Last time, we discussed “Cross-Play,” the ability to play games cross-platform between the Playstation 3 and Sony’s new handheld, the Playstation Vita. We touched lightly on the other cross-platform initiative that Sony has set up that allows users to get both the PS3 and Vita versions of a game for one price. Enter “Cross-Buy”.
There has been a lot of buzz about the upcoming “Cross-Buy” titles, like Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royale. But this is not a new thing, no; already-released Playstation Network games like Foosball 2012 and the critically-acclaimed Sound Shapes both supported the feature. For one price ($7.99 and $14.99. respectively, for those two games), you get both the PS3 and Vita versions of the game. What is more is that you can freely access your save file or content as you switch back and forth between the platforms, allowing you to effectively play the game whether you are at home in front of the TV or out and about. This is what we dreamed about when the Vita was revealed, and it is finally happening. And most importantly, this is happening at the standard pricing for downloadable PSN games- not a premium.
The game changes a bit this fall as the first retail “Cross-Buy” tiles hit the shelves. Among them are three first-party titles, including Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royale, Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault, and Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time. Financially, this is potentially pretty exciting- buying the PS3 version will net you huge savings on the Vita version of the game. Whether you buy the PS3 game at retail or from the Playstation Store, you will receive a digital download of the Vita game via voucher or digital bundle, respectively. While exact pricing has not been confirmed, we hope that these games will retail for the usual $59.99 with the Vita version included. More on pricing in a moment.
While this may seem like a great deal for the consumer, Sony is actually getting more out of it than just the handful of customers who jump on board for the “great deal,” when they otherwise might not have. I do not believe that it is about pushing the software so much as it is about pushing the hardware. Think of it this way- only a few million people are on board with the Vita, but 50 million or more are Playstation 3 owners. Many of those PS3 owners will be likely to purchase one or more of these blockbuster first party titles this year, obtaining copies of the Vita versions in the process. Over time, they will start to accumulate a decently-sized Vita collection, from downloadables like Sound Shapes to full retail titles like Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault. Dropping $250 on the handheld itself doesn’t seem so bad when you know that you already have a slew of titles to play on it right out of the box. Clever.
There have been a handful of unanswered questions about the program, and the answers may prove to be something that we should be wary of. As I mentioned before, pricing has not been confirmed. As opposed to the PSN downloadable games, there is a $10-$20 price disparity between retail PS3 and Vita titles, so things may not be as simple as buying one and getting the other as we were led to believe. It has already been confirmed that Sly Cooper only works one way; buy the PS3 version, get the Vita version free. This may very well be the standard, which is fine, except to those that may prefer to have their Vita games be retail rather than digital. Storage is much more limited on the Vita than the PS3, so there is cause for concern and reason for it to work the other way around.
There is also the suspicion that there may be a premium price tag attached to these games, which is personally my biggest fear. Buying PS3 and Vita games separately would cost $99, so selling both together for $79 is still a deal. But would concessions be made for those that do not want or need the Vita version? Even more disconcerting is the recent announcement in Japan that buying Hot Shots Golf 6 would result in a discount for the Vita version, yet it still retains the “Cross-Buy” name- another indication of potential premium pricing to get both versions. These lingering questions are huge- it is a shame that Sony is not being more straight-forward about the program with regards to pricing as we approach the releases of All-Stars and Full Frontal Assault.
Regardless of what happens, if there is an option to get both copies of the game for less than what it would cost to buy them separately, then the consumer that wants the game on both platforms will benefit. For the rest of us, we will have to hope that the Vita game comes as a bonus to the regularly-priced PS3 version, as originally thought. At the very least, the “Cross-Buy” PSN downloadable titles have proven to be the ideal bargain, and hopefully will continue to do so in the future.
Between “Cross-Play” and “Cross-Buy,” the future of PS3 and Vita connectivity is going to be a very interesting process to follow! More on these features as details come available.