Gaming is a HUGE industry, and it looks like gaming on Android will get a nice little boost from Sony and its PlayStation Division. According to Engadget, Sony Ericsson has finally started work on what amounts to be a PSP Phone. Sony Ericsson is developing a “brand new gaming platform, ecosystem, and device”. On the hardware front, we are looking at something like a PSP Go with a touchscreen. This means the phone will have a side-sliding form factor with a D-pad, normal PSP buttons, and a touch pad instead of the joystick found in current psp models. Shoulder buttons are also reported on the device. The display is rumored to be between 3.7-4.1” with at least a WVGA screen. The rear will be mounted with a 5MP(subject to change) and at the heart of the device will lay a 1Ghz Snapdragon CPU. It is said to be “mostly black with some silver highlights” so we can expect it to have the same color scheme as the psp. OS-wise, this will be running on Android 3.0 with a Sony Ericsson Skin. A new Market area will be designated specifically for games and at launch, only this device will have access. Games will be made available to other Android handsets if they are compatible (minimum specs and possible button layouts). Current game titles in the works are God of War, Modern Warfare, and Little Big Planet. Engadget expects this phone to be released around October of this year.
Now that the formalities are out of the way, on to why this phone will suck! One of the main reasons it’s going to suck because Sony Ericsson is making it. Some of you might be thinking ‘”huh? is this guy on crack?” My response would simply be no, and here’s why. Most of us who’ve used phones since back when snake was the coolest game in the mobile industry know that Sony Ericsson and Sony Corp. are not the same entity. Sony used to make their own phones and so did Ericsson(primarily a telecommunications company). In 2001 they combined their efforts into a joint venture which is now known as Sony Ericsson. This is why you can’t buy stocks for Sony Ericsson. It is owned half by Sony Corp and half by Ericsson. So what? Sony owns half of Sony Ericsson so they will make products that are up to Sony standards(lets assume Sony makes decent products for the sake of argument) right? Wrong. Sony Ericsson has delivered nothing but crappy products for the past few years. Have you see anything groundbreaking come out of SE in the recent months or even years? Take a look at their current portfolio. The last “big thing” to come out of this joint venture was the Xperia X10 which ended up being a major disappointment and continues to be. Even now, 5 months after it’s release it’s still is running Android 1.6. This is unacceptable with every other high-end phone getting the Froyo treatment how can Sony ignore one of its flagship phones? SE is too busy releasing 20 thousand different versions of the X10 to care about existing owners.
In recent years SE has been far less concerned with customer satisfaction and far more with the bottom line. This makes sense as they are in it for the money in the end, but SE has taken it too far. Since Q2 of 2008 SE has been bleeding money. It got so bad in 2009 that there was serious talk about SE not surviving. Ironically the cash flow problem was due to “high return rates of handsets”. Hmm…I wonder what that says about SE quality control. But SE is still around today, so they must have sold more phones right? WRONG. They sold less phones in Q1 of 2010 than they did a year earlier but managed to bring in more money. How they hell did they do this? Magic? No, they increased the average selling price of it phones by 11.6%. I have no doubt they used cheaper parts as well. Which is a bad thing for consumers considering they weren’t the highest quality parts to begin with. Does anyone remember the now notorious W580i cracked keyboard problem? SE tried to shave a few pennies off of the cost of keyboards and produced ones that cracked after a week or two of use.
I used to love Sony Ericsson phones, back when I could still live without a smartphone. SE made some of the best camera phones to hit the market. I’ve owned and used more SE phones than all the other brands combined. Off the top of my head, I’ve used the w810, k810i, w960, w580, w350, w760, c902 and c905. I definitely feel that quality gets worse as the years progressed. The k810 is a much sturdier phone than any of the other SE phones I’ve used after it. Given that this is the same group of guys putting together your brand spanking new PSP Phone, I have little hope that this will be something worth the hefty price tag they plan to charge. And believe me they will charge you up the wazoo for this baby. Don’t let them fool you with the soon to come renderings or press release photos either. They will look amazing. Sony is really good at making a phone look good in pictures, but in reality they are far duller and not nearly as appealing example: Xperia X10.
On to the software. Even if Sony Ericsson manages to get the hardware right for a change, the platform itself will fail. I don’t mean the Android platform, that clearly is anything but a failure, but rather the gaming platform for device. Unlike Microsoft or Apple, SE has limited themselves severely with the hardware. At launch only this phone will support the games with the PlayStation branding. Also the games will most likely require the use of the additional buttons(otherwise what would be the point in this device), that means it wont be compatible with any other Android device, which means the customer base is going to be tiny. No customers, leads to no developer interest, which means no content, and we’re back to no customers. This is the vicious cycle MS hopes to avoid with WP7 and they seem to be doing a good job of it. SE on the other hard is doing anything about this. MS has at least 2 planned devices for launch, Sony has 1. Apple has only 1 device too, but they are selling so many that it doesn’t really affect them. Apple had the positive wind fall from the iPod to promote sales of the iPhone to ridiculous proportions(not meant as an insult to Apple or its fans, but come on…it sold like crazy considering what it originally offered). Plus it’s Apple, and some people just buy Apple cause they like fruit and/or are stupid and just like to pay more (that was an insult). Sony cannot hope to repeat what Apple did, they simply don’t have the brand recognition they used to to pull it off.
Sony’s entrance into the mobile gaming sector is just a sad “me too” venture. Unless they somehow rally support behind the Android Flag there is little hope it will stand a chance against a unified Xbox front. The real money would be if Apple and Nintendo could play nice and team up. Nintendo’s brand recognition is huge with mobile users with it’s DS and with Apple pushing the hardware out they could do some major damage to the other players. Unfortunately this will most likely never happen. Nintendo would ultimately cannibalize it’s own DS sales by doing so, and I doubt Apple would be willing to give Nintendo enough incentive to partner up with Apple. It’s more likely that Apple will buy Nintendo and turn it into it’s gaming division!