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Futurlab Talk Minis, Velocity's Sales And Sony

Mini adventures.

PlayStation minis launched at the same time as the PSPgo, and were Sony’s answer to the onslaught of titles that were quickly filling up Apple’s App Store. Priced at sensible, cut-down rates and aimed at bolstering up the PSN’s otherwise full-priced range of PSP titles, minis offered a quick to download range of games with plenty of developer support.

Going forward, the maturity of some of the titles became clear, and although the collection has still to break into the real mainstream a few studios are happy to sing the praises of Sony’s diminutive pocket-sized army of games.

One such developer, Futurlab, spoke to TheSixthAxis yesterday about everything minis, from the way developers are supported from day one through to the conceptions that gamers have of the label and the problems that result from the restrictions in place.


Early minis artwork focused on the link between the games and the PSPgo, which is digital download only.
The biggest issue that the platform faces, at least in our opinion from reading comments on the site and elsewhere, is that because the games work on PS Vita and PlayStation 3 it’s not entirely unreasonable to expect that trophies come as part of the package.

James Marsden, head of Futurlab, agrees.

“Lack of trophies in minis is probably the single biggest turn-off for most gamers. At least that’s the impression we get from feedback on our games.” he admitted when we interviewed him, suggesting that he’s well aware of the frustrations that some gamers experience.

His thoughts are echoed elsewhere, too, without having to look too far.

He’s confident though that the games themselves stand up to scrutiny – indeed, his own Velocity has been receiving some fantastic review scores since its release last month.

“The second most asked for feature of minis is high scores and the ability to use the system’s networking functions,” he added.

Minis don’t have any online leaderboards, a feature that’s common in some of the most addictive games because they keep people coming back. “In my opinion,” adds James, “MotorStorm:RC is the first example of what a PS Vita game should be in this respect, as it suits a portable device and is able to use the connected features to its advantage.”

“If there were any developments made to the minis platform, it should be toward the mold of what MotorStorm:RC achieved,” he says, pointing to Evolution’s clever use of online mechanics to hook gamers in. Sadly, minis don’t allow these features and it’s been a long term bugbear of ours.

Futurlab would also love to see demos made available – free, time limited samples of minis that in some cases would really help sales.  “If trophies, online and demos were included in minis, it would make sales rocket, as there are some gems on minis, and perfect for the PlayStation Vita.”

In terms of rocketing sales (no pun intended), Futurlab’s Velocity has shot past 80,000 downloads in 3 weeks, of which the team is incredibly proud given the self publishing model and limited marketing spend the studio had to work with.

That said, James is happy to sing Sony’s praises. “As an indie, One of the major benefits of creating a minis game is being able to build a relationship with Sony,” he said. “We get an account manager to talk to, who can help find suitable promotions for our game. Coconut Dodge was included in the Mega Minis UMD bundle for example, and Sony have given Velocity XMB PS3 support for two weeks because they recognise it’s a great game.”


Angry Birds is probably the platform's biggest name, and no doubt biggest seller.
And for those that claim minis don’t sell, Marsden confirmed to us that his own Coconut Dodge at least shifted more on minis than it did on iOS. And that’s with EA behind the latter version. “There are many reasons why this could have been the case,” James suggests, “but at the end of the day, iOS is a huge gamble, with luck playing too much of a role.”

We’ve been behind Velocity since it was announced (along with a handful of other sites) but Futurlab admits that a lot of the awareness was due to PlayStation’s promotion of the game on the official channels, and via PlayStation Plus, which saw the game release early and, for subscribers – completely free for a couple of weeks.

“Perhaps the best platform though has been PlayStation Blog,” he told us. “We’ve written a total of eight blog posts covering our original pitch to Sony, introducing Coconut Dodge and its journey from Flash to PSP, and the Mystery Puzzle teaser campaign for Velocity, which was cool of Sony to support as it was quite disruptive.”

“It seems as though if you’ve got a good idea for a blog post, Sony are receptive to it, which is awesome as an indie because we tend to have lots of them!”

