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PlayStation Mobile courting indie developers to bring risky, experimental games to platform

Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Sony's PlayStation Mobile initiative launched earlier this month through its digital store with about 20 games and applications, a number that the company expects to grow to about 60 to 70 by the end of 2012. Beyond that, Sony says it's looking to grow that number further by seeking out independent developers who want to bring "edgier," "more experimental" games to its mobile certified devices.

PlayStation's senior manager of Mobile Content Acquisition, Sarah Thomson, tells Polygon that the guidelines of other platforms, namely Apple's iTunes Store and Google Play for Android, don't necessarily apply to what Sony wants to do with PlayStation Mobile.

"We're looking for indies who are wanting to bring interesting, unique content to the platform," Thomson says. "There are restrictions with iOS, where the platform is a lot more heavily policed or where it's a little more conservative, or a little edgier, if you're wanting to do something a little more experimental where publishers might not necessarily fund because it's risky, that's the kind of stuff we want to look at.

"That's what really defines a platform, so that's what we're looking for."

PlayStation Mobile games are playable on Sony certified devices including the PlayStation Vita, Sony Tablet S and Tablet P, and certain Xperia smartphone models. Devices from HTC, Wikipad, and Asus will also support PlayStation Mobile games.

Thomson says the PlayStation Mobile platform is currently in a beta release, with hardware support and software features continuing to roll out over time.

"This is early days and we're not feature complete, so things will evolve," she said. While no current PlayStation Mobile games support free-to-play business and in-app purchases, the platform supports both. We'll see much more of that as the PlayStation Mobile platform grows, says Thomson.

Speaking with independent developers at IndieCade recently, many reported that Sony's mobile team had approached them for publishing and co-marketing deals. Some of those developers say they've already signed on to bring their content to PlayStation Mobile. Developers cited relatively short exclusivity arrangements as one of the reasons they planned to bring titles to Sony's mobile platform.

Thomson says that Sony plans to bring more attention to its PlayStation Mobile offerings by focusing on discoverability and easier purchase of the content through its PlayStation Store.

"We're striving for that accessibility, the idea of being able to buy the content as easily as possible and at as many outlets as possible," Thomson said, suggesting that the distribution channels of PlayStation Mobile content could expand beyond just the current PlayStation Store.

"To a lot of developers that maybe were hesitant about mobile in the past because mobile has a lot of challenges [...] we're offering a real differentiator in terms of discoverability, because we have well built-out network for marketing," Thomson told Polygon. "A lot of other competitors just don't have [that], either because they're quite new to the space, or they're in the middle of evolving that. We have a very well-established marketing efforts and channels in place that we can leverage now for mobile. So I think that's really exciting, because discoverability is one of the biggest pain points for mobile right now. We're able to really help tackle that."

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