Sony releases developer tools for hardware-independent PlayStation games

The software kit targets games for Sony's PlayStation Suite, which run on its consoles and devices made by other companies

Sony has released a set of programming tools for its PlayStation Suite, a new push to expand the PlayStation platform beyond the company's own gaming consoles, the electronics firm's game division said Thursday.

Sony Computer Entertainment will "certify" devices made by outside manufacturers as compatible with the PlayStation Suite, then allow PlayStation games to be purchased and played on them. The suite is a departure from a long-held tenet of the video game industry -- that hardware makers such as Sony build and control their gaming platforms, which software developers then target with game titles.

The beta version of the developer program provides access to a software development kit to the general public. The software kit includes a set of graphics and gaming libraries, a simulator for PCs, and the ability to test games on the PlayStation Vita handheld and other devices.

The new strategy comes as smartphones and tablets increasingly compete directly with dedicated game consoles like the Vita and Nintendo's portable 3DS. When Apple unveiled its latest iPad in March, it pointedly brought several game developers on stage to show off their creations on the new device.

So far, the only devices certified to run PlayStation software are a set of Sony's own smartphones and tablets.

Sony is calling the current public release of the developer tools an "open beta," with the official launch set for later this year. The current beta version also provides access to Sony employees for help with programming and other issues.

After the official release, developers will be required to pay US$99 per year for the right to test their creations on compatible devices and sell them through the PlayStation Store. The company said it is still working out details such as what percentage of revenue content creators will receive and which countries the store will be available in.

Sony says the developer program will not allow free software for the PlayStation Suite, although a system for in-game purchases is in development. This would allow for "freemium" offerings, in which a title can be had for free but payments are required for more features or functionality.

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