Image from Engadget
Last night, the internet exploded when the news of a PlayStation Portable (PSP) phone, codenamed Zeus, started making the usual circles around the blogosphere. To be clear, this isn’t the long-rumored PSP2, this is an entirely different kind of device altogether…that is if it’s real. Of course the site that discovered it has a very good track record so far, and this isn’t the first we hear of it the “PSP Phone.”
The picture above is alleged to be a prototype of the upcoming device, and is still said to be rather buggy. That should be fixed by the time it hits the market (we’d hope) and it looks a lot like Sony’s PSPgo, the download-only little brother of Sony’s handheld gaming system, the PSP.
Sony may not be the leader of the handheld gaming industry, and while the PSPgo was considered a commercial failure (we have yet to see how it does after the price drop to $199) it says something about a system that can hold its own against gaming giant Nintendo’s handheld systems, which have been successful enough in the past to keep Nintendo strong even during their most difficult times.
Now that the iPhone and Android platforms have proven that you can have a successful gaming business with smartphone hardware, it seems that this may be a bold new step for Sony. Keep in mind that the phone is actually by Sony Ericsson, we aren’t seeing a PlayStation or PSP logo anywhere on the face of the phone, but the directional pad and face buttons, Triangle, Circle, X and Square are identical to the PSPgo. Even the slide-out design looks to be just like the go.
That said, we are interested in seeing where Sony can go with this. Let’s take a look at how this may change the game for Sony:
1) PlayStation First-Party Games – PlayStation has some amazing IPs (intelectual properties) such as God of War, Resistance, LittleBigPlanet, Ratchet & Clank and all of those have seen portable iterations of their franchises. All of them are very popular amongst gaming fans, and PlayStation fans love their first-party games. This is an opportunity for Sony to push their games across a broader range of platforms. Our question is, however, will non-gamers buy a phone with a PlayStation button layout on it? Bonus points if they bring over the PSOne Classics library. The first Metal Gear Solid, anyone?
This is a Classic That Never Gets Old
2) PSP Buttons, REAL Buttons – Speaking of buttons, this thing has them. Real buttons. These are the same kind of buttons you will find on a PSPgo and similar to what you would find on a Nintendo DS or DSi. That means it will be ideal for playing more of the games that hardcore gamers tend to enjoy. Many have tried to add buttons to the iPhone, but we have yet to see a successful attempt.
While platforms such as Android and iPhone have shown that casual games are in high demand, there hasn’t been enough on the core front to keep some gamers happy. Games like N.O.V.A. and Street Fighter IV for the iPhone exist, but without physical buttons, the controls can take some getting used to, causing frustration for traditional handheld gamers. Having buttons on the device can change that, giving them several more of the shooters, platformers and fighting games they may desire. Also, did we mention first-party PlayStation games?
3) If Sony Plays Their Cards Right, They Could Have Easy Ports and Distribution – Right now, porting a game to iPhone isn’t totally difficult for a larger studio, but it does require reconfiguring the controls and building them for a different platform. If Sony is smart, and we hope they are, they could make the hardware similar to their current line of portable systems and create easy ports of their current game lineup. The PlayStation Store already exists, so users have a place to shop for games. PSP Minis haven’t been the runaway success that Sony had hoped for, but that can be reworked, or they can simply add a new section to their store like PlayStation Mobile. The storefront is already there, they will just need to make good use of it.
4) Can Sell More Phones – Sony can definitely sell more phones to the many PlayStation fans out there. If they market the device to core gamers who have been waiting for a phone that truly blurs the lines between a dedicated gaming machine and a smartphone, this is likely going to be their choice over the iPhone, or any of its competitors for that matter. This means more revenue for their phones division and more revenue for their games division.
5) Touchscreen Means More Possibilities – This phone has buttons, meaning it will be very easy for traditional handheld games to be played on the device…we already mentioned that. However, we didn’t talk about the touchscreen. Because this device has a touchscreen, it will also be compatible with the thousands of games available for Android, as it is believed that the device will ship with Gingerbread (Android 3.0). Angry Birds isn’t on the PSP? It’s okay, I can get it here. God of War isn’t on the Android Market? It’s okay, I have the PlayStation Store. Nice.
Will it happen?
Right now we can only hope. Given, a lot of those dreams make sense given that the phone may essentially be a PSP running on smartphone software. Who knows, maybe Sony will even get crazy and make it dual-bootable or run a PSP emulation of some sort to satisfy both PSP fans and Android users.
All we ask is that Sony doesn’t let opportunity slip like the’ve done with the PSPgo.