The stories behind the stories of 2022: PlayStation quietly builds a mobile division

 

It’s the end of 2022, so let’s get self-indulgent: this week we’re publishing a few personal story highlights from the first year of mobilegamer.biz, and giving you a peek behind the curtain on how they came to be published.

Meet PlayStation Mobile: a superteam hired from Apple, Kabam, Meta, Tencent and more

Like the story I put together on Netflix’s new games team around this site’s launch in March, this PlayStation-flavoured edition was researched over the course of several months and found a good audience – 18k LinkedIn impressions and counting.

Compared to Netflix’s moves into mobile, though, PlayStation is taking it steady. Its acquisition of Savage Game Studios this summer was its splashiest mobile moment yet, and our story on it gathered good interest too, over 22k LinkedIn impressions. But other than that, there have been very few public statements about PlayStation’s intentions in this space.

The Savage crew are well-liked, clearly. The PlayStation buyout and later Sophie Vo’s appointment were among our most popular LinkedIn posts this year.

Behind the scenes, there has been something mobile-shaped brewing at PlayStation since way back in May 2021. Bossman Jim Ryan first mentioned PlayStation could bring its first party IP to mobile during a financial briefing, and not long after that, Apple veteran Nicola Sebastiani was appointed PlayStation Studios vice president and head of mobile.

He was joined in April this year by Kabam’s Kris Davis and Meta’s Olivier Courtemanche, a story we broke first – another win for obsessively scouring LinkedIn for stories late at night.

In May of this year, big boss Jim Ryan went further in another financial briefing, adding a bit more colour on its “aggressive growth plans” in mobile that included more first party games, a more hiring and more partnerships with mobile developers.

In August, we were again first to report that PlayStation was hiring a new director of business development to “assess potential merger and acquisition deals”. So expect more partnerships and maybe an acquisition or two from PlayStation mobile in 2023 as that new bizdev director strikes their first deals.

PlayStation’s biggest IP won’t be appearing on mobile anytime soon – expect some of the second tier stuff to arrive first.

The clock is ticking on Jim Ryan’s stated aim of first party mobile games by March 2023, too. Don’t hold your breath for a Bungie/NetEase collab on Destiny mobile in the next few months – though it may well happen eventually.

Instead, PlayStation is more likely to put out some lesser IP in a pretty low-key way to test the waters and gather some data and feedback. Maybe those Wipeout and Sackboy games currently in soft launch would be a handy platform from which to build something bigger and better.

So while there’s still very little official word from PlayStation on what its mobile plans are, its caution is understandable. Making core IP work on mobile without angering fans is hard, so it must choose its words carefully in front of a console-first fanbase that has a pretty low opinion of mobile games. You’re never far from a backlash in this business.