Sony's PlayStation gaming business is planning to launch more than five smartphone games, the company said on Friday, following in the steps of Nintendo as the Japanese electronics giant aims to take a slice of the lucrative mobile games market.
The games are to be released in the year ending March 2018 on Apple's iOS and Alphabet's Google Android operating system through Sony's ForwardWorks subsidiary, which it opened earlier this year to focus on mobile gaming.
Japan and then other Asian countries will be the first markets to receive the games.
Console makers have been struggling in the world's third-largest games market where mobile revenues make up over 50 percent of the $12.4 billion market, according to games research firm Newzoo. In contrast, consoles make up about 38 percent of the market, a trend that is not typical in many other countries globally. And 61 percent of the country's 69 million gamers spend money. This is attractive for Sony.
"Japan is a market where Sony and other console makers are struggling to sell units. Sony had to react. People are consuming smartphone games like there is no tomorrow," Serkan Toto, CEO of Japanese gaming consultant and advisory group Kantan Games, told CNBC by phone.
Sony did not elaborate on what titles would come first.
The announcement comes as Sony looks to continue the strong momentum it has seen in its gaming division. Its PlayStation VR (virtual reality) headset went on sale on Thursday, while the company also recently released refreshed versions of its PlayStation 4 console.
Console makers have had to look at mobile gaming for new sources of revenue. Last year, Nintendo signed a deal with games maker DeNA to bring a number of titles to mobile. Earlier this year, Nintendo launched "Pokemon Go" in partnership with Niantic, which was a big success for the company. And Nintendo announced in September that it is bringing "Super Mario Run" to Apple's iOS.
Lack of brand power?
While Nintendo's mobile strategy has got off to a good start, Toto said that Sony's intellectual property (IP) – its characters and games – are not as strong as Nintendo's from a brand perspective and if the first few titles don't hit home with consumers, it could be a struggle for the Japanese giant.
"Sony doesn't have the same power as the Nintendo IP. There is nothing that comes even close to Mario," Toto said.
"If the first couple of games from that company just don't work, I think the smartphone game business will see the same fate as the portable game business. Nobody talks about the Vita anymore," the analyst added, referring to Sony's PS Vita handheld console.