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Is the ‘Playstation Phone’ real?

This is a guest post from Barry O’Neill (@barryoneill), CEO of Other Ventures, an advisory and finance firm to games and entertainment ventures globally. Formerly Barry was President of Namco Bandai Network Europe and has a long history in the games and mobile industries.

Yesterday Engadget posted pictures of what it thinks could be the Playstation Phone, but let’s not get too excited yet. The picture we’re looking at is an Android Phone with PSP style buttons. There’s no evidence that this is any more of a PSP Phone than Sony Ericsson’s F305 model was – which also featured two of the iconic PlayStation buttons.

A similar rumour erupted prior to this device launch and if anything, I think we’re looking at the F305’s smarter brother – i.e. a simple “button branding” tie in on a phone designed to offer a better gaming experience than a touch screen can offer.

It’s highly possible that the primary intended market for such a device is Japan, where SonyEricsson has had a runaway success with the X10, and which remains the PSPs strongest market by a big margin, with many consumers owning multiple units.

I’d be very surprised if Sony Computer Entertainment (apparently a much closer entity to Sony Corporate than SonyEricsson) would allow their PSP 2 launch plans be compromised by the release of an Android Phone purporting to be a PSP. The PSP2 is “rumoured” to be launching Fall 2011, with a “rumoured” announcement at GDC or E3 2011. To have a device on market branded PSP from a separate subsidiary, with separate marketing plans, channels and roadmap would be a marketing and communications disaster for SCE.

Over the last five years I’ve repeatedly heard from SonyEricsson that the PSP Phone is “coming.” I’ve repeatedly heard from SCE that “it’s not.” There’s clearly a lot at stake for both Sony subsidiaries, and the internal politics around such a potential collaboration must be fractious.

However if SonyEricsson was to build on it’s momentum of the X10 in Japan (the fastest selling smartphone launch ever there), and capitalize on the Japanese gamer’s love of the PSP by releasing an X10 “gaming edition” they could have a real smash hit on their hands. An exclusive version of Capcom’s Monster Hunter or SquareEnix’s Dragon Quest would ensure that such an X10 gaming edition could achieve sales in the multiple millions. It would be a smart strategy for SonyEricsson.

This is idle speculation on my part. Maybe we are looking at a device that will converge PSP and Android Smartphone in one device, but I doubt it.

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