PlayStation means business in mobile.
Over the past 18 months it has quietly built a team of experienced mobile talent, hiring folks from Apple, Kabam, Meta, Tencent, Super Evil Megacorp, Samsung, Niantic, Zynga, Riot and more. It also acquired Savage, its first dedicated mobile studio.
That Savage buy might be its splashiest move in mobile yet, but it’s notable that PlayStation is not simply throwing money around to buy its way into the market, like Take-Two and Microsoft.
Instead, it is simply hiring a load of very senior, very experienced people who really know mobile games.
It started with the appointment of Nicola Sebastiani last summer, who joined PlayStation Studios as vice president and head of mobile. Sebastiani moved to PlayStation from Apple, where he was head of App Store business development and later head of content for Apple Arcade.
In April, PlayStation made two more senior hires: Kabam’s Kris Davis and Meta’s Olivier Courtemanche.
Davis joined PlayStation as senior director and head of mobile business development, bringing with him many years of experience working across business development, M&A, licensing and strategic partnerships at Kabam. Davis has also previously worked in bizdev roles at Beeline Interactive and Capcom.
Around the same time, Courtemanche was appointed senior director and head of mobile product at PlayStation Studios. He moved over from a product management role at Meta, and has previously worked in product management at EA, Disney and Zynga.
In July, PlayStation hired Tencent’s former senior strategic partnerships and bizdev lead Aaron Yang. He’s now senior business development manager, handling licensing and platforms at PlayStation Mobile.
The following month, Uyen Uyen Ton Nu left her role as marketing VP at Super Evil Megacorp to become senior director and head of mobile marketing at PlayStation.
Later in August, PlayStation made its first acquisition in mobile: Savage Game Studios. It was founded in 2020 by Michail Katkoff, Nadjim Adjir and Michael McManus, and the team was already working on “a new unannounced AAA mobile live service action game.”
Katkoff is a well-known figure in mobile, having held senior roles at Digital Chocolate, Rovio, Supercell, Zynga and FunPlus. Adjir is a former Aeria Games, Gree and Wargaming product director, and McManus is a former tech director at Kabam, co-founder at Victory Lap Games and tech director at Wargaming.
Not long after the acquisition, Savage also added former Wooga, Rovio and Voodoo exec Sophie Vo as general manager of Savage’s Berlin office. Former Riot Games narrative lead Kim MacAskill joined Savage the same month, as narrative director. MacAskill has also served in writing roles at NaturalMotion and Ubisoft in her career to date.
PlayStation Mobile’s expansion continued into the Autumn, with the appointment of Amy Oka-Shek as its new strategic finance director for mobile. Oka-Shek joined after almost six years at Zynga, where she was director of demand planning. She has also previously worked in business planning at Beeline Interactive and Capcom.
The new hires kept on coming in November. Last month’s new intake includes new mobile licensing boss Justin Kubiak, who joined from his role as head of games partnerships at Samsung. Kubiak has also previously worked in senior roles at NCsoft, Scopely, Disney Interactive, EA and Playfish.
Also in November: Jon Galbraith joined as director of studio operations, bringing with him many years of experience as a mobile exec and former production leader at Phoenix Labs and Glu Mobile. He’s also served as development director at EA and in QA at BioWare.
Niantic’s former director of corporate development Cassie Jozefov also joined as director of strategic partnerships last month. Jozefov has previously worked at Legendary Entertainment and Deloitte.
Rounding out the team are a couple more key players who joined earlier in the PlayStation Mobile story. Former Gamevil, Glu and EA producer Liz Dumbrique joined PlayStation’s mobile product and business operations team in December 2021, and Chris Spencer, a former Square Enix and EA/Chillingo producer, joined as senior producer in May 2021.
So what exactly has this very experienced team been pulled together for, exactly?
PlayStation boss Jim Ryan said in May: “PlayStation has a huge catalogue of diverse first-party IP that can transition to smartphone gaming and complement our AAA games or live service games. We are exploring the mobile market with some wonderful PlayStation franchises so please stay tuned.”
So let’s finish on some speculation, shall we? Remember: NetEase invested over $100m in Bungie in 2019, and PlayStation bought Bungie earlier this year. Savage Game Studios had been working on a shooter, too, a game later described as a “AAA mobile live service action game” when it was acquired by PlayStation this summer.
A new, standalone mobile edition of Destiny would be a landmark moment, wouldn’t it? Some rumours point to it being in production at NetEase right now, in fact.
Whatever happens, PlayStation’s getting ready to do mobile properly this time. As Jim Ryan would say: stay tuned.