Republished on Wednesday, 11th March 2015: Following the news that Sony's shutting down PlayStation Mobile fully, we've decided to bring this article back out of the archives. The original text follows.
Originally published on Wednesday, 6th August 2014: Sony's smartphone strategy seemed so, well, smart a few years ago. While the PlayStation Vita was flagging, the format holder appeared to have a long-term plan in PlayStation Mobile – a compartmentalised plaza offering semi-curated content on PlayStation-certified platforms. The idea was to step away from the poor quality offerings that tend to plague the Google Play and iTunes storefronts, instead providing players with the type of high quality experiences found on home consoles or dedicated handheld devices. This was tied to an open development environment, allowing fledgling game makers to concoct and publish small titles on a shoestring budget, assuming that they adhered to a set number of guidelines designed to ensure a good user experience.
However, the Japanese giant today announced that the initiative will no longer be compatible with the newest iterations of the Android operating system, essentially signalling the end of the programme as we know it. For developers, the signs have been there for some time, as a recent Unity software development kit update limited compatibility to the manufacturer's portable system and PlayStation TV, leaving smartphones and tablets out in the cold. Seeing as the manufacturer conceived the entire venture on the basis of breaking into the rapidly growing mobile market, its plans now appear to be in tatters. Alas, as already alluded, there was plenty of positivity surrounding the platform at the time of its arrival – so what on Earth went wrong?
While a great idea on paper, PlayStation Mobile almost certainly suffered from an age-old Sony problem: complication. Where its rivals work hard to simplify, the Japanese giant almost always manages to confuse. As such, its smartphone storefront was a cumbersome mess. Assuming that you owned a device that was actually compatible with the programme, there were also issues regarding region, with many European territories never receiving the platform at all. Add to that a lack of support for simple PlayStation Network features – such as Trophies – and the whole initiative carried the whiff of an undercooked experiment that wasn't part of the core PlayStation ecosystem at all, when it should have felt like an extension to it.
In addition to confusion, Sony also has big issues with conviction. The manufacturer should have ruled the casual gaming space with brands such as SingStar and Buzz, but it instead released the exorbitantly expensive PlayStation 3 and ceded the sector to the Nintendo Wii. Similarly, it kickstarted the camera gaming craze with EyeToy, but then allowed Kinect to iterate upon the hands-free input idea. PlayStation Mobile's failings don't necessarily rank as highly as the aforementioned examples, but it's the exact same half-hearted attitude that's allowed the programme to fail. The company did run some free game promotions to drive awareness to the platform, but a lack of presence on the PlayStation Blog, slow updates, and a reluctance to incorporate demanded features ultimately killed the under supported initiative.
For all of the criticism that PlayStation Minis attracted, it actually played host to some pretty stellar games. And the platform holder leveraged that in order to get PlayStation Mobile off the ground, working with indie studios such as FuturLab and Laughing Jackal to furnish the platform with some top notch titles at launch. The problem is that it forgot to support the storefront beyond that point. Gun Commando, Life of Pixel, and Tokyo Jungle Mobile were real post-release highlights, but the storefront has since become cluttered with calculators and Japanese visual novels – and that's when it gets updated at all. For the platform to succeed, Sony needed to supply it with above average content, and ensure that said titles got the promotion that they deserved. Alas, many of its biggest proponents skipped to native Vita development instead.
Did you ever play any PlayStation Mobile games? What were your thoughts on the platform as a whole, and why do you think that it's been largely overlooked? Try to act 'appy in the comments section below.