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

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Sony (s sne) is no doubt feeling the heat from Apple (s aapl), 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.

16 Responses to “Sony Set to Take On Growing Dominance of iPhone and iPod Touch”

  1. I’m afraid the future is all going to be about digital distribution, everything is evolving that way, just take a look at what’s happening with Blockbuster. The UK govt is now pushing high speed broadband and the technology is already there.

  2. The whole point of all this is that with increased competition it will be more beneficial to the gamers. Cost of games for all the handheld games, whether it be DSi, PSP etc will or should be cheaper. However, the ability to download on the fly is without doubt the biggest advantage to hit gaming, just as long as they can make it bullet proof and affordable.

  3. @DSi Console
    The risks you project, that could come with an online store are already there. Sony as well as Microsoft certify all software that is be published on their platform. This means that every developer has to present the software prior publishing to the platform manufacturer. After the certifaction process which is – as you can imagine – not for free, the Sony & Microsoft bring the software to a medium like Blu-ray, DVD or UMD – which is also not for free.

    So the system seller already have a monopoly in deciding who is bringing out software on their platforms. Therefore the move to a device without a disc-reader would lead only to the elimination of the retail channel. Therefore this would lead definately to better service to the customer as you mention he/she can download the software without the need to go to a shop.

  4. I’m all for an exclusive download service for games… well to some extent. As a gamer it’s great. No need to go shopping and carry around discs the economic effects are pretty bad though I think. It would mean Sony would have a complete monopoly on PSP games, as they’re the only seller of them. Most downloadable games for XBox and other home systems are over priced for what they are. That’s because of lack of competition which allows for price setting by Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo. If every system goes this route, there will be no more cheap second hand games either. It looks like the market is heading this way though with PSP 2 and the DSi console featuring the service along with the rapid growth of downloads in the home market.