PlayStation 4 has finally been revealed, although not in any physical sense. Naturally, it is an impressive device with amazing capabilities that have got people talking. PS4 will boast everything from GaiKai cloud gaming and streaming (which includes PS3,PS2 and PS1 titles) plus Move and Vita style touch pad capabilities on the DualShock 4 to having every game available as a digital download. One factor from it’s announcement especially, reflects a growing industry focus for ‘on-the-go’ gaming – PS4’s PS Vita support.
PS4 is lighting a fire under the competition.
GaiKai’s David Perry clearly delivered Sony’s mission statement. “Our long-term goal is to make every PS4 title playable on the Vita,” he remarked on PS4’s big night. As if the message needed hammering home, SCEE’s UK managing director Fergal Gara has dubbed the Vita a “PS4 in your pocket”. That’s all anyone nededs to take away, PS4 is going mobile through Vita.
Remote Play has already been seen recently enough with the Wii U‘s off console and screen functionality through the GamePad. The range may be far more drastically inferior but the intention to deliver on the go use is there. So much so that since Wii U launched, Nintendo have merged their console and handheld R&D departments in preparation for the next console generation. All eyes will be on Microsoft and the next offering (Xbox 720 or Xbox Gold perhaps?) to see what move away from the TV they make given they haven’t featured on the handheld scene in the same way as ‘the other guys’.
Handhelds to Handphones.
Currently handhelds are still their own animal. Shockingly, more Nintendo 3DS units have been sold in Japan than PS3s, a console that has flourished for 5 years longer. ‘On the go systems’ fit the lifestyle of an increasingly busy and technologically minded generation. Vita and 3DS are powerful handheld consoles, but a handheld doesn’t have to be powerful or even primarily centered towards games to create a blockbuster hit or carry a franchise. That role has been filled by mobile phones.
Since the seemingly ancient days of ‘Snake’ to the N-Gage, phones have dramatically been growing up as a video games platform. Now there are games like Temple Run 2, which is the fasted selling phone game ever, reaching 6 million downloads in 24 hours (!!!) and, of course, the Angry Birds franchise, which has ‘inspired’ a theme park, a religious yoga practice and a forthcoming animated movie. It’s hard to escape these types of game because phones are taken everywhere and used all the time in a way that handhelds are not.
People talk about the games they’re playing but with a mobile game they’re more likely to talk about a game they’re playing right this moment. Handhelds are a pre-meditated medium, most gamers would take their 3DS or Vita with them whenever they’d think they might play them in the near future. Plus, they’re gamers and in reality not everyone is a gamer (despite countless advertising campaigns straining to say otherwise). Games on mobiles typically flourish foremost through word of mouth, while console games rely on focused media and marketing more, and less on dedicated forums and social media. Things like 3DS’ StreetPass are an attempt in the right direction in terms of adding a little more dependency on the gamer to keep their console with them, but almost everyone has a phone and people like their phones. According to technology research firm Gartner, 1.75 billion handsets were purchased worldwide last year. Yeah, people like their phones a lot.
How Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo will shape the mobile gamer.
The houses of Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft know this. They are prepared. Needless to say many Android and iPhone friendly games have been appearing on eShop, PSN and Xbox Live and visa versa. Sony has developed significantly as a Mobile brand in its own right over the past decade. A journey forged by a previous merger with mobile giant Ericsson. Although, the Xperia Play is the closest the public has to a PSPhone, the Xperia Z is Sony’s current poster child and prominently features the PlayStation Mobile application in most advertising campaigns. PlayStation Mobile allows PlayStation related content to be downloaded onto certain Android capable devices and of course, the Vita. Although PlayStation Mobile has only been available since April last year, the concept would easily allow Sony to make big gains within the mobile gaming world under the PlayStation banner. Undoubtedly this may become more useful in the future.
Xbox currently exists within the world of mobile phones through Windows Phone. Xbox 360 Profiles and data is easily reached on the go, it also boasts Xbox Live functionality and most importantly allows people to play games. Mobile capable games that is. Microsoft have arguably made the biggest commitment to getting their console brand on phones, possibly because they do not have a handheld to worry about. Nintendo can’t offer the mobile phone dimension to their CV just yet but that hasn’t stopped them offering up Miiverse and Pokemon Apps. Don’t count 3DS as dead on ‘arrival as a mobile game’ rival however, Gunman Clive has so far sold better on the 3DS eShop than on Android.
Major publishers and developers have already branched out to phones. Naturally the emphasis is felt far stronger in Japan. Free style games and mobage properties have long since established franchises like Final Fantasy, Metal Gear Solid, Sonic and Resident Evil on mobile platforms in Japan long before the iPhone and Android. Established console game creators such as Masaya Matsuura (Parrapa the Rapper), Hironuobu Sakaguchi (Final Fantasy series, the Last Story) and Keita Takahasi (Katamari), among others have already concentrated original phone based efforts. Hideo Kojima has even taken to developing a twitter based app for mobiles. Add that to the impressive list of indies that are producing incredibly popular mobile games right now and the result is a comfortably large creative pool of support.
Inevitably the console big boys have switched a burning gaze towards mobile phones like the Eye of Sauron. However, social app like games and the obvious history of handhelds aside, everything from Dreamcast‘s pebble sized VMU to PS3’s ‘Transfarring’ (introduced in the Metal Gear solid HD Collection) has been building towards a bigger picture; creating and delivering a more involving use of a home console experience while on the move.
As for the PS4’s place in this, well, it can be assumed the console will be a runaway hit. It has to be for Sony. It isn’t yet known how much anything will cost yet, and that could hurt both the gamer and Sony the most. If a charge for the mobile ‘Transfarring’ style use of PS4 through Vita is incurred, it wouldn’t raise eyebrows too high. Just keep in mind Sony’s penchant for making multiple versions of consoles with differing capabilities and more obviously, the PlayStation Plus subscription charge. If Sony is to be believed then PS4 will unleash Vita’s potential and Vita could seemingly be the prototype for the mobile console all in one. The next ‘Vita’ or ‘3DS’ could be a phone and a place for casual (and most importantly lucrative) app games while still being a powerhouse that takes the role of its house bound cereal box parents.
Sony Computer Entertainment of America CEO Jack Tretton stated that the PS4; “will offer games with prices ranging from $0.99 to the more traditional $60 range with the ability for players to sample games before they buy.” Clearly mobile games are the cheapest games out there, that $0.99 would suggest that it’s those simpler type titles that will see that kind of price. It doesn’t stretch the imagination to envision PS Vita becoming a hub of mobile type games. DLC would be the only other thing that could fit a $0.99 price point, but additional content rarely equates to an actual game. This is speculation based on what is already known; future console generations may see home consoles and handhelds consolidated into one device – which will also function as a mobile phone.
The space race for the console phone is on and it’s anyone’s fight. Maybe we’ll have to wait the best part of a decade again for another ‘console generation’ to see if it happens sooner or later. Consider it worth betting on however, someone will make that call.