Sony looks to mobile gaming to improve its exclusive games

Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida said that the company is taking cues from the mobile games industry on how it analyses player data.
Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida said that the company is taking cues from the mobile games industry on how it analyses player data.PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES - Sony is keen on learning from mobile games to improve its exclusive PlayStation 4 console games. But the company assured that this is for fixing problems gamers may face and not about making money from players.

The Japanese technology giant's interest in mobile also means that it might just release new mobile games from classic PlayStation games series in Asia.

Mr Shuhei Yoshida, Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwide Studios' president, told journalists last week that the console maker is taking cues from the mobile games industry on how it analyses player data.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles, he said that mobile game companies are very good at making sense of how consumers play mobile games, where their pain points are, and what they react well to. These companies then use the information to improve and add content and features to their titles.

Sony is similarly doing this in the background for its PlayStation 4-exclusive console games that have launched, Mr Yoshida said. This extends to both multi-player and single-player aspects of the games.

"When we see some point of the game (where) people are dropping out, there may be some difficulties or some issues with the game that we can go back to, look at and...improve," he said.

"These are the kinds of things we are...learning from the mobile industry, but not necessarily the monetisation (aspects)," said Mr Yoshida.

Many games for smartphones and tablets are free to download and play. But they make money by selling bite-sized digital content, called microtransactions.

Some of these microtransactions - ranging from fashion items to weapons that give players an edge - have also made their way into full-priced console and computer games, much to the chagrin of many gamers. This is because such practices are viewed as money grabs designed to make more money from gamers.

While Sony might not be so keen to bring the monetisation practices of mobile games to its console exclusives, the company is keen to release mobile games.

Mr Yoshida noted that people always have their smartphones with them and it is very easy to play games on the devices' touchscreen for a few minutes.

And with the mobile games market now forming a large part of the video games industry, Sony is looking at ways to use mobile devices to help broaden the reach of the PlayStation maker's video game intellectual properties, he added.

For instance, Sony is making two new mobile games set in the company's classic Wild Arms and Arc The Lad series. They are being created by the original development teams behind these games that were released in the 1990s and 2000s.

Mr Yoshida said the new mobile titles are slated to be released later this year in Japan. And if the mobile eco-system becomes more developed, there is a high chance for such Sony games to be released elsewhere in Asia.

"Last year, we released an Everybody's Golf mobile game in Japan and that was very, very popular. We are planning to expand that game into the Asian market later this year," he added, referring to the new mobile game set in the classic 1990s golf game series.

Other video game console makers have also been interested in making smartphone games for their exclusive franchises.

Nintendo in 2016 released its first mobile game, Super Mario Run. Microsoft has also released several mobile titles over the years, most recently announcing a new mobile game called Gears Pop! set in the company's Gears of War game universe at E3 last week.

kennyc@sph.com.sg