So How Well Do Games On PlayStation Mobile Sell?

Posted by on April 18th, 2013 | 33 Comments | Tags:

It wasn’t until Sony released a Top 5 for March earlier this month that I really questioned the sales of PlayStation Mobile games. Sure we had seen some sales figures before, and they weren’t pretty, but those might have just been outliers. No one was really sure. Over the past couple weeks I have been collecting sales data from a few PSM devs and while I can’t paint a full picture, the overall sales are pretty much in line with what was released previously.

So I figure we might as well start with that list which was released. The Top 5 sellers for March on PlayStation Mobile were (in order):

  • Beats Trellis: Released Oct 3rd 2012 (was free for 1 week in Feb) – $0.79
  • Castle Invasion: Released Feb 19th 2013 – $0.49
  • Chimpact: Released Feb 13th 2013 – $3.99
  • Life of Pixel: Released Jan 8th 2013 (saw a huge patch in late Feb) – $1.99
  • Gun Commando: Released Jan 23rd 2013 – $2.79

We have hard numbers for Castle Invasion thanks to the developer. The game sold ~800 units in the US during the month of March and ~250 in February. All the other developers declined to give us March figures (or did not have them yet which is another issue entirely), but Life of Pixel developer Super Icon did let us know that the game sold just over 950 units worldwide in February. He also went on to say that just under half were US sales.

One big thing to mention is that all but Castle Invasion are managed PlayStation Mobile titles. Meaning, these titles are not being released via the “Community Developer Portal”, but were with some help from Sony. Most notably that help means coverage on both the PlayStation Blogs. If you take a look at the other games released during month of March, not a single one of them made it to the Top 5.

March PSM releases:

  • Switch Galaxy: March 6th 2013 – $2.49
  • DOOXDOO: March 13th 2013 – $2.79
  • Forevolution: March 13th 2013 – $5.49
  • The Sexy Seashore: March 13th 2013 – $1.49
  • Out of Mind: March 19th 2013 – $1.49
  • Nekomimi Musume…DADADA: March 26th 2013 – $2.49
  • Quiet, Please!: March 26th – $0.99
  • Snake: March 26th – $0.99

So how well does a game sell during its first week with little to no coverage on the internet? As of April 2nd Snake sold 150 units. Worldwide. I can only imagine what higher priced titles do, even with coverage on the Blog. While ratings by no means are an indicator of sales, let’s look at Snake vs. Forevolution. Snake was released to no fanfare on March 26th and currently sits at 12 ratings on the PSM Store. Meanwhile Forevolution was mentioned on the PlayStation Blogcast, gets a post about the game on the PS Blog, and on release day has numerous people from Sony tweeting about the release. The game sits at 7 ratings as of publish time. How bad must the sales be?

If there is one person who knows about releasing games on PlayStation Mobile it is Thomas Hopper. Currently he has the most published on the service with 6, and another one in the works right now. We have covered a lot of them here on the site and while most lack a little polish they are mostly worth checking out. Sadly it doesn’t seem like many users are however. He asked me not to share specifics on each game but I can say that none came close to Castle Invasion’s March numbers in the US. As a quick point of reference his cumulative release catalog’s sales worldwide is a little less than double Castle Invasion’s sales in the US so far. But what can he do to improve this?

Currently there is no way for Developer Portal members to obtain product vouchers for their games. As some might know, the majority of game websites usually are given vouchers for digitally released content. Seeing how small PlayStation Mobile is relative to other platforms, writers don’t seem to be buying copies of games to check out if we are judging this by current coverage overall. When games do see coverage it is when they are promoted by PlayStation on the PlayStation Blog.

I think Sony needs to really do something about this. Frankly I think it is a joke that 6 months after the service has launched there still is no weekly post letting people know what has released on PSM. But Chris, there is a page for it on the US PlayStation website. Well… it hasn’t been updated since launch, it is buried on the nav, and there is almost zero info other than game names.

“Welcome to the party.”

Since the launch of PSM there have also been some changes to the PlayStation Store. There is a great web site you can use to purchase games and developers can link to their products so users can buy them. Oh I forgot, PlayStation Mobile isn’t included there. Want to search for a PSM game on Vita? Oh you can’t do that either because, 1) there is no search on the PlayStation Mobile tab and 2) PSM games do not show up on search results on the Vita store.

