Posted:4 months ago

#13

Greg Wilcox
Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,156 1,075 0.5
I love my Vita, but Sony REALLY needs to wake up and smell the anger of folks who'd BUY MORE GAMES if the damn memory cards weren't so flippin' outrageously priced. "Purchasing power" doesn't mean "terminally stupid", Sony. If the re-design the Vita again or try this handheld thing one more time, they'd best remember that storage should neither be an option nor a luxury, but a built in necessity. and NO, a measly 1GB won't cut it at all.

Yeah, yeah, cloud storage is cool and all, but that has a fee and is useless when you're not near a connection and want to play something you "own" and SHOULD be able to access from the system at any time online or off.

I'm glad they don't manufacture clothing, because I can see them making pants and coats with no pockets and charging you for them like the Amish do when they make coats and pants.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Greg Wilcox on 15th April 2014 6:29pm

Posted:4 months ago

#14

Anthony Gowland
Lead Designer

176 559 3.2
I'd buy more stuff for my Vita if the store worked semi-reliably. 60Mb broadband connection, but Sony's servers populate it at a rate of about 1 thing a minute.

Posted:4 months ago

#15

Jakub Mikyska
CEO

199 1,091 5.5
Popular Comment
From our perspective, I can confirm exactly what Drinkbox is saying. The sales of the same game on Vita as nearly the same as sales of the same game on PS3. We can talk about units sold and attach rate and whatever, but the cold truth is that Vita is nearly as strong as PS3 (when it comes to 10$ - 15$ downloadable games).

And the Vita owners are also extremely active on social media, forums, etc. You announce a good-looking game for Vita and you have guaranteed that the Vita owners will help you spread the word.

We currently have three games in development and all of them are headed to Vita (as well as other platforms). 'nuff said.

Posted:4 months ago

#16

Roy Van De Mortel
Co- Founder, Lead level design

5 4 0.8
For us as a small developer, stories like these from Grip games and Drinkbox studios as well as the high attach rate from Vita owners is enough reason for us that we have enough confidence to develop solely for PS Vita at the moment. I can imagine it can be a different storie for the Uncharted's and Killzone's amongst us but for us, and apparently many others, this is can be viable.
Hopefully in a few months we're going to be able to share some numbers as well to convince others.

Posted:4 months ago

#17

Jakub Mikyska
CEO

199 1,091 5.5
Hi Roy. You have an incredible game in the works, so I wouldn't be afraid about the numbers ;-) When is Metrico coming out? If you wanted help with getting to more platforms, let me know. We can help.

Posted:4 months ago

#18

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