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Communications Handhelds Games

Why Has No One Made a Great Gaming Phone? 303

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the holding-an-xbox-to-your-ear dept.
andylim writes "According to Engadget, John Koller, Sony's head of PlayStation marketing, recently said that 'Apple's entrance into the portable gaming space has been a net positive for Sony. When people want a deeper, richer console, they start playing on a PSP.' What's odd though is that everyone knows that the mobile phone gaming market is a huge and yet neither Sony nor Nintendo has made a gaming phone yet. Recombu.com thinks that Nokia could enter the space with PSP-like devices and it has come up with a concept phone called the Ovi Orion, which would bridge the gap between phone and console, 'If the iPhone is Wii, then Ovi Orion would be Xbox and offer Xbox Live style features. A serious gaming phone for serious gamers.'"
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Why Has No One Made a Great Gaming Phone?

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  • by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Monday February 01, 2010 @03:00PM (#30985722) Journal

    But why not go the other way? Integrate phone capabilities to PSP or DS. It's a lot easier than creating a new platform which can never really live up to those two.

    Nokia did already try it, but it lost to PSP and DS. It was semi-popular with guys in my country and at my age, but I didn't really felt like getting one. And there really wasn't any good games.

  • Re:Because (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Monday February 01, 2010 @03:01PM (#30985762) Journal

    This is why Sony nor Nintendo should be looking to create a gaming phone, they should be looking to create PSP/DS with phone capabilities. Otherwise it's just going to fail.

  • Re:Because (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Red Flayer (890720) on Monday February 01, 2010 @03:08PM (#30985892) Journal

    Really so. I buy a phone for talking and texting, same as most of the people I know. They may have a fancier phone but this is about all they do with it. Keep the cheap phones for making phone calls and the game computers for playing games.

    Why a one-size-fits-all mentality? Why not use your cell phone for calls and texting, and others can use their "phones" for games, calls, texting, surfing, whatever else they want to do with it.

    I know people who basically don't use their home PC anymore. Anything they want to do (email, facebook, casual games, watching videos, streaming music), they can do from their smartphone. Not my style, but good for them. I don't think they should be held back just because I only use my phone for calls and the occasional text message.

  • Sony's scared (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 7Prime (871679) on Monday February 01, 2010 @03:13PM (#30986008) Homepage Journal

    Phones and Games mix about as well as SPAM and Phad Thai. Really, the only seemless way of doing this is to create a contextual device that changes from one to the other seemlessly... wait... we already have that, it's called the iPhone. And it's the most rapidly growing gaming platform on the market. With titles outselling the PSP about 20:1. Now, it's getting handheld console ports like Broken Sword, Spore, Myst, Super Monkey Ball, and on and on. With capacity and processing power that outdoes the PSP, Sony really should be worried. And they are, but this kind of speak that their using in the above quote reaks of double-talk spawned by latent fear. Basically, they realize they're in trouble, and their trying to make it sound like everyone is jumping on board with the PSP from the iPhone... but where are the numbers? The PSP hasn't had any major sales increases, in fact, I've heard that their numbers are falling. This is all speculation, wishfull thinking, and advertising on Sony's part.

    The big hurdle is control. Buttons are always very nice for many kinds of games, though finger-pad is really nice for other things, and stylus is great for other things. Adding a d-pad to a smartphone is going to be either combersomb or unneccessary or both. There are games with extrodinary control systems on the iPhone, and there are games with terrible control systems. Same goes for the PSP. But I honestly don't think control system is going to be a big loss for people when the games are 1/4 of the price, run smoother, and are more portable.

    Sony should be scared, and it's fairly clear that they already are.

