Whether we’re talking about the PSP or PS VitaPlayStation’s roots are deep in mobile gaming. Sure, the Vita wasn’t particularly successful and the system saw an unfortunate lack of support shortly after launch, but it would be a shame if Sony steered clear of the handheld scene due to recent shortcomings. And for those who’ve actually used the Vita, it’s difficult to deny that it was friggin’ awesome.
But there’s no need to fear; Sony still believes in mobile gaming. The company is looking for a way to enter this market through a smart route that could save consumers and the company tons of money on hardware. You may be wondering how? You can use your phone!
PlayStation is making significant investments in mobile gaming. Sony recently announced the acquisition of Savage Game Studios. The company has been hard at work on a AAA live service action game, but we won’t be learning about it for a little longer. Sony also released the Backbone OneThe iOS game controller connects to your iPhone via Bluetooth iPhone It allows you to play mobile games at your convenience.
You might be wondering, “What’s the big deal?” Mobile gaming is everywhere, and Sony worming its way into the scene just means more predatory microtransactions and low-effort garbage, right? You can think of it this way: Sony could revolutionize the mobile gaming market by releasing PlayStation quality games. After all, the BackBone One doesn’t exist to play Clash of Clans or Candy Crush.
PlayStation’s future in handheld gaming
Smartphones These games are extremely powerful. We’ve witnessed a gradual evolution in handheld games and what they’re capable of throughout the last decade. Each year brings new titles: Genshin Impact and Diablo: Immortal are great examples, as they’re visually advanced and graphically demanding.
These aren’t just casual titles, either. They’re fleshed-out RPGs with deep mechanics and tons to do. Genshin Impact in particular is impressive, as it’s also available on PC, PS5 Xbox Series X|S. It’s clear that putting a big budget behind mobile games can offer pretty compelling results, and it would benefit Sony to not underestimate the potential of mobile’s player base.
To be perfectly clear, we’re not 100% sure that PlayStation’s foray into mobile gaming will be this good. It’s entirely possible that Sony’s plans are no different than most other mobile developers, offering predatory free-to-play systems coupled with a low-quality game that does nothing but exist to siphon cash from wallets.
But if we’re being a bit more optimistic, Sony could deliver the same level of quality expected from the PSP and PS Vita, except on our smartphones. There are many advantages to this. The most important is that there would be no need for new PlayStation hardware, which could help both the consumer and company save a lot of money. Pairing up your smartphone with the Backbone One controller will be a good idea. But that’s only $99.99, a price point nowhere near as steep as paying for a full console.
We already know that Savage Game Studios’ first project is live service, likely implying it’ll be free-to-play. However, I hope Sony takes some more risks with its mobile initiative and isn’t afraid to throw some money into its upcoming mobile titles.
Sony’s mobile games shouldn’t be free-to-play
Two plausible futures exist when Sony says “PlayStation is coming to mobile.” The first is not much different from games like Genshin Impact or Diablo: Immortal. We’d get quality free-to-play titles overwhelmed with microtransactions and potentially steep progression systems. It would be fine, but it’s what I’d expect from the mobile world, and frankly, it’s unexciting.
PlayStation will continue the legacy of PSP and PS Vita mobile phones on the other timeline. We can expect AAA and indie titles to be in our hands. We want to see games that have high production values and low entry prices, preferably without in-app purchase. The biggest PS Vita game launched at $49.99. This was a high price point, so a certain quality was expected.
Mobile gaming should be different. Yes, it is difficult to convince people who are used to playing free games that they should pay between $10-50 to get a new PlayStation. It is possible to change the landscape with excellent advertising and trailers that show high quality work. Mobile gaming could become more than a life-sucking, mindless addiction.
PlayStation could make its return to stranger games via mobile
There’s no question that the resources required to develop a PS5 exclusive are far greater than what’s needed to launch a game on mobile devices. This means that there will be a limited number of games that can be released on PS5. They must be contemporary in design, appealing to the masses, and have specific features that the company understands will work.
Are you curious as to why PlayStation exclusives feature a lot of cutscenes and, especially recently, a very light RPG component? Whether we’re talking The Last of Us, Uncharted, God of War, Horizon Forbidden West, Days gone, Marvel’s Spider-Man, Ratchet & ClankOr Ghost of TsushimaEach of these games ticks quite a few identical boxes.
It’s rare for Sony to greenlight a game that doesn’t adhere to a formula the corporation knows will work. I love PlayStation games, but at the end of the day, this is business, and risks cannot be taken often, especially with how expensive and time-consuming it’s becoming to make games.
Mobile offers a unique chance to change this. Gravity Rush, for example, would not be viable as a PS5 only game. This was made abundantly clear when Gravity Rush 2 launched on PS4, didn’t sell particularly well, and resulted in Japan Studio (the game’s developer) going defunct four years later.
Mobile is an entirely new world. You’re not expected to make games as cinematic, and it’s within reason that they’ll be nowhere near as graphically demanding. You can also invest in any genre and adjust the price accordingly. Gravity Rush, for example, would be a great mobile game if it was launched at $50 and had no microtransactions.
Developers can create lower budget titles and take less time to work on them, so even if they’re nowhere near as successful as God of War, they can still become profitable. This allows for more creative games. Of course, Sony isn’t going to greenlight a $50 million dollar project that requires five years of development time if it seems weird and risky. Reduce that development time by 3 years. and drastically reduce the amount of money, and it’s more likely that Sony would be willing to take a chance.
Imagine the future of mobile as one where the glory of PlayStation’s handheld gaming returns front and center. I’m talking full-priced titles free of predatory microtransactions that aren’t afraid to be weird. You could see Twisted Metal and Gravity Rush returning, or you might be blessed with new properties that are as beautiful as Tearaway on the PS Vita.
In a blog post, Hermen Hulst claims the PlayStation Studios Mobile Division seeks to focus on “innovative, on-the-go experiences,” but if the company ends up occupying the same space as every other mobile developer, then what is there to be excited for? We’re hoping Hulst truly does deliver on this promise.