Sunday Soapbox: Dear PlayStation Phone, You Make No Sense

Well, in classic Riddlethos form once again, we’ve written/done/played absolutely nothing that coincides with the theme week. I even said I was going to bite the bullet and play some Fable this week, but I didn’t! You can always count on us to never follow through on anything, ever. We’re consistent like that.

But, while I may not have anything to say about Fable, I’m here to bring you the Sunday Soapbox in spite of this. Today, boys and girls, we’re going to be discussing the recently-leaked PlayStation Phone, and how it will fit into the portable gaming market, as well as the overcrowded Smartphone market of today. As you can gather by the title of this article, my view on it is just a tad cynical.

The PlayStation Phone is a smartphone made by Sony’s struggling Sony Ericsson branch. It’s design is similar to the PSPGo, with a sliding top screen revealing a set of PlayStation-branded buttons and a D-pad. Instead of an analog nub there’s a touch-sensitive track pad. It’s rumored to be about as powerful as the PSP, and while it still hasn’t been officially confirmed, it’s practically a given –  original proprietors of the leak, Endgadget, swear by it – and they’ve got quite the track record when it comes to stuff like this. Among other things, they were the first to leak information on the iPad and the Nexus One .

The leak comes at a time when there’s actually quite a bit of buzz taking place in the portable gaming sector. For one, the Nintendo 3DS has been getting quite a bit of attention lately, with its glasses-less 3D technology and impressive lineup of titles set for launch. Given the hype surrounding it, and given that it actually looks like a solid, interesting device, I’m willing to bet that the 3DS will only fuel the fire behind Nintendo’s lifelong dominance of the handheld arena. (Excluding the iPhone, that is.)

That’s not all, though. Apparently Sony is hard at work on a true successor to the PSP, and some lucky people were able to hear about it at a private meeting during the Tokyo Game Show. Known across the internets as the “PSP2,” the device is said to be quite a bit more powerful than the original PSP and the PlayStation Phone; word on the street is that it will pack 1 GB of RAM. To illustrate, that’s twice the amount of RAM in an Xbox 360 console. Further word on the street is that the device will feature an HD display, a touch screen, and dual analog sticks. Oh, and there’s no UMD drive – which, in this case, I am all for.  In all, it sounds like an impressive device – a device poised to compete not only with Nintendo, but with Apple. Y’know, kinda like what the PSPGo was supposed to do.

So, to summarize: we have Nintendo, set to release an exciting new handheld gaming system featuring technology that we’ve never seen utilized in such a way. We have Sony, working hard on a powerful, UMD-less gaming system that could make the impact that the PSPGo didn’t – and then some.

We have Apple. Apple’s iPhone and iPads have more units in the hands of the public than any handheld system. What’s amazing to me is that even the iPad has taken off in such a way – which is a lesson to be learned that size, apparently doesn’t matter if you market your shit correctly. (Sony, perhaps, has picked up on this – the PSP2’s screen is said to be at least an inch larger than that of the original PSP.)

So. In the midst of all this, what possible piece can a PlayStation Phone cut for itself? A bit of a stumper, isn’t it? The handheld gaming space is well-populated right now, and if people need anything, it isn’t necessarily more options.

As a PSP owner, have you ever fondled your PSP gently in your hands and breathed, “if you could only make phone calls.”

No? Yes? If you said “yes,” then you’re probably a gamer, and a fairly devoted one at that. (Otherwise you wouldn’t be on this site.) But while Sony may be able to sell this thing to a select demographic of gamers, they’re gonna have to do more than that if they want the PlayStation Phone to make a serious impact in the portable marketplace.

And here’s part two of why the PlayStation Phone makes no sense: not only will Sony be releasing this thing into an overpopulated handheld gaming market, they’ll be dumping the PlayStation Phone smack dab into an even more overpopulated Smartphone market.

Hell, I don’t even own a SmartPhone, and I’ve spent the last six months or so going back and forth on what to (eventually) buy. People (myself included) were just starting to wrap their head around this whole Android vs. iPhone thing, and then BAM, Windows Phones. (Fuck you, Windows Phones. But god damn, do you look beautiful.)

Word has it that the PlayStation Phone will run the Gingerbread OS (that being Android 3.0) by Google. This, of course, makes one wonder how Sony can effectively brand the device as “PlayStation” if it’s, y’know… running on different software. If I don’t see the Xcross Media Bar when I boot the device up, it won’t feel like a PlayStation device to me. Or anyone, I’d presume. It’s said that the phone will feature a specialized Sony marketplace that will allow you to purchase games and other products from the PlayStation Store. That sort of brand licensing doesn’t seem like something Sony would be privy to doing. But, if the phone is indeed running the Android OS, I don’t see how else they could approach it.

Oh, and I’d be remiss not to mention: Sony Ericsson isn’t exactly the most respected or, uh, profitable branch Sony has right now. They’ve lost most of the share they had in the smartphone market, and one has to wonder why Sony would even want to put their PlayStation brand name on a Sony Ericsson phone.

So. I ask again: what market is this identity-confused phone meant for?

