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by Ethos

Sunday Soapbox: Dear PlayStation Phone, You Make No Sense

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

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.

Lazy Saturdays #02

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

Well, once again, we have an extraordinarily lazy Saturday on our hands. Or I do, at least. The rain is pouring, the sky is dark, I’m still unemployed, and I’m getting pretty hungry. I sense Little Caesars in my immediate future.

I got into a car accident last night. Well, sort of. I wasn’t actually driving, and it wasn’t much of an accident. Charlie and I were on our way back from Nashville to Murfreesboro, and we were sideswiped while trying to merge onto the interstate. It may actually have been our fault, too – we’re not 100 percent certain which way the “yield” sign was facing. Regardless, the dude just kept driving and essentially vanished into the night. So… yeah. Technically a hit-and-run, I suppose. People these years, I swear.

Like last week, I figure I’ll throw a few interesting links your way. Alleviate the boringness of your Saturday. And if your Saturday happens to not be boring, just consider it an additional perk.

Digital Foundry Breaks Down 3D Game Development for PS3Maybe you’re one of those people waiting for the 3D gaming era with bated breath. Or, like me, maybe you just aren’t. Regardless of that, if you want more information on the process of creating 3D games, as well as the advantages and drawbacks of the technology within the sphere of gaming, I highly recommend the above read. It probably won’t do much to change your mind on the matter, but if nothing else, it gives ammo to both sides.

What’s most interesting – and disturbing – to me is the sacrifices developers have to make in order to get a game running in 3D. Super Stardust HD, for example, doesn’t run in 1080p when converted to 3D – a bit of a shame, seeing that that’s always been one of the game’s main accolades. Games such as MotorStorm, which already only displayed in 720p, has now been reduced to a sub-HD image. (Thank goodness for the PS3’s upscaling, eh?)

One day, I will write a detailed soapbox concerning my thoughts on 3D. For now, I will merely say this: when you have to sacrifice one cutting-edge technology to make room for another – in this case sacrificing HD for 3D – then it’s clearly too early to attempt bringing the technology to the mainstream. Wait until you don’t have to make such drastic concessions for the sake of what many people few as little more than a gimmick.

Android OS Now Has Over 50,000 Apps AvailableConsidering a Droid OS alternative to Apple’s apparent throttlehold on the smartphone market? Well, this might nudge you even more in that direction. I had no idea there were so many Android apps available, and I’m glad to see that it’s garnered such support.

Happy Fifth Anniversary, YouTubeFive years? It’s that all it’s been? Sheesh. Proof, I suppose, that occasionally time doesn’t fly. I feel like YouTube’s been around as long as the internet. Anyway, hit the link to see the first YouTube video ever uploaded. (SPOILER ALERT: it’s a shockingly pointless 18-second clip of some dude looking at elephants in a zoo.)

Alright. It’s pizza time. And maybe Avatar time, since Charlie bought it. Have to thank him for that – effectively answered my question of whether or not I should purchase it.

Oh, and enjoy the pretty picture.

-Riddles