At a press conference in Tokyo today, Sony (6758) detailed its next attempt to move into the mobile gaming business.
The big idea this time is to turn existing PlayStation IP into smartphone games, via a wholly owned subsidiary called Forwardworks.
In my view, the 10 titles shown today can be grouped in 3 categories.
Category 1 are games based on old/existing IP with limited or almost no mass appeal:
Category 2 are games based on old IP with somewhat broader mass appeal:
The only title falling into category 3, content based on new IP, is “Sora to Umi no Aida”. This simulation is a joint project between Forwardworks and Square Enix (9684).
The product Sony showed today that excited me personally the most was their “mixed reality” platform “Project FIELD” that will allow players to use physical trading cards in mobile games:
One could make the argument that Sony didn’t need to open a new battle field at this point in time, given their console game business is doing so well. (The company just shifted 50 million PS4s and left Microsoft in the dust in this console generation.)
The Vita is now only a side business for Sony, and one could argue they should better focus on making PS VR and the PS4 Pro a success.
The company’s previous attempts to break into mobile have totally failed. So why again?
The most obvious motivation for Sony’s move into mobile is of course money: Newzoo, for example, is predicting US$36.9 billion in worldwide mobile game sales for 2016 and US$52.5 billion for 2019.
Another driving factor is Fate/Grand Order, a mobile RPG from Sony subsidiary Aniplex that is seeing massive success in Japan and contributing to the company’s numbers.
And there is surely “Pokemon Go envy” as an additional force: Forwardworks has been established in April 2016, before the Pokemon Go craze came over the world, but Sony CEO Hirai himself said it was that game’s success that drove him to accelerate his company’s mobile gaming plans.
I think that overall, Sony’s chances to make it big in mobile games are limited.
The main reasons are:
On the first point, IP:
Several category 1 games are based on older PlayStation titles hardcore users have in good memory (especially Arc The Lad and Wild Arms) and on franchises that are still being updated today (Disgaea).
But the key factor here is that in my view, none of these are really well known among the mainstream user base on mobile – a market that is all about scale nowadays.
I am not saying that these games will necessarily flop, but their IP power is not critically high.
Just look at Sony’s screenshots for No Heroes Allowed! DASH! – which doesn’t look like a hit from any angle:
Things are a bit different for Hot Shot Golf and PaRappa: these two titles are more appealing to the mass market, but here too, Sony will have a hard time turning them into big, free-to-play mobile hits.
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