Sony vs. Microsoft: Whose Mobile Gaming Strategy Wins?


Thinking about Sony’s reported Playstation phone, it’s easy to draw comparisons to Microsoft’s approach to mobile gaming. Microsoft plans to integrate Xbox Live with its new Windows Phone 7 platform. (Handsets go on sale Nov. 8.) It’s a far more software-centric approach to mobile gaming than Sony’s apparent hardware-based plan of attack, which some gave up for dead following the demise of Nokia’s N-gage gaming phone. If a PSP phone proves successful, Sony could very well revive the idea of dedicated gaming phones. On the other hand, Microsoft could show that in this age of already sophisticated smartphone hardware, software and services are the keys to success. I examined the competition over at GigaOM Pro (subscription required) to see who’s likely to win out.

What Sony Needs to Succeed

Prove that smartphone gaming can include more than casual titles. Sony has an opportunity to show why a multi-touch screen can be limiting for game play, especially for some genres, like first-person shooters. If it gets that message across, a PlayStation Phone could rope in newly minted mobile gamers more used to casual titles like Angry Birds. That could bring in some much-needed revenue for the struggling PSP platform as the company prepares to launch a PSP 2.

Avoid the mistakes of the PSP Go and Nokia’s N-Gage. Sony will need to get game pricing in line with current mobile games, which rarely cost over $10. It will also need to ensure that the phone isn’t too bulky and still works well as a smartphone, and show why having cellular connectivity can enhance gaming on a PSP Phone.

Tap the wider community of mobile game developers. To differentiate itself and get new customers to buy a PSP phone, Sony has to create a stable of new games that take advantage of a PSP phone’s hardware. These are games like next-generation sports and fighting, which still feel more comfortable with physical controls. That, I believe, means Sony will have to tap the wider community of mobile game developers.

What should Microsoft do?

Keep bringing the games. If Microsoft can further leverage its strong ties with established studios, create its own first-party titles and encourage independent games that really soar on a touchscreen, it can establish Windows Phone 7 as a destination for quality mobile games. Microsoft has been aggressively evangelizing to developers and selling them on its easy developer tools. It will have to convince skeptical developers that there’s money to be made.

Show people why Xbox Live integration matters. On the console, Xbox Live is the best online gaming service. On Windows Phone 7, Microsoft will have to show more casual users that it’s fun to connect with friends, share achievements and play against other users. The company needs to prove Xbox Live is a unique asset for Windows Phone 7, not just extension of the console.

Read the full post here.

Image Source: flickr user usefulguy

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A dedicated Sony PSP phone will have fail written all over it. They are better off making a dedicated gaming handheld – a genuine sucessor to the PSP. This way they only have to battle with Nintendo and not take on Apple, MS and Google.


Sony Playstation phone looks like a small niche market. Sony would have been better off partnering with Google as a service on ALL Android phones. Windows Phone 7 with Xbox Live will certainly outsell any dedicated Sony playstation phone.

Lucian Armasu

There will be awesome games coming out for Nvidia’s Tegra 2 chip. Why would people bother with less impressive games that only work on Sony’s phone, when they could play the amazing Tegra 2 games on a number of Tegra 2 phones that will be coming in 2011. Samsung, LG, HTC and Motorola, all have announced that they’ll use Tegra 2.

Tegra 2 tablets are already out, and Sony has no excuse for not using the chip. They should’ve gone with the chip with the best graphics and they didn’t (according to rumors they’ll use a Snapdragon 2nd gen).

Here’s a video of an upcoming game that runs on Tegra 2 Android phones.

oh boy

You need to get out more Lucian. The current PSP looks better than that. Much better. And it’s 5 year old technology. Maybe you originally thought the 360 was state of the art instead of a rehashed Xbox as well?

Your also missing that point that adding phone functions to a PSP based device is much easier than adding a gaming infrastructure to a phone. Currently the major issue with the PSP is not wanting to carry multiple devices around. Add Android capability to a very powerful PSP2 device and you remove that pain point plus get both 3 markets at once. PSP users, Android game users, phone users. PSP still competes on the power front with the latest tech on the market today. PSP2 will be just as far ahead of the pack. Tegra has the same issues Sony had with the Cell in the beginning. 8 asymmetrical processors that increase the learning curve. And if all those companies are doing that they are going to struggle to offer anything unique over each other. IOW the low margin volume only business.

