Sony hopes to counter smartphone games with free PlayStation Vita developer tools

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Hoping to counter a trend that's seen its portable devices struggling against competitors like Apple's iPhone, Sony on Wednesday announced that it would be removing barriers to publishing for independent developers by doing away with their licensing fees.

As of May 7, the Publisher License Fee for PlayStation Mobile has been waived, according to a post (via Kotaku) on the PlayStation Blog. Developers of all stripes no longer have to pay the $99 fee in order to get their games onto Sony's PlayStation Vita or any other PlayStation-certified device.

PS Vita owners will see developers' games available in the PlayStation Mobile section of the PlayStation Store, as will owners of PlayStation-certified devices (Sony's tablets and Xperia handsets, as well as a number of devices from Sharp, HTC, and Fujitsu). The move is likely aimed at halting or at least slowing the momentum that has seen developers increasingly interested in mobile platforms at the expense of traditional home and portable gaming consoles.

Sony's gaming rival, Nintendo, is also looking to court mobile game developers. On Monday, the gaming giant began offering kits to make it easier to port smartphone games to the Wii U in light of that console's low initial sales.

Previously, Sony dropped prices on its PS Vita in Japan. The portable console has seen disappointing sales as devices like the iPhone have proved a more attractive platform to consumers.