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How Sony’s views on mobile gaming will impact the PS4

Recently, Sony Computer Entertainment of America Director of Emerging Platforms, Chris Mahoney, divulged Sony’s ideologies regarding mobile gaming as compared to console gaming. Interestingly, this glut of information comes around a week before Sony is rumoured to be announcing the PlayStation 4. Could this info be a strong hint as to what direction Sony will take gaming?

Last week at the Apps World conference in San Francisco, Mahoney delivered a presentation that both praised and lambasted mobile gaming. When he spoke of Sony’s mobile gaming ideals, he referred to phones and tablets – Sony didn’t take this chance to tear into its own PSP, PS Vita, or PlayStation Mobile platforms.

It’s also important to note that Mahoney said it was his job to “go out there and figure out what new area of business do we want to be in.” Mahoney said that Sony has been watching the mobile gaming market with a close eye, and has been wondering how to bridge the gap between the console and mobile market. The answer that Sony has found, so far, is that you simply can’t.

Sony views the appeal of mobile gaming as something like junk food, with Mahoney specifically citing the Twinkie. You crave a Twinkie, it doesn’t take very long to eat it, and it doesn’t feel like a meal – which is the whole point of a snack. Basically, Sony views mobile gaming as a snack, which is something everyone wants, but that isn’t wholly satisfying.

Mahoney said that you can’t put console gaming on a mobile platform for a variety of reasons, all of which are inherent to the very idea of a mobile device. The screen size is ultimately too small, length of play is limited by battery life, and location (due to surrounding noise and level of sunlight or glare) detracts from both the audio and visual experience.

Mahoney said Sony understands that fitting the technical prowess and narrative quality of a console into the short bursts of a mobile gaming experience would be difficult, but they also understand there’s a place for that Twinkie-esque gaming experience. Could Sony look to reverse its philosophy and try to bring the success of snack gaming to the PS4? If you’re worried about this, you most likely don’t have to be, as Sony has the PS Vita to try that kind of thing out on.

Does that mean the PS4 will follow a popular mobile gaming model and be totally free-to-play? Of course not. Does it mean that the PS4 will make the move to an all-digital catalogue? No, Sony can’t offer the kind of storage capacity that model would require, and downloading Blu-ray-sized games would be too demanding for modern-day internet speeds. Sony did buy cloud gaming service Gakai, though, but this is most likely in preparation for the generation sometime after the PS4. However, it wouldn’t be surprising if every PS4 game came in both a Blu-ray and digital download version. This is a practice the company has already implemented with the PS Vita.

Mahoney also mentioned that mobile devices, due to their new input method (touchscreen controls), have made way for new game types, which is a factor in emerging gaming markets. We don’t know what kind of controller the PS4 will implement just yet, but there are rumours that the console will sport a new sophisticated PS Eye (with twin cameras so it can judge distance and movement on the Z axis). Couple the PS Eye rumour with Sony seeing emerging gaming input as an important factor in the industry, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the PS4 made something like the Move system (motion controller and PS Eye combination) the new norm.

Ultimately, there are two things to take away not only from Mahoney’s speech itself, but the timing of it. Sony wants to get in on the success of the mobile market, most likely by implementing successful mobile practices on a non-mobile platform, and the integrity and quality of Sony console gaming won’t be compromised by it. If the February 20 PlayStation 4 announcement rumour is to be believed, we’ll certainly see Sony’s console and mobile gaming ideology confirmed then.

For more on the PS4 and the latest rumours regarding the console, keep an eye on our Sony PlayStation 4: All you need to know article.