Jack C

I’m not sure that Sony and MS are the only 2 players to watch. The mobile gaming industry has been rocked to the core by the rise of social gaming and smartphones. The pot is currently up for grabs. For any of the many contenders (including, but not limited to just Sony and MS), the following will be critical:
1. Titles from big players: either strong exclusives or breaking down that barrier
2. Accepting the new mobile: mobile gaming and sim have moved in together, get used to it
3. Mobile hardware: make use of those 90 million triangles per second!
4. Marketplace presence: a strong stand-alone, or play nice with existing marketplaces (app stores, steam, windows, publishers)
5. Social community hub: with emphasis on friends and achievements (married to your marketplace)
6. Cross-device interoperability/value add: play at home or on the go, either a seamless hand-off or related (mobile) content, with mobile controllers

oh boy

How is MS much more software centric?

1. The PSP already plays PS One games. It also already plays mini games on both PS3 and PSP. It also allows playing some PS3 games via remote play. Along with streaming your music and video library from your PS3 over the internet. No extra music subscription required. More features and capability but they are less software centric? Doesn’t make sense.

2. “Sony has to create a stable of new games that take advantage of its a PSP phone’s hardware.” Sony has the largest 1st party game development house in the world. MS has disbanded pretty much all of theirs over the last 5 years and farmed everything to 3rd parties. Btw the touch screen isn’t a differentiation in an Apple mobile world. Not sure if the PSP phone will have one in addition to physical controls.

Popular games like Flight Control are not only in HD on the PS3 they have also integrated the Move. Sony has the stronger relationship with studios. Where is Flight Control with Kinect integration? The big studios have also developed more Move supported games than Kinect ones. Netflix integration on the PS3 is the best version. And 3D support for both movies and games is already available. Free. Like Google and Facebook and like them has more on-line users because of no barrier to entry.

How is MS more software centric again? Time to stop saying things that you know aren’t actually true. It would help your analysis and credibility to do so.

3.Best on-line gaming service? You clearly haven’t used both. Maybe in 2006 you could argue that but today PSN is. Trophies make more sense than achievements meaningless number. 32 players and up to 256 on dedicated servers kick the rear end of the 16 player P2P laggier infrastructure of Live. Gears 2 has been a running joke since the day it launched. Far worse than Gears. With 10 players they couldn’t match the quality of PS3 launch games with 40 players despite having 3 more years and a supposedly easier development environment. Ponder on that for awhile about software centric.

4. PSP already has a huge library of digital games available as a running start for the next version and developers familiar with the process. MS pretty much nothing at this point.

Again time to stop saying things that aren’t actually true and do some actually research. That’s what the link is supposed to be right? GigaOM PRO research? Not so far apparently.

So far Windows 7 mobile is struggling far worse than the 50-60 million PSP’s in the market. If your a developer which one do you thing gets you a return quicker? 0 or 50 million users?

Cyndy Aleo

Because Microsoft isn’t going to build out a phone just for mobile gaming; they are going to try to replicate the casual gaming of the iPhone. Let’s face it: You aren’t ever going to be playing an FPS like Halo on a WP7 phone. The controls would suck.

However, in Microsoft’s favor is that Sony has already tried running this play before and got sacked. Hard. Yes, there’s a market and they have the developers, the games, and the network. The real question is whether or not they have the skills to put them together with a piece of hardware that’s going to make anyone replace their smartphone and handheld gaming system.

The main problem is that every company wants to own it instead of tossing in their handheld gaming lot with a smartphone company that knows what it’s doing. Android has fragmentation all over the place; can you see non-casual gaming spread out on that mess? MSFT has shown zero skill at making a dent in the mobile market, and Sony’s big phone business is with Ericsson, known for feature phones. That Experia is a hot mess.