James still thinks that minis are overlooked by most gamers though. We did start to cover minis as they were released until the number outstripped the time we had available, but some of the older titles still hold up extremely well. And remember that most of them run just fine on the Vita.

“I’ve recently been replaying a load of the early minis like Aero Racers, Arctic Adventures: Polar’s Puzzles and Cubixx,” said James. “These are great, addictive games, and just what the PS Vita needs.”

Heck, even Angry Birds is on there.

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10 Comments
  1. BrendanCalls
    Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc - YOHIMBÉ!!!
    Since: Forever

    Velocity is a fantastic game. Trophies or not it’s worth every penny. Admittedly I got it free from PS+ and probably wouldn’t have bought it otherwise. I will, however, be buying other FuturLab titles on the back of the quality of this game.
    Great read too

    Comment posted on 12/06/2012 at 00:20.
    • Erroneus
      Wanted "Trophy Hunter" but was too late.
      Since: May 2009

      Yep same here, would love to see a HD version of Velocity with exactly PSN trophies and online support.

      Comment posted on 12/06/2012 at 10:58.
  2. Shalashaska
    Member
    Since: Aug 2009

    Same here my time spent on the vita is split between FIFA and velocity, might have a quick look at other minis to see what I’ve missed.

    Comment posted on 12/06/2012 at 00:29.
  3. TSBonyman
    Member
    Since: Dec 2009

    I have a few of the best minis on my Vita; Velocity, BreakQuest, Space Shooter for 2 Bucks!, Angry Birds, Let’s Golf and one or two more. I’ve had value for money from all of them and i’m on my third playthrough of BreakQuest so clearly trophies don’t matter when you’ve got a good game.
    There have been a few minis which have gone on to be full-fledged psn games (AlienZombieDeath, ScaryGirl), so perhaps that’s something Futurlab should look into doing?

    Comment posted on 12/06/2012 at 01:13.
  4. bowie
    Member
    Since: Jan 2012

    I am not concerned about online or trophies for minis but I would love to have a trial and unlock system in place for them. I would definitely try out more mini if it were possible. That said, I do think that everything on PSN should be trial and unlock.

    Comment posted on 12/06/2012 at 01:28.
  5. ron_mcphatty
    Member
    Since: Sep 2008

    About the trophies thing, since the Minis range is playable on the PSP would it be possible to implement the trophies cheaply and easily? I’m thinking of Peace Walkers ‘transfarring’ system for copying save games, trophies unlock fine after you do the deed on the PSP and PS3 which is great but the fact the process has its own trademarked name sort of implies that it might have been expensive to make. Not so good for Minis.

    Comment posted on 12/06/2012 at 08:37.
  6. hazelam
    Member
    Since: Feb 2009

    i’m sure there have been one or two minis that had online leaderboards.
    i’m pretty sure i’ve got one of them, i just can’t remember which one it was, i do have a few dozen of them by now.

    there are some great minis out there, i got angry birds for 99p, and i think it plays better with an analog stick than it does with a touch screen.
    at least i prefer playing it that way.

    oh, the hours i’ve spent playing monopoly.

    there’s the fantastic Age of Zombies, the fun gta type game, the name of which escape me for the moment, i mean the top down 2d gta not the 3d games.

    there’s that open world racing game by the team that made codemasters Insane game.

    i could spend an hour listing them all probably.

    Comment posted on 12/06/2012 at 09:00.
  7. igotmy9milli
    Member
    Since: Apr 2010

    Cubixx is the best game ever apart from Cubixx HD. That is all.

    Comment posted on 12/06/2012 at 09:00.
  8. Lord_Gremlin
    Member
    Since: Nov 2009

    No trophies – no buy. Well if it’s free with PS+ it’s always worth a look though.

    Comment posted on 12/06/2012 at 12:29.
    • BrendanCalls
      Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc - YOHIMBÉ!!!
      Since: Forever

      Your loss

      Comment posted on 12/06/2012 at 14:20.