Soon after the leak, Sony’s VP of Marketing was quoted  in an interview with CNN as saying that gamers were unsatisfied with the current software offerings in Apple’s iPhone/iPad library. “These are largely time-killers. Gamers aren’t satisfied with that.”

Okay! So… you want to offer more hardcore on-the-go experiences? Because, y’know, I’d really like to pull out my smartphone and complete a few quests in Dragon Age during my 15 at work. Point being, I don’t think there’s many hardcore gamers in the world screaming out for hardcore experiences on their smartphones.

Care to guess why?

Because hardcore gamers play hardcore games on consoles. And handheld gaming systems. That’s why.

Am I making sense? I feel like I’m making perfect sense here. As a hardcore gamer, my smartphone needs and my hardcore gaming needs are two entirely different things. If Sony makes a phone that can play God of War, I’m not going to give a rat’s ass, because I’d much rather play God of War on my PS3. Or hell, my PSP even.

Maybe I’m judging to harshly, too quickly, or both. Sony still hasn’t “officially” revealed anything. But this much is clear: whatever the PlayStation phone ends up being, whatever tech it packs, and whatever demographic Sony is aiming for, they’ve got a hell of an uphill battle from here.

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5 Responses to “Sunday Soapbox: Dear PlayStation Phone, You Make No Sense”

  1. DarthGibblet says:

    I can see where you’re coming from with this, but I personally don’t really care where my games are as long as they’re good, quality games (so not iPhone/Android games). No offense to the iPhone or Android or anything, but most of the games on those platforms I have no interest in. If, however, there WAS a version of God of War for my Android phone and it controlled the same way as it did on my PSP, what difference would it make which device i was playing it on? If this device has the standard PSP control scheme (which is the case, judging from the pictures), what difference would it make if I was playing the game on a device that happened to also be able to make phone calls? Personally, I’m all in favor of anything that reduces the number of electronic devices I’m carrying around with me. Heck, I’m one of those guys who’s frequently wished my PSP was also a crappy phone with an always-on internet connection.

    On the other hand, though, if they approach this as a smart phone that happens to play PSP games (rather than a PSP that happens to make calls) (for the same of this comment, I’m assuming it’ll play PSP games. Has that been verified by anybody?), I think they’ll get crushed by all the smartphones already on the market that are better phones. In order to be something I’m interested in, they’ll have to make the gaming the primary focus and the phone secondary (obviously not to the point where the phone doesn’t function properly or anything, of course).

  2. SiliconNooB says:

    -The PSP phone is much more powerful than the PSP, it would be more accurate to view it as a PSP 1.5.

    -You’re viewing this thing in the wrong terms. The PSP phone isn’t going to compete in the handheld gaming market (else Sony wouldn’t chance cannibalising the sales of the PSP2). This is a smartphone, made for use with Apps, but with three very important additions in its favour. 1) tactile buttons, 2) access to the PSPstore as well as the Android market 3) it is the first handheld Playstation device to be actually portable (the PSP2 won’t fit in your pocket). Don’t underestimate the importance of buttons on a smartphone, there are many games that I’ve found all but unplayable on my iPod, because action games do not translate well to touchscreens.

    -Also consider that this is Sony’s bid to have their range of Playstation Minis live on after the death of the PSP. Consider a scenario in which the various PSP hardwares have the ability to synch their save games, where you can be playing a game on your unwieldly PSP2 at home, and then continue your game on the PSP phone durring your lunch break.

    -This certainly isn’t a device without a potential market, the only question is whether it will have a sleek enough design, and effective enough marketing to make it in the smartphone market.

  3. SiliconNooB says:

    *Also notice that it doesn’t even have Playstation branding on the face of the device. This isn’t a bona fide Playstation platform, it is not likely that Sony will push the Playstation branding too strongly in its marketing, this is Sony’s phone division attempting to leverage some of the utility and assets of their game division. Think of this in terms of how M$ tried to achieve some Xbox Live integration with their Zune division.

  4. Pete says:

    I just want a simple PDA again. My palm pilot died. I went to future shop and they laughed at me. I don’t even know what the closest device would be so most days I carry around a laptop in a backpack which is big, heavy and takes 15 minutes to boot to check my calendar. I have a NDS with me at all times so if I could use that to sync with my outlook I’d be golden. If they compromise the gaming of the device then forget it. Gaming requires a joystick and computers will never need more than 64k of memory. Write that down.

  5. Andogo says:

    @Pete LOL palm pilot. Damn thing would lost everything if you ran the battery down. You want a PDA? Get an iPod touch.

    As for the PSP phone. The XMB is not the problem here, every single phone manufacturer (and carrier) can/has put their own GUI on top of Android (with mixed results).

    The problems I can see: piracy (there’s no physical medium to stop you), data usage (for always-connected games), and cost (it’ll be at least $500 at launch).

    On the other hand, maybe we’ll start seeing ports of cellphone games from Japan, instead of having to wait two years and have it come out for the DS or PS2. Then again, I’ve been sick of the KH series since the KHII, so I’m not sure having more Squeenix shovelware is really all that good for anyone.

    Sony Ericsson isn’t known for its sound business decisions. It does, however, manage to sucker people who are rabid Sony fans. I seriously doubt I’ll get this phone, but I’m sure someone will.

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