The Sony PlayStation phone is finally, actually a reality, judging by photos leaked to Engadget. Could you wake us up when it matters?The truth is that the PlayStation phone is so past its due date that no one is going to care besides a small population of PlayStation Portable addicts. The mobile gaming industry has picked up and moved on, and now Apple’s iOS and even Google’s Android operating system are all most casual gamers need to play games on-the-go.
Even Facebook’s secret phone sounds like a more exciting mobile gaming platform than some PlayStation phone.
Sometime in 2006, when I was a cub reporter at Forbes.com, I attended a media breakfast roundtable at Sony’s NYC building with Sony executives. It was a semi-regular event, and I was the youngest person there, so it was pretty fun.
I asked the execs: Since Sony has all these amazing assets — PlayStation gaming, sexy Vaio computers, neat digital cameras, the Walkman legacy, the huge music and content business, and the Sony Ericsson mobile partnership, when is Sony going to line everything up and make the best gaming/multimedia/Internet/smartphone in the world?
I don’t remember the exact answer, but I think it was something along the lines of: We know we have all these businesses, they should probably work together more, but we’re really excited about what Sony Ericsson is working on. Or something predictable like that.
The point is, the folks weren’t jumping out of their seats at the idea that Sony’s PlayStation — arguably its most successful brand since the Walkman — should be stamped on a phone. And now you see why: Because it takes half a decade to get anything done at Sony.
Meanwhile, Apple announced the iPhone several months later in January 2007, and totally revolutionised the industry. Everything that Sony and Sony Ericsson and every other mobile-phone player thought they knew about phone software and hardware was suddenly wrong.
Since then, Apple has forged ahead in mobile gaming, getting studios like Electronic Arts and Take-Two to make games for the iPhone that look better than most anything you’d need to play on a PlayStation Portable. Now Apple is getting into social gaming. And, as you’ve seen, it has taken the industry many years — some companies, like Sony, longer than others — to figure things out.
Sony is basically at square one right now, and most people just won’t care. A PlayStation phone may have been cool four or five years ago, before anyone had ever heard of an iPhone, App Store, or Android — back when Nokia was messing around with the N-Gage. But now it just shows how slow and hamstrung that Sony is.
Unless there’s something we don’t know about — an amazing feature, or an amazing price, or something else — it’s hard to imagine that this phone is going to be a hit.