How would a PSP phone affect mobile gaming?

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The rumour mill has lately been talking about an Android-based PSP phone from Sony Ericsson. While the jury’s still out on whether this magical device is real or not, I’ve been thinking about what it means for phone-based games.

On one hand, it’s not like this’ll be the first time someone’s tried combining phones with handheld game consoles. Remember the Nokia N-Gage? No? Not surprising. It was kind of a flop. Despite attempts to bring phones and games together by Nokia, Apple, and most lately Microsoft, the vast majority of mobile games are for full-fledged mobile consoles like the PlayStation Portable or Nintendo DS.

On the other hand, we’re talking about a phone that is a PSP. That alone can give Sony the edge in phone games, especially if they open up the platform’s power to apps running on the phone’s Android 3.0 OS. Backwards compatibility with existing PSP titles will clinch it.

The images I’ve seen of prototypes for this proposed phone include physical controls as well, similar to what’s offered on the PSP Go. As someone who’s tried both physical and touchscreen buttons for games, this goes a long way in the PSP phone’s favour, over the offerings of Apple’s iPhone and Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 systems. From what I gather, the latter only requires three physical buttons, none of which can be coopted for application use, making them useless for games. And what’s the likeliness of developers restricting themselves to just the higher end phones with usable physical buttons? With margins where they are, not bloody likely.

If the rumours are true, Sony has everything to gain. Hell, I’d go as far to say they’d be stupid not to put this thing out, even with me being a Microsoft fanboy and all. The PSP phone would blast the iPhone game market back to the stone age (lol fart apps) and strangle Microsoft’s WinPhone gaming opportunities in the crib.

Next year’s mobile industry will certainly be a fun one to watch.

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