From looking at all these numbers I did notice a few things. For one here is a breakdown of how sales usually pan out. US is the biggest market, then it is Japan and UK followed closely behind by Canada. Note: To release on the Canadian store you will need both French and English store text, Japan obviously needs Japanese. Then a little bit behind Canadian sales are France and Germany. Lastly Australia, Spain, and Italy roughly do about the same. So if you are going to release a PSM game, make sure you have French and Japanese store text translations even if your game is fully in English.

One other thing I noticed was that talking about your game will help. Haunt The House was released back in January and sold about 1000 units during that month. In February sales dropped off to about 50%. But in March sales actually went up slightly. What caused this? Well Tom from SFB Games, developers on the title, offered up a possible explanation, “it could be down to the giveaway I ran on Reddit, which got quite a bit of attention on the /r/vita subreddit, with plenty of folks saying that they were going to buy/have bought the game.” But keep in mind, Haunt the House was a managed PSM game so he had product vouchers to distribute. Which as I mentioned before is something that your average developer release does not have access to.

Hopefully with the addition of more PlayStation Network features to the platform like leaderboards (which were announced at GDC), sales will pick up. I know from talking to a lot of developers this is something they want badly. Things like Unity support also could make PlayStation Mobile a go to place for Indies. But time will tell if sales will pick up. I for one hope they do.

[Banner image source: PlayStation Mobile]

  • Chris

    I plan to update the sales figures for April once PlayStation releases a new top 5

  • Having played most of them, I really don’t think Thomas Hopper’s games are worth checking out. They make a good case why games should be curated.

    Some PSM games are actually pretty good. But most really are awful. Snake got 150 more sales than it deserved, it’s almost literally a game that was given away with QBasic with Dos 20 years ago.

    • Chris

      I would have used something like Quiet Please for first week sales data, but the developer did not want me to share the figures.

    • I agree. Thomas’ games have some interesting art, but the controls and mechanics are sub-XNA demo worthy IMO. I’d love it if Sony had developers on the portal playtest and vote on eachother’s stuff like Harmonix did for Rock Band Network.

    • Snake is a game that everyone can enjoy. It isn’t much because it doesn’t cost much. I use my Vita more for PSM games and taking a trip down memory lane with Final Fantasy 7/8/9. And as a FYI, Snake has now sold 337 copies and I hope everyone is enjoying it 🙂

  • anon

    PSM isn’t even available in most countries.

    • Chris

      Correct, but it is in most of the “core” PlayStation regions. Sure sales from Sweden, Mexico, Russia and other nations would boost sales. But my guess is they would fall between Germany and Spain/Italy/Australia.

      For example let’s use Super Brain Eat 3 – US and UK make up almost 80% of the games sales. (Feb + Mar)

    • anon

      So, given the viral nature of small games’ PR, adding more countries would likely affect the existing countries’ sales positively. Not saying it would turn PSM into a success, but you know; couldn’t hurt.

    • ASR

      As someone from Russia, this hurts. I bought a Vita recently and I can’t get any PSM games for it.

    • Chris

      No disrespect was intended. Just that the market is no where near the size of US/UK in terms of sales.

    • ASR

      Sure its not, but its one of the biggest(If not THE biggest) EU markets
      (My post with links was removed, so I guess I’m not allowed to link anything here)

  • i have more than 10 psm games and i gotta say even not all of them are great, SONY NEEDS TO PROMOTE THEM!!!! I love the little timewaisters with buttons.

    ps. psm coverage was how i stumble into Psnstores.com and havent missed a day since!!!

  • Sean

    Sad, but, not terribly surprising, considering you guys are literally the only outlet covering these games. More than PlayStation, even.

  • Amish

    What the hell is this this when PSM isn’t available in many countries

    • KosmoCrisis

      One of many problems with the service.

  • While I hate to generalize the entire platform, I kinda have to agree with Jeremy up there that as a whole most PSM games seem to be lacking in quality. I know there are some great titles on the PSM platform, but when the service as a whole seems pretty low quality then most people are probably going to overlook it entirety despite some of the gems that are on there. People probably don’t want to sift through overpriced iOS ports, slightly enhanced Minis (some of which already have or are getting Vita-native PSN versions, which is a point I’ll get into next), and some just plain crappy looking games in order to find the good ones. If I didn’t go to sites like this one and instead tried to get games just by browsing the PSM section of the PS Store, I honestly can’t say most of the games look enticing enough to buy.

