Sony Set to Take On Growing Dominance of iPhone and iPod Touch

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Sony is no doubt feeling the heat from Apple, whose campaign to push the iPod touch (and the iPhone, though less directly) to the forefront of mobile gaming continues, with another recent advertisement using the “Funnest iPod Ever” tag line, and highlighting another selection of games available for the platform. They’ve also introduced a Games Showcase attached to the official iPod touch page of their web site. It looks like Sony may be taking Apple’s success seriously into consideration in designing their upcoming successor to the PlayStation Portable, their own mobile gaming device.

The biggest cue they’re rumored to be taking from Apple is a switch to exclusive digital distribution, instead of retaining support for disc-based media via their own proprietary UMD format. I am myself a PSP owner, and I admit that I find the discs both cumbersome and antiquated now that I’m used to just downloading, resetting, and playing on my iPhone and iPod touch.

News of the new device comes from David Perry, Chief Creative Officer of Acclaim, as reported by Kotaku’s Brian Crecente. Perry says the news of the new device comes directly from one of its developers at Sony, and I suspect the leak might even be one that’s officially sanctioned by Sony in order to steal some of Apple’s thunder.

We’ve already seen the mobile gaming market change in the wake of the arrival of the iPod touch, with Nintendo’s introduction of the DSi, which adds some built-in media playback ability to the mobile console. It makes sense that Sony and Nintendo would do their best to bridge the gap between their own products and Apple’s jack-of-all-trades.

This move probably also means another mobile app store is on the way, although the exact nature of the PSP 2’s isn’t explained in detail. CNET is speculating that 3G as well as Wi-Fi might be offered. Sony, of course, has experience with direct digital distribution via their PlayStation Network Store, so they won’t be starting from scratch.

I think they have a chance to give Apple a run for their money, in fact, as long as they can appeal more to casual gamers while still keeping the core crowd interested. An OLED touchscreen like the one that’s forthcoming on their latest incarnation of the Walkman would go a very long way to adding to the appeal of a new PSP, as would the addition of the often-requested second analog joystick. If they are going to take on Apple, they should know their strengths, and game system controls are definitely one of them.

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