Now imagine if a company like Nintendo were to throw in its lot with Apple, instead of that GameCenter fail. Build out a dual-screen iPhone/DS hybrid? Even without some of the marquee games you have on PS and Xbox, it would have win written all over it.

oh boy

Sony has already tried running this play before and got sacked. Hard.

Don’t really understand the reference of that comment but how is a company that cut-off devs at the knees with 6.5, dropped Kin, dropped Silverlight as their x-platform dev environment have any favour over Sony?

1. How would a PSP based smartphone not be way ahead of Win 7 on the games front? In every area.

2. Android fragmentation is no worse than Apples fragmentation with older iPhones, iPods. We have an iPad and it’s OS is already behind out of the gate. Fragmentation is no worse with Android. Because the Apple family is currently larger it’s actually worse with Apple. Doesn’t seem to matter to anyone. Apples psychotic control freak nature is turning me off their products however ( multiple iPod touches, iPhone, iPad, iMac in our family).

Cyndy Aleo

Android fragmentation is worse than Apple’s because at least the OS is the same, even if it’s different versioning. Android phones are from different carriers, with different crapware, and different customizations by hardware. Apple currently has three iPhone models. How many Android phones are there with different everythings?

I think both Microsoft and Sony have MILES to go to make this idea work, but at least Microsoft has completely overhauled everything. Sony looks to be trying the same thing as Nokia with different hardware… and I think I typo’d in my initial comment… should have said Nokia tried.

Cyndy Aleo

This suit is laughable, at best. I have an iPhone 3G and it’s happily puttering away on iOS 3. Sure, I can’t install the latest flashlight app that I wanted, but overall, most apps work just fine for me, because they’ve all been through Apple’s App Store process.

In addition, I have the choice of whether or not to run the latest iOS on my phone. With Android, while they say it’s open, unless you are running baked ROMs, you get what your carrier says you will get. Some are shipping with Froyo, but you may be stuck with Eclair from now through whatever dessert 3.0 will be if your carrier doesn’t update. Microsoft has been able to sit back and watch both Google’s AND Apple’s mistakes, which may give them a leg up.

oh boy

‘How many Android phones are there with different everythings?’

Yes but I only use ONE. Not 4 different phones from 4 different mfgs and 4 different carriers. If I want the single “model” approach like Apple then I stick with HTC Desire and then upgrade to Desire HD. Or stick with Samsung etc. If I don’t like their approach/hardware I switch mfg. But I have that choice without throwing away my knowledge of Android. In the UK use 3 which allows you to update Android as soon as HTC provides an update to do so. If you want to. So your wrong that you get what your carrier says. America is not the world. Also try going back to a previous iOS if your not happy with the Apple upgrade. You get what Apple told you was a good update even if your not happy with it after getting it.

Nokia. Ok. Makes more sense now. But they had no game presence either. None. No developer relations, consumer game relations etc. Playstation brand is quite a bit different. Nokia was DOA because of that not because people don’t want a single device. Or are you saying the iPhone with games on it isn’t/won’t work either? Just Sony?

How is MS trying something different than Sony? Games and phones. Same thing as Nokia. Apple for that matter. But in your mind Sony is the only who’s approach is flawed. Doesn’t make sense.

The fact you can’t install the latest app IS fragmentation. So is our iPad running on an older iOS. So is the features that get lost when upgrading iOS on older hardware. No different than 2.1 vs 2.2 Android.

Btw at least we can expand Android memory. Our iPad (16gb) is full. It’s a real PITA now because our son has to keep deleting stuff to install and try new things. If it was Android tablet he could have a games memory card, an educational one etc or just general one and two and three and swap them as our needs expand.

So SONY hasn’t been watching Google and Apple’s mistakes? Only MS has such wisdom to learn and have a leg up? Again doesn’t make sense.

Gordon Shumway

Sony also need to make sure the phone is backwards compatible with the 1000+ PSP games available for download on the PlayStation Network.

It is a good library of games ranging from casual to full length ‘hardcore’ titles. If their new phone isn’t compatible then it will face many problems at launch

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