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Daily Reaction: What Will PS Mobile Mean for Sony, Vita and Android?

August 15, 2012 Written by Dan Oravasaari

Daily Reaction is a new feature where Sebastian Moss & Dan Oravasaari discuss today’s most hard-hitting topics every single weekday.

On today’s Daily Reaction we discuss Sony’s PS Mobile platform, and their movement to bring the service across multiple devices. Using a rebranding of the PlayStation Suite, Sony has promised to bring the ability to develop for numerous platforms that will carry across the PS Vita, Sony phones and tablets, HTC phones, Asus branded products and the WikiPad. As well as utilizing 1st and 3rd party developers, and launching with around 30 games, available within an app store, Sony will be lowering the barrier of entry to the the PS ecosystem for smaller developers too. So will this extension of the PlayStation brand help Sony in their financial struggle? Or will this just become another failed endeavor on their Wikipedia page?

Dan: The concept behind Sony moving opening up their brand to new IPs outside of their closed platforms could be potentially powerful. As we see an influx of products that could seemingly generate a whole sector for the casual gamer by itself, all with little to no assistance from Sony. This is not to say that from the beginning, Sony can just let the product out with no push. It’s just that if they can get the framework to gain enough steam to generate independent applications equivalent to the game section of Apple’s app store, Sony could sweep the casual mobile market away from other console makers or mobile OEMs, and create a new lineup of games for their devices at the same time. Luckily it seems that Sony has enough backing to make take the first steps needed to bring people on board, it’s just that time will tell if Sony can do more than launch products – as they need to support them too.

Seb: Smartphones are huge, and anyone that tells you otherwise is just plain wrong – every single day Google activates 900,000 Android devices, so it outsells the Vita in 3 days. That’s why I’m so excited about PS Mobile, it gives Sony a chance at getting a piece of that pie. Selling Sony mobiles is great for them, but as they don’t own the Android ecosystem they don’t make the kinds of profits post-sale that Apple does with iPhones. PS Mobile allows them to monetize their phones, and even their competitors’. But to truly do that, it obviously needs to be successful. The difficulty here lies with both developers and consumers. For developers, Sony needs to give them a reason to develop for their sub-platform, which is of course smaller than the entire Android ecosystem, rather than the whole platform. And for consumers, Sony needs to give them a reason to use PS Mobile instead of Google Play.

The reason developers currently give for choosing PS Mobile is that the fewer platforms actually helps development – Android faces serious levels of fragmentation with small developers unable to test all 1 trillion Android phone variations. That, and Sony sometimes helps them with development, and gives them a marketplace that isn’t full of a million clones and terrible ports, helping them stand out.

For consumers, the reason to use PS Mobile needs to be quality, Sony can’t just approve every game that comes their way to get their numbers up. That’s what Google Play is for. It needs to be all the best games on mobile all in one place.

Dan: The issue I see in Sony being a strict platform to obtain certification for, is that without a diverse selection of products to choose from, most casual gamers won’t randomly drop a $1 on a bad game. They need to be able to easily spend an inconsequential amount of money, and feel little to no regret about moving on to the next product – that is the secret of the App store’s success. As long as Sony can create a competitive market that has a similar pricing structure, they might be able to become the primary source for all Android games on compatible devices.

As Sony has a number of quality developers behind them, we could also see this as a trojan horse to bring in mobile gamers to the hardcore market. As casual gamers start to become familiar with AAA franchises, and their developers – we could see a migration from mobile games to console games. Much like the phone has become a new generations NES, there is a huge set of budding gamers out there just looking to get their new fix.

Seb: I’m sure it will make some casuals become core gamers, and it’ll also bring some core gamers who use smartphones into the PlayStation family. It’ll even have trophies, which will endear it to a ton of people. But the biggest dilemma Sony faces, even after it’s a success, is how much should they support the platform themselves. Making all their games on it would devalue the Vita as a unique device, as smartphone owners can just use their phone instead of buying a handheld. But at the same time, not releasing their games wouldn’t send the right message to developers or give it the push it needs. A fake Gran Turismo android game sold 100,000 copies in a day, despite being blatantly spam. A real version on PS Mobile? Chart topping.

So Sony’ll have to tread the fine line of pushing PS Mobile while not ignoring Vita-only titles. I think the way to do that is invest in the full-scale GOWs, GTs etc on Vita, and doing lighter, more experimental versions on PS Mobile (God of War: Sidescroller, anyone?).  I’m also excited by the amount of Japanese developers who are supporting the platform, as they’ve had a hard time on mobiles as a whole, so this could easily mean a rise of JRPGs on smartphones.

But even if it’s not a huge success on mobile, it’s still has huge implications for the Vita. Instead of dev kits that cost over $2000, indies have access to the platform for only $99 a year – that’s a bedroom developer’s price. So that could mean that the Vita could end up getting a steady flow of smaller titles, keeping it alive during the duller months and drawing people away from their other handheld devices. That is, if Sony doesn’t bury it away like Xbox Live Indie Games, which Microsoft has even admitted was poorly placed and poorly supported.

With the right games, long term support, Sony IPs and strong placement on Sony phones and the Vita, PS Mobile has a strong chance at being the gamers’ go-to place for mobile titles. Of course, if Sony can release a phone that hugely improves their market share, that won’t hurt either.

Let us know below what your thoughts are on PS Mobile, and if it is something that you might use on your smartphone. Will Sony be able to enter a market already saturated with competition? Will this lead to a rise in indie Vita titles? Follow Seb and Dan on Twitter to hear more of our ramblings, and good cop/bad cop discussions.