  • Re:Because (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gehrehmee (16338) on Monday February 01, 2010 @03:31PM (#30986314) Homepage

    Specifically, they're designed for different interaction methods. A phone is meant to be used in one hand (zero, for handsfree), and held to the head (or in a pocket for handsfree). A gaming controller is meant to be held in two hands for maximum expressivness. A two-handed interface works best when the hands are relatively fare apart, meaning a set of controls on each end of a "stick" device, implying a horizontal interface. A one-handed device, or any device with a screen in general, is meant to be used vertically, so the screen is as far from the hands as possible, for maximum visibility.

    Touch-screen interfaces are sub-optimal two, since you end up obscruring the display by using it.

  • by 7Prime (871679) on Monday February 01, 2010 @03:32PM (#30986326) Homepage Journal

    Not really. Phones and game devices use vastly different technology, and even more vastly different infrastructure. Infrastructure is the most complicated part of making phones. Working out networks, contracts, etc. By comparison, the infrastructure for game devices is a walk in the park. When you make a phone, you're somewhat beholden to the phone companies which hold all the cards. Game hardware manufacturers control their own infrastructures, like XBox Live and Playstation ("home" is it called? I don't have a PS3). Also, the interface designs and hardware functionality is quite different. It's not particularly intuitive to combine a phone with a gaming handheld and not lose a bit of one side in the process. You hold them differently, the speakers locations for each are not ideal for each other, handhelds usually sacrifice some portability for ergonomics, phones must maintain an even smaller form factor. The two are really very different devices. The fact that they have screens and are essentially computers is the only major similarities. The control systems that are typically ideal for handhelds don't really make much sense for a phone. So then you either have tacked-on gaming controls which take up more space than your phone functionality needs, or you sacrifice gaming control to make up for the portability that a phone needs.

    That's why contextual control devices like the iPhone are probably the MOST ideal. They're deffinitely not perfect, but they do both things relatively well without sacrificing too much. Now its a up to the game manufacturers to create control systems that are ideal to the non-tactile nature of the device. For instance, I've played a few very playable platformers on the iPhone like Soosiz (which uses large virtual left, right and jump buttons), Bounce On (which utilizes the tilt functionality of the iPhone remarkably well, for control). But on the flip side, Sega's port of Sonic the Hedgehog (which simply places a tiny virtual D-Pad) is almost entirely unplayable. This isn't Apple's fault, it's Sony's fault. Bounce On and Soosiz are both very similar to Sonic, and they play extremely well, so it can be done.

  • by Roogna (9643) on Monday February 01, 2010 @03:38PM (#30986434)

    If you're a company and you're putting out a product, which of these two product markets would you rather be? The Wii (iPhone according to the Ovi Orion article), or the XBox (their supposedly spiffy idea). Hmm... Massively huge gigantic market selling at a profit or Middling market that started out selling as a loss leader. Choices, choices, choices.

    Perhaps that simple market comparison itself right there is why no one has bothered again with a "gaming" phone. Heck, even comparing portable gaming units. Which would you want to sell, the DS with it's again, gigantic huge massive casual market? Or the PSP with it's middling "hardcore" market? Now the true gamers most likely have both, I know my household does. But the casual gamer, of which there are a great many more? They've got the DS if they've got one at all.

  • Re:Because... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Monday February 01, 2010 @03:42PM (#30986510) Journal

    I know a lot of middle aged people who own portable systems. Admittedly, they are usually the parents of kids who own powerful consoles.

    I'm one of them, or at least I used to be. I owned a Nintendo DS Lite (Cobalt), and I liked it a lot. I bought it so I'd have something to keep me entertained during my step-son's day long wrestling matches. There's a lot of dead time between rounds. Then I found a lot of the same games were available for my iPod Touch for a fraction of the price. Besides, being "middle-aged" means that I don't really have a whole lot of time to play games anymore anyway--but gaming is going to be great when I retire! So same games for lower price, plus one less device to carry around, and no cartridges made dumping my DS Lite for my iPod a no-brainer. I've found the games on the iPod Touch to be at least as good quality wise as a PS One, which is fine for a middle-aged old school guy like myself.