    I can’t speak from the dev side of things, but from a consumer standpoint what does PSM offer that releasing a game as a normal downloadable PSN game for Vita doesn’t? The only thing I can really think of is the ability to play on other PlayStation certified devices, but I can’t really see that being a major selling point for most people. On the other hand, releasing it as a full PSN game gets them more coverage on the PS Store and it lets them add things like leaderboards and trophies to the game, which will automatically boost sales (as disappointing as that may be to some people). Another thing is that it seems like a lot of the higher quality PSM games are already near the $3 range, and since we have PSN games coming out at that price point (Bentley’s Hackpack and Nun Attack come to mind) it kinda negates the price advantage PSM might have had (again, since these games already have things like leaderboards and trophies, which makes them more appealing than a similarly priced game without them). I’m not trying to boil the whole thing down to trophies = sales, but it is hard to figure out what advantages PSM offers to consumers (again, I’m guessing there may be a wildly different argument from the dev side of things).

    So with all of these issues plaguing PSM, I kinda wonder if it’s too late to save it. It seems like it would need a pretty major revamp to fix all of these issues, and it just doesn’t seem like Sony is that invested in the platform. And since the Vita is getting plenty of indie love now in the form of actual PSN games, I can’t imagine fixing PSM will ever be a priority for them. I hate to say it, but I’m wondering if maybe we should just write this service off.

    • it’s really stupid that the psmobile games are segregated in the vita store. It should be right there mixed in with the other games to give it visibility. I know most people have never clicked the video tab so why would they click the psmobile tab. Sony really needs better UI designers

    • KosmoCrisis

      PSM is going no where. Rewatch that PS4 video where that actually mention PSM being part of the future plans for PlayStation Network. I fear that what they are working on is something much bigger than simply selling mobile indie games. PSM is a platform for indie devs to build their portfolio and get familiar with the Vita really. Then, Sony entices them to step up to full Vita or PS3 development with assisted funding through the Sony Pub Fund and/or Kickstarter.

      On PS4, development is going to be easier with the x86 architecture and the droves of development platforms supporting every PlayStation platform (PS4, PS3, Vita, PSM), like Unity. Unity is free, or paid with the Pro version, and just about anyone can make a game on it for any of those platforms.

      Without more info to go on, insider info, all these ideas and claims I have are just interesting discussion topics and conjecture. Which brings up the biggest problem Sony must overcome and that is communication. With both relevant media (like us) and consumers. I hate to bring it up, but Mr. Moriarty over at eye-gee-en said it best.

    • Chris

      Wasn’t PSM on like 1 slide at that Sony event you went to? They were like “and there is PSM” next slide no more PSM

    • Just to be clear — Unity is free until you need to publish. Then, depending on the platform you want to publish on, you are paying literally thousands. Want to publish to another platform? Literally more thousands of dollars. How many $2 games do you need to sell to recoup just those costs?

      In the 3 years we’ve been doing development with Unity, they have steadily removed features from the non-Pro version (Ogg support, etc) that we were relying on, and their support for small/indie devs/publishers has shrunk to non-existance. We have since dropped Unity and I will never give them another cent of my own money.

    • I think your main point is that the price points are weird, given the segregation. As far as players are concerned, games are games — who cares if it’s a mini, Mobile, PSP, PS1 classic, or VIta native? The value proposition on PS1 titles versus under-selling PSP launch titles versus new Vita titles is confusing, to say the least. Some Vita native titles don’t have trophies or Near support, PSM titles are the same native resolution and control scheme, so why does the language/runtime justify retail segregation? Eliminating the segregation, making PSM titles peers in search results with all the other Vita-playable content, is step one as far as I’m concerned. When the collective intelligence algorithms that make per-player recommendations are able to suggest PSM titles, a better long tail will develop.

      Second, I was also pissed that some of the PSM titles were just transliterated minis. My husband and I *loved* Cubixx on PS3, but thought the mini was a little lacking due to the poor quality sound and reduced visuals. When I saw a PSM version of Cubixx was getting released, I was excited for better quality sound, more of the dynamic visuals from the PS3 version, etc. Nope — just transliterated the point where they mention PSP-specific things in some of the menus.

