PlayStation's Push Into Mobile Gaming: Snapshot Of Sony's Past And Present Mobile Market Plans
Do you remember PlayStation Mobile?
Sony has made it clear it's looking to diversify its business and explore new territories beyond PlayStation's single-player console games and into PC, mobile, and live-service markets. During the G&S segment of a Sony business briefing, CEO Jim Ryan reiterated the company's commitment to pursue PC and mobile audiences.
In the slide specifically about mobile, Ryan said the company has "aggressive growth plans." Sony will partner with successful mobile developers, establish internal mobile development teams, and publish external mobile games. By the 2025 fiscal year (the period ending in March 2026), Sony aims for mobile games to represent 20% of its first-party portfolio releases, a noticeable jump from 0% in 2019 FY and 10% in the current fiscal year. Below is what we know so far about Sony's developments in the mobile gaming market.
What's the 10%?
Wipeout Rush (Rogue Games)--Announced in 2021, Wipeout Rush is an installment in the Wipeout universe, a PlayStation classic. It's a card-based racing game, complete with a retro comic book art style.
Fate Grand Order (Delightworks / Lasengle)--We also can't talk about Sony's mobile games without talking about Fate Grand Order, one of the most successful mobile games ever. Sony-owned company Aniplex previously was the publisher of FGO, but in 2021, Aniplex acquired FGO dev Delightworks. After the purchase, Delightworks established Lasengle--a company responsible for all of Delightworks' business. This is all to say, the studio that originally created FGO is still in charge of it--it's just owned by Sony now.
FGO launched in 2015 and is estimated, by Sensor Tower, to have made over $4 billion. Delightworks and FGO are not strictly associated with the PlayStation brand at this time, but it's hard to imagine Delightworks not working behind-the-scenes to help with PlayStation's internal mobile development. Key FGO creative producer Yosuke Shiokawa did leave the company earlier in February 2022, so it will be interesting to see how the direction of FGO will shift.
When Sony says mobile gaming, it's not talking about games on a handheld console like the PS Vita, PSP, or PSP Go. But the PS Vita is related to Sony's past in trying to attract a mobile phone audience: The PlayStation Mobile program.
PlayStation Mobile launched in 2012 and shut down in 2015, unceremoniously ended by Sony after never really taking off. Though players may remember PlayStation Mobile as mainly a PS Vita imprint, it was a software-development-kit-slash-publishing-arm for both PS Vita and select Android devices (obviously including Sony's own Xperia phone). On the PlayStation store front, it occupied a separate section. For developers, the PlayStation Mobile publisher fee was only an annual $99--presenting a friendly entry point for newer devs looking to make simple games.
These games could be comparable to what you find on Apple Arcade nowadays (if it were less-curated), or to compare to Sony's own history, what the PSP minis were for PSP--small, more "indie-ish" games that presented an alternative option to AAA games. The charming Super Crate Box by Vlambeer studios was part of the initial launch, in addition to 19 other games, such as Samurai Beatdown, Aqua Kitty, and Beats Slider.
PlayStation Mobile, however, couldn't attract an audience on either the PS Vita or Android. The service stopped publishing games on Android a whole year before Sony pulled the plug completely in 2015.
Sony made a notable decision to hire the former head of Apple Arcade in 2021, while also revealing in the job description that it wants somebody to help adapt existing "iconic IPs" into mobile games. It's too early to say whether PlayStation's planning some mobile subscription service that looks similar to Apple Arcade by a single hire alone, but it does inspire speculation on the possibilities. At the very least, iPhone users can expect attention, unlike the Android and PS Vita-only targets of PlayStation Mobile.
Xperia Play, PlayStation Mobile, Inc, and Sony Pictures Digital releases
So PlayStation Mobile, Inc. is different from the now-closed PlayStation Mobile--confusing, I know! The Inc. version of PlayStation Mobile still exists and has published Run Sackboy Run for iOS / Android and titles for PlayLink, a service that allows players to use their phones for multiplayer games. It also published Uncharted: Fortune Hunter, a mobile spin-off of the popular series, in 2016 and recently shut down in 2022.
Xperia Play, dubbed the PlayStation phone, was also an initiative by Sony to bring games to mobile devices in 2012. Titles like FIFA 10, Sims 3, Need For Speed Shift, and almost 60 other games launched along with Xperia Play, making it an impressive experiment in combining the phone and handheld console. (Though, it also became somewhat of a competitor with the PS Vita, making it an interesting decision by Sony to launch the two products so close to one another.)
Sony Pictures Digital also released a handful of mobile games over the years. In 2007, it released God of War: Betrayal. And more recently, it published My Hero Academia: The Strongest Hero (a game now published by Crunchyroll instead) for a period of time.
PS Vita fans' 10% hope
And while it's just plain unlikely, a new mobile console by Sony isn't completely out of the question. Ryan said in the business presentation, "We're not restricting ourselves to just content," which is made clear by the upcoming hyped-up PSVR 2 launch. Nintendo's highly successful hybrid Switch console and Valve's Steam Deck show that mobile gaming devices still command a strong audience and could provide a financial incentive for Sony to think about another mobile console. Sony also made a controller for the player's phone, according to a patent first discovered by VGC.
Though if Sony takes this path, it needs to bring original titles to the new handheld. The Nintendo Switch is supported by popular Switch-only titles like Animal Crossing, Pokemon, and Breath of The Wild, while Steam Deck's major selling point is the vast library of PC games on Steam. This is something Sony already knows how to do and is doing with the PS5, but didn't do with the PS Vita. There are many possible reasons why the PS Vita failed (high price point, the 3DS, the iPhone, etc.), but the lack of continuous big, shiny exclusive titles certainly didn't do the handheld console any favors.
Sony expanding and diversifying its business makes sense. Big AAA games that Sony likes releasing are increasingly a risky bet: They take a lot of money and time to make, and may not necessarily be a hit upon release. Mobile live-service games, on the other hand, like Mihoyo's Genshin Impact and Epic Games' Fortnite, rake in a sizable and reliable chunk of cash regularly, and we know that Sony wants to operate a lot of live-service games. Not all of those necessarily need to be on consoles/PC, as some might assume.
It is, however, surprising to see Sony planning to make 50% of its first-party titles in the mobile and PC sector by 2025 FY, basically completely phasing out revenue from PS4 content. With Sony's dogged pursuit of mobile gamers, we can probably expect more news from the company about its mobile gaming plans soon.
For more reading on PlayStation's business, you can check out:
- Bungie Acquired by Sony for $3.6 billion
- Sony Sees Bright Future For Live-Service Games, But It's All About Choice, Exec Says
- Whether Sony Likes It Or Not, Game Pass Makes The New PS Plus Look Underwhelming
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