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Mobile gaming mustn't be ignored, says Sony's Harrison

Sony exec predicts phones will exceed PSP's processing power "within ten years"

Speaking at the Game Developers' Conference in London yesterday, Sony's VP of studios Phil Harrison predicted that the mobile gaming market will yield "huge commercial opportunities" in the future.

However, he added, while mobile games are profitable for network operators and mobile phone providers, they are not necessarily profitable for all developers.

"I don't know enough about the value chain to say where profit opportunity stops, but I think that as the market expands there's a lot of money to be had there," Harrison said. "You cannot ignore hundreds of millions of game capable devices in people's pockets as a potential audience, and so that will eventually yield huge, huge commercial opportunities."

"Whether it means the same kind of market dynamics as for developers working on PlayStation games, I don't know."

Harrison said there were a number of important differences between the mobile and console gaming arenas, telling the audience: "I'm not an expert on mobile gaming, but it's a very different market, a very casual gaming market."

"That doesn't imply that it's not important, but it's a different kind of purchasing dynamic, and a different kind of customer acquisition process."

"I think the business model of selling mobile phones is very different to that for selling gaming devices, so they've always had a parallel but not completely converged market."

Harrison predicted a further convergence between phones and consoles as technology develops: "I think as the sophistication of gaming functions in phones increases, clearly there's a crossover and within ten years we'll definitely see processing functionality of mobile phones exceed that of today's PSP. No question."

However, he went on, "The difference is in the form factor - the PSP is designed to be held in your hands to play games; a phone is not. So while the form factors are different, the markets will remain different."

Sony's new handheld, which launches in Europe at midnight tonight, does not include phone functionality - something which Harrison believes is key. "I'm not sure users are ready to combine the form factors of a phone and a gaming device, I think they'll remain separate," he said.

But that doesn't mean Sony isn't hoping to compete with other portable gadgets such as the iPod, however.

"Your mobile phone is the must-have device you can't leave the house without - your mobile, and your keys and wallet. Then you have an option to take a gaming device or a music device."

"If your gaming device can also be a music device or a movie device, then that sways some consumers towards choosing the PSP over just the iPod," Harrison said.

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