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Summary:

Sony is said to be working on a “PlayStation phone” that would bring a more immersive, sophisticated gaming experience to the mobile gaming community and beyond. While the market is ripe for such a device, Sony must deliver on a few key challenges to succeed.

phone

Engadget last week posted photos of a phone/portable gaming system hybrid from Sony that could have massive appeal among the gamer set. I think the market for a game-centric smartphone is ripe for a PlayStation phone (or another game-centric device), but as I write in my weekly column over at GigaOM Pro, for Sony to avoid a flop of Ngage-type proportions, it must get these things right:

  • The hardware. A true gaming phone — one that better supports and replicates console-style play — requires more sophisticated controls and a larger screen. That kind of handset would be too bulky for mainstream consumers, and developing one that could compete on price with other smartphones will be difficult. But many gamers carry a portable gaming device in addition to their phones. Replacing those two gadgets with one — even if it is, say, 50 percent bigger than their current phones — is a compelling proposition.
  • Marketing. Even the best smartphone will struggle to find an audience if it isn’t marketed well. Just ask Palm.
  • Carrier partnerships. Carriers may be less powerful than ever in the world of mobile, but they can still make or break a mobile device. Any manufacturer looking to bring a gaming phone to market would be wise to partner up with a deep-pocketed operator who can back the device with retail distribution and marketing savvy.
  • The developer community. Sony should take a cue from Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android, which have spurred a flurry of app development by lowering the barriers to entry.
  • Game distribution. Apple’s App Store and Google’s Android Market have built massive libraries by enabling developers to easily upload their apps and make them available to millions of users. That’s a strategy Sony needs to follow.
  • The phone. While any true gaming phone must have sophisticated controls, it must also be easy to use for voice calls, texts, photo-messaging and email. In addition to an acceptable browser, it must also support the wide variety of non-game applications many use in their day-to-day work and home lives.

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Image courtesy Flickr user USAID_IMAGES.

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  1. Best Android Apps Saturday, October 30, 2010

    This should be interesting and may very well change mobile gaming for the better. A control pad on the actual device specifically for gaming will open up screen space and probably provide better and more responsive controls in quite a few cases. The touch screen controls are great, I’m not saying replace them. I’m just saying that with certain games, especially roms, a control pad on the actual mobile device would be great.

  2. Some of those points that a phone maker must get right, Microsoft has already failed at.

    It produced its Windows Phone 7, which really only has appeal to one niche: The gamer. It lacks other essential non-gaming apps and basic OS functionality (like lack of full multitasking, and lack of Copy & Paste).

    Sony may be able to get away with making its game platform a walled-garden, but the rest of the phone should be as open as possible. I believe that lack of openness will be Windows Phone 7’s demise. MeeGo even stands a better chance.

    If Sony uses Android as the basis for its gaming phone, it should ensure that non-game services are open to competitors.

  3. I’m concerned about how they can get the balance between phone and gaming handheld just right.

    As you point out, the controls are very much a factor. Some people do like hardware keypads and such for dialing, but good luck squeezing one of those in with the usual D-Pad and face buttons…

    The greater concern, however, is the possibility of a game being interrupted by phone calls, e-mails, or SMS/MMS messages. I do not find that desirable at all. Furthermore, if you drain a gaming handheld’s battery from playing all the time, you’d at least still have a cell phone in another pocket to make calls with. Not so here…

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