  • Re:Because .... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by holiggan (522846) on Monday February 01, 2010 @03:59PM (#30986820)

    I agreee. Besides, having the mobile carriers around tends to mess things. The manufacturer of the hardware (in this case, either Nintendo or Sony) would have to wrestle with the mobile carrier's problems, the share in the profits, perhaps exclusivity, etc, etc.

    Nintendo and Sony would leave their present "top of the food chain" place, masters of their own hardware and have to "share" that spot with the telcos (more or less like what's happening to google, except that the "google mobile" is nothing but a "toy" for them, unlikely the DS and PSP, which are "food for the mouth" for Nintendo/Sony, and part of their business core).

    I have a DS and I love it. I'm planing on getting a PSP one of these days, for all the portable-3D-juicy-games. But the though "hey, this would be great if I could do phonecalls as well!" never ever crossed my mind.

    Although I believe that the ngage failed spectacularly due to some really poor design choices (side-talk?! remove the battery to switch games?!), I doubt it that even if it didn't have those flaws, people would race to buy it.

    Nintendo has decades of experience in gaming (pretty much everything they touch turns to gold, they even got around the down moment that the N64 was), and Sony has a lot of back catalog, and has already cemented some solid 3rd party gaming relations (Enix-Square, I'm looking at you).

    So if anyone wants to poke into the "mobile"/portable gaming market, they need to be either revolutionary, or have a strong 3rd-party support, with solid IP (or at least, quality games).

    And no, grafting some half-assed gaming on a good mobile phone won't work.

  • Re:Because (Score:3, Interesting)

    by iamhassi (659463) on Monday February 01, 2010 @04:55PM (#30987736) Journal
    "I see people play games on their phone all the time. Every phone is a gaming phone."

    Agreed, and I think the Sony's trying to save face. After pre-ordering a PSP back in 2005 and starting the largest PSP group on Yahoo Groups [yahoo.com], I sold my PSP after a month with the iPhone 3GS. Larger selection, direct input to developers, visible feedback and ratings from users, an abundance of free "lite" games and most games costing $1-$3 finally put the nail in the coffin for the PSP.

    I really can't imagine ever buying another portable gaming system that didn't include those features. Shame Sony didn't introduce those features themselves, they have a store and the PSP has wifi, they could had offered everything the iPhone does but they decided not to. I don't see a future for the PSP without major changes. If you don't want an iPhone, get a iPod Touch. All the games still work and it's cheaper than a PSP.
  • Re:Wouldn't work (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Belial6 (794905) on Monday February 01, 2010 @05:17PM (#30988030)
    No you wouldn't. I consistantly look at my iPhone and MyTouch and wonder why no one is making a controller that the phone just slips into. The only problem with these devices for gaming is that they don't have physical buttons placed properly for gaming. So, make a 'case' that either connects via the data line, or via bluetooth that has proper buttons and directional pads. Have the controls and the audio pass through to the phone, and you now have a phone that is just as good for gaming as a dedicated gaming device.
  • Re:Because (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pebs (654334) on Monday February 01, 2010 @05:21PM (#30988078) Homepage

    The iPhone is totally pants for gaming. I mean, yeah, it's fine for playing chess or a scrabble-clone, but for action games I just don't enjoy it. Games that use the accelerometer are especially atrocious.

    Now if someone would create a proper game-controller add-on and games started to support it, then, and only then would the iPhone be a great gaming phone. Though, Apple would probably need to either create an official game controller or establish an API and standards for such an add-on for it to really take off.

  • Re:Because (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ceoyoyo (59147) on Monday February 01, 2010 @06:28PM (#30989072)

    There's also the issue of contracts.

    If you're a "serious gamer" are you going to be happy being locked into your device for two years? No? Are you going to be happy paying a 100%+ premium for a contract free device to cover the cell phone company tax?

If it happens once, it's a bug. If it happens twice, it's a feature. If it happens more than twice, it's a design philosophy.

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