Source: Financial Times
Sony is set to push “aggressively” into mobile gaming, having watched from the sidelines as its console rival Nintendo enjoyed meteoric success with the Pokémon Go augmented reality (AR) game.
“[Mobile gaming] is something we are aggressively getting into,” Sony chief executive Kaz Hirai told the Financial Times at the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin. “It’s quite a shift from being just a console-based business to being on mobile phones as well,” he said.
“Pokémon Go is a real game-changer. I’m very interested in the fact that it has the potential to really change the way people move, literally.”
AR, the feature that allows Pokémon Go to superimpose animated characters on to a smartphone screen showing the real world, is a “great innovative idea that’s going to lift all boats for the video game industry”, the Japanese boss said, adding that he would like to add AR capabilities to his company’s stable of games.
Despite Nintendo’s surprise hit, the two Japanese console competitors have been slow to join the smartphone gaming party to date. “Sony and Nintendo own their platforms and want to retain control and make as much money as possible from them,” says Steve Bailey, gaming analyst at IHS Markit. “But the landscape has now changed considerably. The threat from mobile is so big, they can no longer ignore it.”
Nintendo launched its first-ever mobile app, Miitomo, in March this year, while Sony has had a chequered history in the market. There have been several failed initiatives to port PlayStation games to handheld consoles and its Xperia smartphones.
“They have had an interest in it for five or six years but they haven’t got it right,” said Jack Kent, mobile analyst at IHS Markit. “The strategy was about selling more handsets or consoles, rather than making money from the games.”
Now, Mr Hirai says he plans to tackle the problem from the ground up. “Mobile gaming is a very important part of the Japanese market and therefore we’ve created a wholly-owned subsidiary that’s completely dedicated to mobile gaming. They’ll be coming out with titles,” he said.
The Japanese spend more on mobile games per capita than any other nation in the world, followed by South Korea and China. Thus, Asia will be the primary focus of the new subsidiary, known as ForwardWorks, which has yet to release a game since it opened last April.
Sony is still placing big bets on its PlayStation home console, with an upgraded, higher-end version, codenamed “Neo”, expected to launch next week. The new device will support ultra-high definition (UHD) resolution and virtual reality, to dovetail with the launch of the PlayStation VR headset in October. In May, the PlayStation 4 became Sony’s fastest-selling console, reaching cumulative sales of 40m.