Sony’s Gaming Phone Takes Shape

The persistent rumours that Sony is to release a PlayStation-based phone show no signs of abating as purported leaks continue to appear on gadget blogs. The most recent depicted a prototype design with a touch screen of around four inches, which slides up to reveal the traditional PlayStation buttons with a space in between, supposedly for a multi-touch touchpad. Some reports have suggested the PlayStation phone will feature Android 3.0 and support a Sony software store where you can purchase and download games. If Sony were to use Google’s OS, it might help it challenge Apple, the current king of casual gaming. However, many of the thousands of apps and games on Android Market won’t match the quality of titles associated with the PlayStation name.

Although mobile gaming is becoming more popular by the day, I have a sense that it’s dominated by games you casually pick up and play rather than the more engaging, rewarding games that Nintendo’s and Sony’s handheld consoles are famous for. In an interview with CNN, Peter Dille, Sony’s senior vice president of marketing, referred to Apple’s iPhone and iPod, which now form the world’s largest mobile gaming platform, as “largely time-killers.” He added that “Gamers aren’t satisfied with that”, which implies Sony still has serious intentions when it comes to console-style games on mobile devices.

A major deciding factor for any device’s success will undoubtedly be the titles available and the quality of games. Sony will need to ensure the availability of titles that have been successful on the PSP Go and original PSP if it has any intention of claiming the mobile gaming crown.

In my view, the rumoured Sony device would struggle to make an immediate impact. The PSP, though a massive technical achievement, didn’t prove to be the “best” hand-held console in the world, at least in terms of sales. Nintendo’s DS completely outshined Sony’s product, and Sony needs to ensure it works harder to make an outstanding mobile gaming device. The company will have to devote half its attention to making the device work as a phone too, and this won’t buy it any favours with hardcore gamers.

A “PSP phone” could suffer from other snags. As a gamer, the last thing you want is an interruption. For example: you’re about to score the winning goal for Charlton Athletic in the Champions League final on FIFA 11 — far-fetched, I know — when a phone call or text message appears on the screen, pausing the game! It’ll be interesting to see how a device handles this challenge. Another challenge will be power consumption. The battery life of a mobile device is adequate at best, and gaming will only draw more power.

Perhaps I’m being too cynical about the prospects for a potential device. I’d very much like Sony to impress with this product and to bring a game-changing phone to market. With a lot of hard work it can tick the right boxes, and, assuming it comes with a reasonable price tag, there’s every chance it’ll be on my Christmas wish list next year.