Sony vs. Microsoft: Whose Mobile Gaming Strategy Wins?

Thinking about Sony’s reported Playstation phone, it’s easy to draw comparisons to Microsoft’s approach to mobile gaming. Microsoft plans to integrate Xbox Live with its new Windows Phone 7 platform. (Handsets go on sale Nov. 8.) It’s a far more software-centric approach to mobile gaming than Sony’s apparent hardware-based plan of attack, which some gave up for dead following the demise of Nokia’s N-gage gaming phone. If a PSP phone proves successful, Sony could very well revive the idea of dedicated gaming phones. On the other hand, Microsoft could show that in this age of already sophisticated smartphone hardware, software and services are the keys to success. I examined the competition over at GigaOM Pro (subscription required) to see who’s likely to win out.

What Sony Needs to Succeed

Prove that smartphone gaming can include more than casual titles. Sony has an opportunity to show why a multi-touch screen can be limiting for game play, especially for some genres, like first-person shooters. If it gets that message across, a PlayStation Phone could rope in newly minted mobile gamers more used to casual titles like Angry Birds. That could bring in some much-needed revenue for the struggling PSP platform as the company prepares to launch a PSP 2.

Avoid the mistakes of the PSP Go and Nokia’s N-Gage. Sony will need to get game pricing in line with current mobile games, which rarely cost over $10. It will also need to ensure that the phone isn’t too bulky and still works well as a smartphone, and show why having cellular connectivity can enhance gaming on a PSP Phone.

Tap the wider community of mobile game developers. To differentiate itself and get new customers to buy a PSP phone, Sony has to create a stable of new games that take advantage of a PSP phone’s hardware. These are games like next-generation sports and fighting, which still feel more comfortable with physical controls. That, I believe, means Sony will have to tap the wider community of mobile game developers.

What should Microsoft do?

Keep bringing the games. If Microsoft can further leverage its strong ties with established studios, create its own first-party titles and encourage independent games that really soar on a touchscreen, it can establish Windows Phone 7 as a destination for quality mobile games. Microsoft has been aggressively evangelizing to developers and selling them on its easy developer tools. It will have to convince skeptical developers that there’s money to be made.

Show people why Xbox Live integration matters. On the console, Xbox Live is the best online gaming service. On Windows Phone 7, Microsoft will have to show more casual users that it’s fun to connect with friends, share achievements and play against other users. The company needs to prove Xbox Live is a unique asset for Windows Phone 7, not just extension of the console.

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Image Source: flickr user usefulguy

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