According to an announcement from Sony, its PlayStation gaming business is to launch a selection of smartphone games.
The news broke this Friday and we now know that more than five titles will be brought to smartphones in Japan and certain other markets. Sony joins Nintendo in breaking into the lucrative smartphone gaming market, writes Arjun Kharpal for CNBC.
Mobile games to be released by ForwardWorks
Sony’s ForwardWorks subsidiary will be responsible for releasing the games in the year ending March 2018. The titles will be available for both Apple iOS and Alphabet’s Google Android mobile operating systems. ForwardWorks opened this year and is tasked with focusing on mobile gaming.
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The games will be released first in Japan and other Asian countries. According to games research firm Newzoo, console makers have been struggling for sales in Japan, the third-largest games market in the world. Mobile revenues dominate, making up more than 50% of a $12.4 billion market.
Consoles account for around 38% of the market, which is lower than most other countries in the world. At the same time, 61% of the 69 million gamers in Japan are willing to spend money, another reason for Sony’s interest.
Sony keen to maintain momentum
“Japan is a market where Sony and other console makers are struggling to sell units. Sony had to react. People are consuming smartphone games like there is no tomorrow,” said Serkan Toto, CEO of Japanese gaming consultant and advisory group Kantan Games, in a telephone interview with CNBC.
It is not clear which titles will be the first to be released. Sony has built some good momentum in its gaming division, with the PlayStation VR going on sale this Thursday and the recent release of new PlayStation 4 consoles. Console makers have been inspired by the rise of mobile gaming, and are looking to develop new revenue streams.
Nintendo agreed a deal with developer DeNA last year which will see various titles come to mobile. This year Nintendo released online sensation “Pokemon Go” alongside developer Niantic, and in September we will see “Super Mario Run” released on iOS.
Nintendo and Sony both looking to mobile market
While Nintendo has had a strong start to its mobile gaming adventure, things could be different for Sony. According to Toto the company does not have a comparable wealth of characters and games, or intellectual property (IP), from a brand perspective. If Sony doesn’t see success with its first few games, mobile gaming may prove a difficult hunting ground for the company.
“Sony doesn’t have the same power as the Nintendo IP. There is nothing that comes even close to Mario,” Toto said. “If the first couple of games from that company just don’t work, I think the smartphone game business will see the same fate as the portable game business. Nobody talks about the Vita anymore.”
One way that the company could trial its mobile gaming business is by limiting the area where the games are available. The Wall Street Journal reports that the United States and Europe are not currently part of Sony’s mobile gaming plans.
In those countries where the games are released users could see titles such as Uncharted, God of War, Infamous, and Ratchet & Clank. If these titles can ignite the interest of smartphone gamers, Sony could join Nintendo in opening up a new revenue stream. While the U.S. and Europe might not be part of the initial plans, if things turn out well in Japan it wouldn’t be a surprise for the mobile games to be released around the world.