After all, those pictures and list of specs certainly seem convincing. Beyond the the fact that the snaps show the trademark buttons and long-rumored touch-pad, it’s also an idea that just makes sense. People have been clamoring after one for so long for a reason.
But may gaming commenters have suggested that the phone will become “a third pillar” in Sony’s lineup: a kind of mobile offshoot that would run alongside the PS3/PS4 and “the real PSP2”.
I don’t buy it. The Playsation Phone will be the PSP2. Sure, there may be a functionally similar model without the phone. But this will be the next portable Playstation.
There’s No Market for the PSP2
Many hardcore gamers’ response to the Playstation phone has largely been one of ‘neat’, but I want the real PSP2 because I am a gamer and I need real games – a sentiment I totally relate to.
But a question that needs asking is: what’s the market potential for a dedicated games device in 2011? Yes, the Nintendo 3Ds will sell bucketloads – but it’s because of its capacity to appeal to a wide range of people, from young children to working mothers to seniors. There is also the surprisingly well-received 3D screen. It’s again something new that, like the DS, will provide new gameplay opportunities.
But if the PSP2 is simply an upgraded games system, how much market potential exists for it? Mobile gaming is fundamentally shifting because gaming on iOS devices and, soon anyway, Android and other platforms, present a better option. iPhones and Android have even dented the massive the sales of Nintendo’s DS.
And why? Simple: people have a limited amount of time and money. If they have a phone with them that plays something to keep them occupied at the subway station, it’s good enough. Or, at the very least, it’s enough to make someone pause before dropping $249 on a dedicated game device.
Don’t mistake me, however. The games on iPhones of Droids don’t hold a candle to games like God of War or Metal Gear Solid. The point is that, beyond a small audience of hardcore portable gamers, portable games don’t have to be epic or graphically impressive; they just have to be fun and easy to play.
Assuming it simply has better graphics and a similar form factor, what motivation will there be for Sony to spend hundreds of millions on R&D and marketing to put out a device that appeals to a niche audience? The rise of mobile phone gaming has altered the market and has made the idea of a dedicated hardcore system ‘with better graphics’ an economically untenable one.
Why The PS Phone is a Better Solution
So, if mobile gaming has altered a great deal – with Nintendo’s DS/3DS being the only standalone that will survive – why would a Playstation phone work where a PSP2 would not? Well, for three reasons:
- Multifunction devices have way more market appeal: A device that is both an Android smartphone and a gaming machine has vastly more market appeal than either a standalone smartphone or a gaming system. It appeals to a wide demographic and will inevitably create some new customers. Rather than only appealing to hardcore gamers, a PS Phone would appeal to millions more.
- Lust Appeal: Because the phone will also run Android – and notice I said also and not exclusively – it will be accompanied by a big push from Google to push their OS as a gaming platform. It will become a ‘halo phone’ for Android – the droolworthy model that makes the entire platform seem better. People will crave this thing because it will be a compelling all-in-one competitor to the iPhone.
- A dedicated Sony Marketplace would provide a better environment for game developers: Right now, games are tricky on Android because of piracy and a clunky payment system. But Sony do know a think or two about a gaming marketplace (PSN is quite successful after all). But after an awful experience with the PSP and piracy, Sony will work to make their online store as safe for developers as possible. And if it’s good for developers, that will result in more and better games.
So all in all, those hoping for a PSP2 shouldn’t hold their breath. There just isn’t much motivation for Sony to make one. Instead, rather than ‘three pillars’, Sony will likely release this in early 2011 and a phone-less version later in the year. And from a market perspective, it will also be the right thing to do.