The move follows the runaway success of augmented reality mobile game Pokémon Go, with rival Nintendo’s famous character demonstrating the power of Japan’s intellectual property when tapping into a global pool of smartphone users.
“With so many releases of smartphone games, it is becoming difficult to reach users,” explained Tomoki Kawaguchi, executive director at ForwardWorks, a new studio Sony established in April to beef up its efforts in mobile games.
“But we can make full use of the intellectual property that we own, which is why we are rolling out smartphone games at this timing,” he said.
Sony plans to release up to six PlayStation games in Japan during the 2017-2018 fiscal year for Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android mobile platforms, starting with long-running hit title Everybody’s Golf — a huge hit in Japan that attempts to bring the cartoon style of Nintendo’s Mario Kart to golf simulators. Other decades-old nostalgic titles planned include rhythm classic Parappa the Rapper and role-playing game Arc the Lad.
Sony is also developing a new “smartpad” called Project Field that can connect to smartphones and tablets for popular card games.
The company has never made much headway in several attempts to crack the mobile gaming market. In 2012, it launched a platform called PlayStation Mobile to recreate the PlayStation gaming experience on Android smartphones and the PS Vita, but the service was shut down last year.
The success Sony has enjoyed with its PlayStation 4 console, which has sold more than 40m units since its debut in late 2013, has also reduced the urgency for the group to bring its popular franchises to mobile devices.
But analysts say it has become difficult for even Sony to ignore the lucrative market, especially after Nintendo teamed up with mobile gaming company DeNA last year, after years of sticking to its console strategy.
The Kyoto-based company is making its first proper foray into the smartphone games market with the launch of Super Mario Run on the iPhone next week.
“A global mobile games market worth $35bn is enough for a company like Sony to decide they need to be in there,” said Serkan Toto, a games industry consultant.
But Mr Toto said making games for the market would be “super complicated”, despite Sony’s expertise in making console games. The group also lacks strong characters compared with Nintendo, which owns Mario, The Legend of Zelda and Donkey Kong.
“There is a reason that Nintendo teamed up with DeNA and it’s that it is not so easy for a console maker to just break into this,” Mr Toto said.
The first set of PlayStation games will be released in Sony’s home market, which at $6.2bn is the second most valuable smartphone gaming market in the world after China, according to gaming research group NewZoo. The company is also considering releases in other parts of Asia.
Sony’s renewed focus on mobile also comes after its big hit with Fate/Grand Order, a mobile game based on an anime TV series that was produced by another studio run by the company’s music arm.
Since its launch last summer in Japan, the game has been downloaded more than 7m times. It has generated more revenue than Pokémon Go among Google Play users for 111 out of 138 days this year and for 56 days on iOS devices, according to researcher App Annie.
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