Interview with SwitchedOnMedia

Jye Smith (@jyesmith) invited me to give SwitchedOnMedia some comments on a new Sony Ericsson phone which incorporates motion controls. Read on for the interview or check out the real deal here

Sony Ericsson contacted me about their new motion controlled gaming. Looks interesting.  The phone comes equipped with the EA SPORTS FIFA09 game and motion sensor technology that lets you control the game by moving the phone.

I like games. But not as much as Nic Watt, the Creative Director for the innovative games production company Nnooo.

Do you like this? And is it new?

Doesn’t really impress me at all and also doesn’t feel that new. The iPhone, for example is able to do exactly the same thing by making use of its accelerometers. I also think it is Sony Ericsson trying desperately to catch up with current trends.


It doesn’t impress me because

  • It is not doing anything new
  • It is directly copying another device already on the market in an attempt to appear cool
  • It is another example of mobile phone manufacturers not understanding what users actually want in their phones these days. The motion controls and games are a great idea however what about the interface, the method of acquiring the games and so forth?
  • The video which Sony Ericsson are using to advertise the product is a really bad idea. They are essentially saying ‘don’t buy this because you will end up throwing the phone away’!
  • Sony Ericsson’s business model like most mobile phone manufacturers is to put the same, cheap, technology in a ’sexier’ box and sell it again and again. They have not innovated in the mobile phone space in years and are now being threatened by companies like Apple and Nintendo who have devices that users enjoy using.

Threat to the Wii?

Doubtful. As a closed format with a myriad of different handsets mobile phone applications and games development is notoriously difficult and expensive which will lead to little software. Furthermore the handset manufacturers and telephone companies have a stranglehold on the market place making it almost impossible to create a unique application or game and get it to market.

The Wii is successful not just because of its motion controls but also because: there is lots of software for it; people can play it together (it is a social experience); it is a device people will invest in and because it is really, really good fun.

One of the important parts of what I mentioned above is the fact that a good piece of hardware is something people will invest in. This is crucial to a devices success. Mobile phones are seen as disposable gadget at worst or disposable toys at best. To really capture the user and get them to invest time and money in a device they have to feel attachment to it. With the Wii a user has said ‘I am happy having this in my lounge. Putting something in your lounge is a big step. It means that the user feels invested in it and that it will be a part of their life for quite a while. This leads to users buying software for it and actively wanting to make use of it.

How long will most users keep this phone? About a year at most. People like to spend money on things they can keep, they like permanency. To this end would you buy a game or an app for a device that you are only going to have for a year? Yes if it was a disposable price (say 99¢) and probably no if it was a non-disposable price (more than 99¢). Because of this I can’t really see this being more than a niche product unfortunately.

Will this change gaming?

Again I will say no. Changing gaming is not about a cool device with a cool feature (although that is a very large part of it). To change gaming you need to provide a platform for innovation. You need to facilitate the development of great and unique concepts. Will this mobile phone provide this? Doubtful. As I have already mentioned without an easy way to make and deliver games to mobile phones few developers will really try to push any mobile phone handset.

Devices like the Nintendo DSi and Wii are popular because they offer not only a lot to the user but also a lot to the developer. With the Nintendo DSi and Wii developers know they have one device to cater for, respectively. With a mobile phone you need to develop for hundreds of different handsets. This makes it expensive and very risky to innovate on a mobile phone and less risky to do so on the Wii or Nintendo DSi.

If Sony Ericsson really want to innovate in the phone market they need to quickly move to one standard platform with an open content delivery system to allow developers a way to make and release their software with as few barriers as possible. Just putting motion controls into a phone and making a silly advert is not and will not be enough.

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