      Just like minis were restricted from certain features, I can understand and live with PSM not having certain features. Anything that is likely to make games more buggy, and therefore require more certification/testing before publish, is probably not going to happen. Trophies are a prime example of this. Leaderboards? Not so much if the API is well abstracted, but being able to write/stream arbitrary data into those global game feeds a la PixelJunk 4am would be *very* useful. Within those limitations, great value *can* be provided if the price points are clear and the experience is compelling enough.

  • graywolf323

    to be honest I don’t think I’ve even looked at the mobile section of the store since it launched and I downloaded Lemmings

    would really help if they were part of the web store

    • If you liked Lemmings, you should check out Quiet Please! Not the same gameplay, but has a genuine old school feel and temperament.

  • Lots of PSM games are too short…i mean Quiet please is great, but should be free… 40mn of gameplay…
    I mean if compared to the Minis, the PSM are lacking content, and polish.
    In the other hand, the fact that the Minis were PS3 compatible should help sales, and attract more dev…
    Sony needs to steam up the machine, or devs will run away. Limiting games to PS certified mobiles ??? My blackberry could run all of them… why limiting. Why seperate the PSM from other games ? I can see the minis, not the PSM…
    Why PSM update is always slower than PSN ?
    Why the PSM tag doesnt have a proper look ?
    Why why why why

    Please sony, try harder, and definetly replace the Minis by the PSM, it would work. PSM ARE the Minis of the Vita, and should be always visible in the Game tag on the PSN

  • Doesn’t help that most of the PSM games are quite crappy. I wanted some bit sized games but most of the ones I buy are awful and I end up just deleting them. Really I don’t understand why psmobile isn’t integrated better in the store to give the games visibility. It’s quite stupid from a business perspective.

    • KosmoCrisis

      If the games are “crappy”, what help is more visibility? Then Sony would just be advertising crappy games.

      Have you downloaded any PSM games that we said we liked, but you didn’t?

  • KosmoCrisis

    Glad you found us the way you did. We won’t let up on the coverage. PSM news is like a battlefield. Bobbing and weaving through the mine field of mainstream media to find these little gems buried deep in an indie dev’s website or Twitter acct. They don’t typically advertise them with press releases like every one else does.

  • Greg

    I have about 7 or so PSM titles and I agree some of them are sub par and figured I would give a chance. While others like Life of Pixel and Super Crate Box have been lots of fun. These games should be curated to an extent, but I also think PSM neeeeeeds additional support from Sony and the Sony Blog guys.

  • Freelance

    I did buy several PSM games and I actually liked them all, but maybe I’m just lucky. Lots of them (that I didn’t buy) do look pretty crappy though. It needs more advertising.

  • First, let me say that Haunt the House, Quiet Please!, and Lemmings are my fav PSM titles so far. Life of Pixel is fun, as are a few others, but the quality can vary quite a bit. Good on Thomas Hooper for being prolific, but the games are incredibly wonky/frustrating.

    As a developer working on a cross-platform PSM game, I agree with most of this. Getting a specific number of vouchers/codes upon publish to the store would *really* help in getting outlets to write about it. Getting the 64kb of “public” storage for leaderboards would be great — not just for leaderboards, but for other kinds of features. The ability to leave/pick up a Near item would also be fantastic.

    The only thing I disagree with is the assumption that Unity has anything to do with it. PSM is mono and MonoDevelop, just like Unity. Current Unity developers (which we were) who are writing their code decently will have no trouble making a PSM project, adding their existing sources, making some tweaks, and being good to go. Using FFWD and MonoGame makes it even easier. Are there things the PSM team could do to make the tools and experience better? Absolutely: having fewer mscorlib classes removed, updating to MonoDevelop 3.x, having C# 4.0’s async work, an easy way to run NUnit tests on-device, etc. But those limitations don’t add up to paying $5k+ for Unity licenses for a small team — I’ll take those limitations and pay the $99 fee for unlimited publishing, thanks.

  • KosmoCrisis

    One of my favorites has been Switch Galaxy simply because that was my freakin’ idea! And it has a lot of replay value considering all things PSM. But I regret to admit that I’ve been putting off getting Haunt the House.

    Are there any PSM games you guys have been thinking of picking up but for some reason or another just having hit that Buy Now button.

  • I just posted some sales figured for several games during March on my twitter account (@RockingPocket).

  • Steve Smith

    My site, Super Game Droid, covers every Playstation Mobile title that comes out. For what it’s worth.