Sony 'Playstation Phone' a safe bet

by Alistair Gray on 16 February 2011

So Sony has finally unveiled it’s ‘Playstation Phone‘ – the Xperia Play – at the World Mobile Congress in Barcelona. It looks like a nice piece of kit from what I’ve seen. But the big question, will it succeed? The pressure is really on Sony after the poor showing of the last Sony portable console, the PSP Go.

It’s clear the target market they’re aiming for – gamers. The keypad harks back the days of hardcore players, before motion controls and touch screens. This is supported by the language used by Nathan Vautier (MD of Sony Ericsson UK & Ireland), when describing the phone said “this is not just a casual gaming device, this is a truly immersive gaming experience”, before going on to highlight how a big console game like Fifa 10 can “only” be played with a keypad.

You can understand the approach, to differentiate the phone from the 800 (000) lb gorilla, the iPhone. Many games on the iPhone use a virtual joystick and buttons, but these generally result in frustration, with fingers obscuring play, and missed button presses as a result of a lack of tactile feedback (being able to feel the buttons). Game developers will also certainly find it easier to develop (or adapt existing) games for a device with a physical keypad. A phone with a ‘hardkey’ device will have a distinct advantage over another phone that doesn’t for this type of game.

However it must be said the stand out (and top selling) games on the iPhone (Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, Fruit Ninja, Doodle Jump, etc) are all games that use the iPhone’s unique interactive controls – touch screens or gyroscope. None rely on a virtual joystick and buttons. The reason for their runaway success is the natural controls they use, directly relating to the events occurring on the screen. They are designed for the interactive device they’re played on. They’re simple, easy to play, and don’t require any learning of gaming ‘rules’. This leads to a big potential market (and as a result the big sales figures).

Sony are ignoring this market (at least for now), aiming for the gamers. And what gamers like are keypads, like their PS3 and XBox controllers. So it will sell. Nowhere near the numbers of the iPhone, but well enough. They will get the smaller, but more loyal ‘gamer’ market. Smaller numbers, but larger sales as they’re so loyal. This is the start of Sony Ericsson’s recovery, but they need to press on to find other markets to survive in the competitive phone market.

How about you? Anyone tempted to take the plunge with this? What would tempt you to give it a go? A decent collection of PS1 games would definitely catch my eye…

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